Atomhenge ATOMCD 1027. Originally released as Flicknife Records/ SHARP 018 in April, 1984. 24-bit remaster- ed compilation. 2011 Cherry Red Records Ltd. Includes ( 9 ) tracks plus ( 5 ) bonus tracks. Dave Brock plays: guitars, synths, keyboards, drum-machine, biscuit tin and vocals ( -except "Winter" by Bob Calvert ). Drums
on "Social Alliance" by Keith Jones. Includes ( 6 ) page B&W/ colour booklet and liner notes by Brian Tawn.
Recorded whilst Hawkwind was "stopped", this home-studio effort by Dave Brock has some real gems. Apart from the genuinely innovative EMS Synthi work ( -every bit as cutting-edge as anything the Floyd has done ), the album surprises you with it's prescient observations on science, technology and society. Dave was quite ahead of his time with many of these songs. Those stuffed-shirt music critics who automatically write-off Hawkwind as three chord "LSD music" will be disappointed. The album is fun, intelligent, visionary
and perhaps a tad indulgent -yet quite listenable. Worth getting! "EARTHED TO GROUND" CD COVER
PREFACE: It was late October, 79'. My backpack was packed. I was ready to go. I'd be spending my winter in Colorado working at a ski lodge. My last order of business was to enclose my twenty question interview along with a cassette tape in the padded manila envelope and get to the post-office before I left. I had interested Synapse Magazine in my idea of doing an interview with Dave Brock. Whether or not Dave would actually concede to doing it was another matter. None-the-less I thought I'd give it a try.
The "Mad Doctor" as he might have appeared in late 1979'/ early 1980'. Apart from answering my questions -Dave dubbed a bunch of songs onto the remain-
der of my interview tape. Stuff he'd been working on in his home studio. I was amazed and honored! Not only had he answered my interview questions -he'd gone to the trouble of recording these new tunes ( -apparently, straight from his master tapes ) directly onto my cassette tape. Many of these cuts ended up on the "Earthed to the Ground" CD. Others I've heard nowhere else since.
To be honest, after sending the package I never gave it another thought until I returned home the following March. If you've ever worked a season in the Colorado ski/ tourism industry you'll know why. Simply stated, I was too damned busy working 10-12 hour days to think about it! However, when I arrived home in March the following year, my folks told me there was a package from England waiting in my bedroom. It took me a second or two to remember what it might be. "Could it be that interview tape I'd sent Dave?"
Dave in his studio with his trusty guitar and EMS Synthi-Aks. Dave's spirit of adventurous sonic-experimentation is on full display with "Earthed to the Ground". It's about time Dave and Hawkwind were given proper credit for single-handedly creating the "space rock" genre. Few bands have forged music genres entirely on their own!
For years the music press has "pigeon-holed" Hawkwind as a bunch of drug-addled hippies capable only of playing simple "3-chord LSD music". That and the fact they used to employ a topless dancer ( Stacia ) during their 70's stage shows. That's about all our music press wants to focus on with regards to Hawkwind. What a shame! They completely overlook the fact that Hawkwind literally created the "Spacerock" genre we know today. It's a true statement to say that: "Without Hawkwind Spacerock wouldn't exist!"
And as the band's founder, much of the group's penchant for sonic experimentation originates with Dave
( -with a sizable dollop of credit also going to the band's early "synth-gnomes" Del Dettmar, Dik Mik ( -who sadly, as we go online with this piece -has just passed away. RIP Mik! ), and later to Simon House -for giving the band their distinctive "sonic icing" of synthesized "spaciness" back in the day ). In many ways, "Earthed to the Ground" has that same old-school feel of joyous, unfettered sonic experimentation. And much of it is quite listenable too. Electronic-music and Hawkwind fans alike will find it thoroughly engaging!
Dave's trusty EMS Synthi-Aks synthesizer. Put to good effect throughout the "Earthed to the Ground" compilation. You'll hear it employed on tracks like "Assassination", "Now is the Winter of our Discontent" and many others.
While Pink Floyd and Brian Eno have used the "Synthi-Aks" on their albums,
few have used it to better effect than Dave. In his interview Dave commented
he often put it's "patch-pins" in the wrong holes. Despite that, Dave's quite proficient at programming. "Earthed to the Ground" amply proves the fact!
So, here are my impressions of the ( 14 ) tracks on this compilation album:
"Earthed to the Ground": A pumping sequencer and drum-machine fueled tale about a tech-geek pining away for the ultimate "man cave" set-up ( -and what he'd do with it ). "I'm wired up for sound,...I'm earthed to the ground". Lots of synth effects and even an audio-clip from the vintage "Superman" serial thrown in for good measure. Segueways into:
"Assassination": One of Dave's best EMS Synthi-Aks sound collages in my opinion. It incorporates actual 60's newsreel audio footage from the JFK/ Oswald and Senator Edward Kennedy assassinations. The intense ( -bordering on hysterical field reporter's coverage of the shootings ) are duly documented as twittering EMS Synthi flourishes, a continuing heartbeat and heavy-breathing sound-effects along with a gradually faded-in human drummer establishes a compelling mid-tempo rock beat ( -making the point that with tape and today's memory-storage technology ) the famous and "infamous" can now live on in perpetuity "frozen
in time". An rather astute observation for a Hawkwind member -wouldn't you say music critics?
"Green Finned Demon": Swamp like sound-effects, tined organ chords, tweezy synth and a slow padding sequencer line sets the mood for this sci-fi tinged "Creature from the Black Lagoon" tale. The song closes out with some fuzzed electric-guitar and overdubbed Mike Oldfield-style "gliss guitar" riffing and creature sounds. Not my favorite track on the album but quite imaginative none-the-less.
In Brock's "Assassination", the Kennedy/ Oswald shootings become the focus of an electronic-music collage ( -making the point that with the advent of TV news cameras and tape record-ers, which were becoming more widespread during the Kenn-edy years ), famous people and events could "live forever". 1963 KENNEDY ASSASSINATION
"Spirits": Opens with a cool heterodyning oscillator drone as a low pumping synth sequencer line establishes the spine of this electronic instrumental. Metallic xylophone-like synth clangings mark out a mystically cadenced pattern of notes as a variety of curious sounds ( chimes, cymbals, whispers, a horn blow and synth twitters ) fill the background. Shakers are brought in to add a tribal feel before the cryptic synth pattern concludes and synth drone fades. Nice!
"Sweet Obsession": Easily the disc's most "radio-friendly" tune. Based upon an engaging acid-guitar riff ( -with a drum-machine providing the steady backbeat ). A song about one man's romantic obsession: "I received your letter but the information's clear, I want to keep the feeling going -not let it disappear..." Some nicely crafted lyrics and about as close to a "love song" as you'll get from Dave and Hawkwind. This song is so hummable it could actually be played on "Top 40" radio! A really nice and accessible tune!
"Oscillations": An inviting ditty with warm and friendly sounding keyboards and sweeping, ringing "oscillating" synths. About one man's obsession with sound and technology. Ends with an ascending synth frequency sweep and stereoscopic panning pitch-shifted vocals. A really nice song.
In "Now is the Winter of our Discontent" Bob Calvert gives us a recitation
of Shakespeare's well-known sonnet. Bob's unique stylings -replete with emotive affectations, inflections and special emphasis makes the reading truly special. Never mind the fact that his voice is being processed through
a phase-shifter ( -or is that a flanger? ) and sweeping, gliding EMS Synthi oscillators are doing their thing in the background. Periodically Dave adds some "total destruction" electric-guitar chords to the sonic stew. Nice!
"Machine Dream": A raw chucking guitar/ bass intro with tambourine and queasy pitch-bending synth chords. Builds to an unremitting sonic onslaught with layered keyboard pads ( -until you hear an irate father insistently knocking on his son's bedroom door shouting "Hey, will you turn that down -I can't hear a bloody thing! Can you hear me? Turn it DOWN!", after which the track abruptly stops. The soundtrack of many Hawkwind fan's teen years no doubt! Clever and funny.
"Now is the Winter of our Discontent": Opens with a meandering EMS Synthi-Aks sequencer line and recurring "total- destruction" electric-guitar phrasings. Bob Calvert gives us a phase-shifted/ flanged recitation of Shakes- peare's renown sonnet. Sweeping, gliding oscillators and filtered sequencer effects provide the electronic back-drop. A nice reading by Bob with plenty vocal drama ( -enhanced by the phased/ flanged treatment ). A great track that could've been better if it were shortened a bit.
"On the Case": An acid-guitar tale of a "Sam Spade" like detective whose definitely "on the case". The perco-lating drum-machine beat and wasp-angry electric-guitar lick, combined with it's sly, strutting "tongue-in-cheek" lyrics are quite infectious and appealing. Reinforcing synth refrains shore up the song's ending refrains. One of the album's more "radio-friendly" cuts. It'll leave you with a smile on your face. Too bad Bogey didn't have this song for his "The Maltese Falcon" soundtrack....
Brock's "On the Case" would've been the perfect soundtrack for one of Bogey's black-and-white film noir classics. The tale of a hard-boiled, streetwise
private investigator "on the case" looking for clues. I love this song's clever lyrics and ballsy swagger. Dave's catchy lyrics make this track irresistible! BOGEY "ON THE CASE"
This CD compilation includes five "bonus tracks" not found on the album's original 1984 vinyl pressing.
So, if you're looking for maximum "value for your money" this CD has it! And good tracks they are too.
Here are my impressions of them:
"Zones": Filtered EMS Synthi-Aks and arpeggiated/ sequenced opening with taped CB trucker snippets. I think this served as the intro to "Dangerous Visions" on another Hawkwind album. Here it serves as the intro to:
"Processed": An early, less polished version of Hawkwind's "Living on a Knife Edge" tune from the band's 1981 "Sonic Attack" album. A good deal different from the later version. This song could've been the sound- track for Oliver Stone's film "Snowden". Brock was definitely ahead of his time penning these lyrics way back in the late seventies. Unfortunately, Dave's cautionary tale of an encroaching "surveillance state" is becoming all too real these days ( -with Edward Snowden's recent revelations concerning the NSA ). Once again, Brock's perceptive lyrics disprove the music press' rote categorization of Hawkwind as mere "stoner rock"!
"Social Alliance": A power-drenched electric guitar "barn-burner". This rotorhythmic, cadenced riff ( -with it's filtered synths swirling about ) is a veritable shred-fest! The tune's throw-away lyrics "Sunshine alliance are you in distress? Just contact me and we'll do our best!" mean absolutely nothing but sound darn good with the lunging, headstrong riff. At least until the song is "digested into" a synth filter tweaking session and regurgit- ated out the other side with renewed sonic vigor ( -restating the tune's lyrics and ending abruptly with Dave's parting salvo: "Thank you and good night..." ).
In "Processed" ( -retitled "Living on a Knife Edge" in Hawkwind's 1981 "Sonic Attack" album ), Dave weaves a cautionary tale of an Orwellian "Surveillance State" where faceless bureaucrats keep track of your every move. Edward Snowden's recent revelations regarding NSA surveillance of ordinary citizens totally validate Dave's perceptive, nearly forty year old lyrics.
In 2016, Oliver Stone validated Dave's lyrics by directing "Snowden", a film about Edward Snowden and his disclosure of unconstitutional surveillance of Americans by the NSA. Every American should see this film ( -especially if you still think you're living in a "free society" ). "SNOWDEN" THE MOVIE
EVERYTIME I GO OUT,
I THINK I'M BEING CHECKED OUT...
FACELESS PEOPLE WATCHING ON A TV-SCREEN,
DO YOU BEGIN TO SENSE IT?
JUST BENEATH THE SURFACE...
REFLECTIONS IN A WINDOW,
I WAS WALKING DOWN THE STREET...
Think you're being watched ?
DUPLICATE FORMS AND I.D. CARDS, ARE FIRST IN LINE TO DISREGARD...
THE NUMBER OF YOUR CAR IS...FED INTO A BOX, YOUR JOINT IS BEING CHECKED IT'S A PARADOX...INCUBUS! ( -Surveiilance System? )
THERE'S NO DENYING,
YOU CAN'T ESCAPE....
SO BE DISCREET!
-Lyrics excerpted from Dave Brock's
"Processed/ Living on a Knife Edge" song. "Big Brother keeping you "safe"
Hawkwind's 1981 "Sonic Attack" album. "Processed" was given a studio "spit and polish" and re-titled "Living on a Knife Edge" on this album.
It was this 1981 "Living on a Knife Edge" version that I used in my Comm-
unity College "TV Production I" music-video project. I got an "A" on it too!
Thanks Dave for the great song! *-And by the way, I didn't make a cent
from that school-project so I hope you won't ask me for royalties....
The last two tracks on the album are a mixed bag. While I love "Wired up for Sound", I could've done without "Raping Robots in the Streets" -my least favorite song on the compilation.
"Raping Robots in the Streets": A cacophanous, synthesized "robot march". Opens with Dave's shouted and "answered" vocals about life in the days of an android society. My least favorite tune on the album. Next please!
"Wired up for Sound": Clinking electric-guitar chiff start that "warms up" with bassy, fuzzed acid-guitar and re-purposes some of "Earthed to the Ground's" lyrics. Great power-soaked riff! Too bad it ends just as it gets going. I would've liked to hear this track go on a bit longer. I can never get enough of Dave's acid-guitar riffs!
An early 70's photo of Dave. Since founding Hawkwind in 1969, Dave has been it's perennial "guiding force". And while a few bands have wandered into "Space-rock" territory with their songs -no other band can legitimately lay claim to being the original "Spacerock" band. With Hawkwind it's "baked into their bones". And beyond Hawkwind, Dave's released a handful of solo albums, "Earthed to the Ground" being but one. Below you'll find some of Dave's other solo efforts ( -along with my brief synopses of each ). DAVE BROCK ( early 70's )
So, there you have it. I'll just go ahead and say it: "Earthed to the Ground" is a great album! Is it perfect? No, but what is? Do a few of it's songs carry on a bit too long? Yeah, but overall I loved going along for the ride. And while I have something of a personal attachment to this album ( -as explained above ), I can heartily recommend it to both Hawkwind fans and electronic-music afficianados alike.
If you enjoy the thrill of sonic discovery, this album will be right up your alley! Each track is a new "sonic experiment" and you get to "go along for the ride" ( -as Dave tries out new guitar pedal effects, synth patches, vocal processing tricks and merges them with "found" audio snippets, clever song edits and segueways ). And that's not even mentioning the occasionally brilliant, insightful and truly visionary lyrics and concepts Dave explores on this album. So, overall this album is unique and well worth having!
As mentioned above, I discovered the songs that would become the "Earthed to the Ground" album tacked onto the end of the interview tape I sent Dave back in the fall of 1979. As it turned out, Synapse Magazine decided not to print the interview for some reason. It was an interesting interview. Done at an interesting time in Hawkwind's history. DAVE SHOWING A LITTLE LEG... It remains unpublished to the present day.
In the unlikely event that Dave ever gets around to reading this review -I'd like to thank him again for doing
that 1979 interview ( -and also for sending those great studio tracks! ). And while I'm at it, I'd like to ask his permission to re-print that 1979 interview here in "Creative Tech Nerds" ( -for fans who may want to read it ). And lastly, since a lot of "water has gone under the bridge" since 1979/ 80' -I'd also like to ask Dave to do
a new interview for CTN ( -covering some of the band's more recent history ). I've come up with some intriguing questions and ideas for the band and I'd be interested in getting Dave's "feedback" on them.
"THE LOST BROCK TUNES" CHALLENGE! "Mystery tunes". Can you name them? Place what album they come from? If you're a die-hard Brock/ Hawkwind fan and think you know "all things Hawkwind", why not take the "Lost Brock Tune Challenge" below....
As mentioned above, a couple of the tunes Dave included at the end of my interview tape remain a "mystery" to me up until the present day. I've never heard them on any other Hawkwind album ( or ) for that matter, on any of Dave's other solo albums ( -though I haven't heard his "Brockworld" album yet ). Since I really dig these tunes, I'm hoping some keen Hawkfan out there might know the title of these songs ( -along with what album they can be found on ). If you know, leave me an e-mail on my Contact Page and I'll give you proper credit in this article. I'd really like to find these "Lost" Brock tunes!
The first of these songs featured a repeating "mod-sounding" Farfisa combo organ riff and chiffing electric-guitar with Dave chanting a recurring "Mummenshantz -Mummenshantz -Mummenshantz" refrain which evolved into: "moan and shout -moan and shout -moan and shout" and some words like "when I get my -something -something -momma give me Mummenshantz...." ( -with Dave's voice trailing off into
the background ).
The second featured a tasty, cadenced "Kraftwerk-like" synth part along with some gentle, reverbed electric guitar riffings and noodlings ( -with some poignant string bends added in here and there ). Some very nice stuff! I only wish these had made it onto the "Earthed to the Ground" compilation! So, if you're a super Brock/ Hawkwind afficianado and happen to know the names of these "lost tunes" let me know!
While I'm at it I thought I'd give you some quick "thumbnail" reviews of Dave's OTHER solo albums. So, here then are my brief impressions of each ( -except the "Brockworld" album which I have yet to hear ):
Explores more spacey themes such as UFO's and E.T. encounters. In fact one of the album's instrumental cuts is entitled "Encounters" ( -and it sounds just as eerie as you'd expect ). "La Forge" -a warm and inviting electric guitar tune is probably my favorite. Other highlight cuts are: "U.F.O Line" -a nice sound col-lage with audio snippets and "It's Never Too Late" -an electronic rhythm seq-uencer based riff. Nice! "Space"-an unplugged version of Hawkwind's "Space Is Deep" is just so-so.
A ( 16 ) track album incorporating "World Music", spoken word dialogue and plenty of synth effects. "Why is a Raven Like a Writing Desk" -with it's cool Christian Boule' style guitar is really nice. "Surreal Sex Dreams" is a rapid fire rocker while the "Love in Space" demo has since been incorporated into Hawkwind's regular catalogue of concert tunes. "Luna" is a nice brisk tempo rocker and "Kauai" is an etherically beautiful instrumental. Like going to Hawaii without the plane ticket!
Lots of innovative electronics and samples are used on this album. You'll recognize many of the demos ( i.e: like "Heads", "The Damage of Life" and others ) from subsequent Hawkwind albums. "Wastelands of Sleep" another demo, with it's cool percolating sequencer and drum machine, and "Riding the Range" -with it's tinge of country and western are probably my favorite cuts from the album.
A ( 16 ) song album dedicated to the general theme of "love" ( -in it's many forms ). Employs Dave's imaginative bag of audio tricks. "Who Do You Think You Are" is a good instrumental track. "World of Ferment" is a great spoken word based track. "Sunrise Drive" has a cool "California feel" to it with it's laid back electric piano/ bongo and electronic effects. "It's Never Too Late" is a cool rocking instrumental while "Dreams" is a truly beautiful instrumental track. Overall, a decent enough album.
This is Brock's newest solo album. As such I haven't yet had a chance to check it out. The cover art looks interesting enough though....