Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Distant Horizons - Tracks & References

The view according to Jerry Richards: 

On BOC-L, Doug Bates posted some comments that Richards had conveyed to him regarding the concept of Distant Horizons: “It does contain a loose theme about humankind being enslaved to its technology.” He likened “the civilisation we’ve created as being a machine out of control.”

What they said then:

One web-based reviewer heard Hawkwind “delving into space erotica” and enthused about the sharing of writing credits: “Distant Horizons has many tracks credited to Tree, Chadwick and Richards. This is a good thing; Hawkwind has always been a living spaceship that even Brock cannot control alone.”

What they say now:

Hawkwind fan website Starfarer asked, of the 2011 reissue, “What were Hawkwind in 1997?  Who they were is an easier question (Brock, Chadwick, Richards, Tree) and where they were, too: in uneasy transition from the ending of one model of how-Hawkwind-works to the genesis of another.” It does, though, declare the new version as having extra layers of detail revealed by an improved mix, moving it, in the reviewer's eye, from a 5/10 effort all the way up to an, err, 6/10. Read the site's extensive and well-argued reviewed here.

Tracks and references:

Distant Horizons

It was originally planned to use Distant Horizons as the title for a second Psychedelic Warriors CD, though this never materialised.

The title is misquotes the Boy Scouts’ song ‘Riding Along on the Crest of a Wave’ (‘All our eyes on/the distant horizon’).

Phetamine Street

Mention is made of ‘Ketamine,’ a non-barbiturate, rapid-acting anaesthetic particularly used as a horse tranquilliser, but also as a ‘club drug’ at rave parties.

Waimea Canyon Drive

Waimea Canyon, on the Hawaiian Island of Kauai (see below), is known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific – though it is not remotely as large as Grand Canyon itself.


From Arabic (al-kimiya), the long sought method of turning base metal into gold. 

Clouded Vision

Lyrically, this one sounds like a Busking Dave Brock number, with its 'will I ever discover/what lies in store for me' refrain and its coda that 'the answer lies within your mind.' But it also keeps with other themes of the album in declaiming the world's diminishing resources.

Reptoid Vision

Population Overload


Presumably their tour bus doesn’t have any of these nasty oil-driven things?


Kauai is a Hawaiian island, offering “a multitude of natural attractions. Visit Waimea Canyon, or paddle your kayak deep into the depths of Waikanaloa Cave.” Nice.

Taxi for Max

A hidden track, made up (as one reviewer put it) of “noises, whistles and pots clanging under heavy delay effect. Hmmmm … OK already.”

Love in Space

When Hawkwind played this song on satellite channel VH-1, only the vocals and guitar were live – neither Davey’s bass or Chadwick’s drums were plugged in and both musicians mimed to a backing track. “Dave’s guitar was live – and Ron’s vocal as well.” (Richard Chadwick)

Also recorded circa Distant Horizon sessions


“I don’t think they ['Archiac' and 'Morpheus'] were part of the Distant Horizons sessions per se, but they were recorded around about the same time. Ron and I wrote those. In retrospect, those two songs  are the two best tracks on the [Atomhenge] re-release, yet they never made it on to the original. It’s very psychedelic: crawling, screaming acid rock from this crazy old band called Hawkwind, and it’s the new direction that Ron and I, and Richard to a large extent, were keen to push.” (Jerry Richards)

Archiac is a French commune in the Charente-Maritime department in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region of southwestern France. Tenuous linkage... doesn't seem to have any relationship to the song!


Morpheus is the God of Dreams. In Neil Gaiman's Sandman comics (Vertigo/DC) he appears as Dream, one of the seven Endless.

Hawkwind Mythology (See also Dave Anderson's car, Tim Blake's telephone call, the Hawklords' dancers...)

Legend has it that this album was rushed, pressed before the band really felt it was a properly prepared record, and suffered from being effectively 'unfinished'. And, unusually in Hawk-myth, this one has basis in fact:

Dave Brock: “It was one of those rushed things where Douglas wanted us to get an album together; we didn’t have enough material and I had to use some of my solo things and it wasn’t particularly wonderful. It could have been really good but it had to be gotten together quickly and that was it. We called it the ‘tombstone’ album because Douglas did [the tombstone cover] on his computer in paint shop.”

Jerry Richards: “We weren’t best served by the cuts that ended up on the official album release, which weren’t the ones that the band had chosen. There was an element of technical nonsense that got in the way of what we’d imagined that album was going to be. I don’t think that was necessarily down to the band, or the mastering plant, or the record company, it was just a lot of copies and crossover and things are going to go astray, and once the damn thing is out there, the cat is out of the bag and that’s it.”

Ron Tree: “Doug Smith told us it had to be done by a certain date. Tracks were mixed when I wasn’t there, and then it was put on the shelf for a month. So we could have had another a month to work on it.” 

Passport-holders only Hawkwind 1997 live CD sleeve

On the Distant Horizon, looking back...

Jerry Richards (interviewed for Sonic Assassins): “I brought a lot of digital expertise into the band as Richard [Chadwick] was, not struggling, but trying to get to grips with programming, drum tracks and sequencer arrangements and what-not, and I probably had the edge at that time with all that technology. A useful addition, so that we could do more stuff ‘in house’ rather than have to farm it out to expensive production units. Arguably people would say that could have been seen as a mistake because what you really want to do in a crisis is to maximise your output, and I think we chose to do that, but we didn’t have all the skills we might have wished for at our disposal. So some of the output from the earlier part of my involvement was maybe a little patchy; that’s not all down to our lack of understanding of equipment and production capability, it was also because the nature of the business itself was changing. Remember, the dance craze was burgeoning with drum ‘n’ bass, and there were a lot of other distractions away from what you’d call traditional spacerock music and esoteric music in general. We didn’t then have the general resurgence in psychedelia and acid rock that we subsequently have had with people looking back to the middle and late 60s, not just The Beatles, but garage rock coming out of America, The Silver Apples, Fifty Foot Hose, so bands that have had an influence on bands that have come through, such as Spacemen 3 and Spiritualized. Hawkwind have always found themselves on the crest of a wave, or down in a trough somewhere, where you’re sculling around trying to find something to get to grips with. But if you’ve been a band for that many years that’s going to happen to you, not that you’re going to be overtaken but you can find yourselves going down alleyways or out on a curve somewhere and before you can get back on the motorway you need to go and explore that territory out in the wilderness, just to give yourself a bit of grounding. You’re trying to reassert yourself and create a brand new vibe and if you’ve got a load of new people who’ve joined your band you all need to settle down and find where you’re comfortable working with one another. You need people to come onto your ideas at an angle, things that you can’t think of because you’re not them. That’s one of the reasons why I like working with Ron, because we pick at each other’s material and by doing that you come up with material that you might have had elements of in your back brain but you need other people’s sensibilities to coalesce it into what it is.

“You were striving to create something you haven’t done before, as an individual, that the band hasn’t done before - or maybe for some time - and you’re trying to explore those avenues with a new approach. And coming into the band, my mind-set was very strong, so I was willing to take on what seemed insurmountable problems and break them all down and deal with them piece-by-piece. It’s a standard managerial approach but it does work and there are fundamentals in the business that you need to be mindful of and stick with. Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve got as much energy as you would like to be able to put into the creative process, because the band at that time was experiencing great difficulties in its management structure and its strictly business capacity, and I did turn a lot of my attention towards that, arguably to the detriment of some of my musical input which can be seen as being a bit patchy. You’ve got to have an eye on some objective, some sort of purpose to where you want to get to, whether writing a song or a concept album or putting on a stage show that has a dramatically layered-out theme, especially in the world of Hawkwind where you’ve got fans who come along and are fascinated by all of these things. As long as you’ve got a clear-ish objective, it doesn’t matter if you take circuitous routes to actually get there as long as you arrive there all around the same time. I think Ron and I introduced that kind of feel and concept back to the band, where Dave could feel comfortable with the newer elements of things that were being introduced, because it was just as much as a wrench and a change for him, as it was for us to join the band.”

The 2011 reissue, with extra tracks, was released by Atomhenge/Cherry Red Records and is available in a variety of formats.

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