Top 20 Brock Guitar Moments
As with so much else on this website, this is only my opinion and I would be surprised if anyone agreed
100% with this Top 20, which is admittedly a little more representative of the *sort* of thing I like about
Dave Brock's guitar playing , rather than a straight listing of the best moments. Were I to do that, this would
amount to little more than a track listing of the Space Ritual album and a couple of others from around that
A couple of people have been in touch to make other suggestions for a Brock Top 20...
Nick Randles vouches for Damnation Alley for the swirling layers of guitar...Stephen Garrity recommends
Paradox for its' musical simplicity...Adriano Troiano thinks Magnu should be there for that monstrous
Mike Richardson says:
I have a couple of additional favs, both from the QS&C. Although it's probably been a bit done to death on
recent tours, Hassan-i-Sahba has a fab riff, especially when it kicks in after the dreamy indian/arab
sounding intro. I also like the "phased (?)" guitar in the intro on Spirit the Age. Apart from the captain's
guitar, another notable Hawkwind thang is the wooshy lift off noises. The ones that first got me were the
audio-generater noises on the first album. I recall these is some good ones in Paranoia. Those really used to
send me and my mates right "out there".
and Harry Attrill adds:
As a big Brock fan I have to say one of my favorite techniques is the 'chucka-chucka' sound he used to sort
of bring everyone back together, there's a superb example of this on the 1999 party version of 'It's So Easy'
after the ragged but glorious jamming in the middle - just bass drums and Del's eerie deep wind sound and
the two chord riff interspersed with a fantastic chucka-chucka to hammer home the beat...never goes on long
enough, but maybe that's the point...but I think one of the defining moments of Brockola is also on that
album on 7-by-7, (better IMHO than the space ritual version) one of my all time fave tunes - the opening
riffing after the gentle intro is on this 1974 version pure proto-punk, hardly distorted, pure fantastic playing,
reprised if anything even a little better after Turner's overly arch rendition of the verse in the middle, and
then the fantastic outro... And what about 'Upside Down' and then the often-mentioned but seldom-heard by
those without access to vinyl The Demented Man with it's beautiful riff and brilliant but simple lead. Lastly
the best bit of Brock ever is on Spirit of the Age, the original Quark recording - just two chords and tremolo
- coming through the static, sharp and soft at the same time...human and inhuman...between the opening and
the vocal, that riff, the bass, drums and morse taps - I could listen to it all day.
Here's Mick from Liverpool:
What about the sublime guitar playing on the fade out of Fable Of A Failed Race? Or the extended guitar
solo on Nght of the Hawks on Live 1990 (disc one version)? Or his chukka chukka chukka playing on
Opa-Loka? That fantastic tension builder solo after the piano break on the live version of Xenomorph?
I agree with most of your Top 20 though in a slightly different order and with some additions/deletions:
1) Brainstorm (Doremi) - listening to the remastered version I feel that I can detect more guitar tracks. Odd
little runs here and there lasting a few seconds
2) Born To Go - thunderous
Then in any order; the melody from Night Of The Hawks on Nottingham 1990 (1st disc), Spirit Of the Age;
Lord Of Light (Doremi), of course the middle section from Levitation (Do Not Panic - TRULY awesome);
You Shouldn't Do That (Space Ritual encore - the full version as on Acid Daze CD set that seques into
Seeing As...) Oh what else??? Too much, too much...well too much for what was supposed to be a quick
note to say I thought it was a really good section on your site...
Revporl spake thus:
My favourite Brock bit is on the live version of Alien where he just plays the melody as a lead line, it's a bit
like what Ron Wood would play were he in Hawkwind, tight yet sloppy.
And here's one I forgot when I wrote this - the guitar solo on the Sonic Assassins version of Golden Void.
Is this the best bit of melodic lead guitar Dave Brock has ever played?
Graham H opines:
I really love the guitar riff on Heads - the superior solo album version. Not only is the guitar sound great but
the way it works with the static repeating bass line is just superb. Then there's the rhythm guitar coming in
towards the end of the instrumental section of Be Yourself after the solos have finished (assuming of course
it's Brock -sounds like him anyway).
And there's the picking guitar at the end of Infinity and The Demented Man - it's the way the extra notes
come in - gets me all the time.
Besides Psychedelic Warlords which is indeed sublime, Hall of the Mountain Grill has more great stuff. The
D-Rider guitar sound makes the track while the Paradox solo is my favourite. The combination of great
sounding riff and solo is hard to beat.
Yeah, I agree broadly on your choice but I have to say that Aerospaceage Inferno from "Spaced Out In
London" does it for me. It's the fact that he and the band continue to be able to texture the music and the
sound between a Dance/Trance meets Hard Rock vibe, which is currently their main strength. I hope they
keep doing it for a long time to come, 'cos I scour the airwaves for anything as interesting or entertaining
and I'm not getting much joy!
P.S. Captain Lockheed and the Starfighters has some great examples of fine Brock and Lemmy rhythm
interchanges: Aero, Ejection, Right Stuff, etc.......
Still they come... Voilodian Ghagnasdiak's views are as follows:
How could anyone overlook the obvious choice? What I consider to be the best song I've ever heard in my
life. It is the most futuristic sounding, both by side-effect and lyrically. I used to put headphones on in bed,
and leave the tone arm up on the record player. Side two of Space Ritual would play all night while my
parental units were in their tombs of sleep. All this to enable me to listen to Orgone Accumulator as many
times as humanly possible. I've never heard such a driving rhythm, bass combination to this day!
Everything about the song is amazing. The opening fade-in from some other dimension...Lemmy's driving
bass sounds like six mufflerless Harleys doing 100 mph down the chronoglide skyway....Simon King's
magical pounding would be comparable to a fully automatic Howitzer!!!! Baron Brock's strumming puts me
in mind of a 400lb hummingbird on amphetamines... All topped off by the mysterious ,wonderful lyrics of
Capt.Calvert. I must say O.A. is my most favorite of all songs,by any artist ,in any era.
Tom Detain's view is:
Surely all civilised people will agree that Brock is at his best when he is alone. His intro to Robot, like
PXR5, goes on and on, but still it's a slight shame when bass, drums and keyboards join in.
The "honourable mention" I would like to include is "Rocky Paths" on Sonic Attack. I don't really know
where Huw's parts end, but the rhythm track is a stormer, and it has to be Mr Brock! [Is it? Anyone know?]
Anyone got any more? Email me here if you think something else should be mentioned
The bridge section, playing a staccato chord pattern that goes like this: E_E / E_E / E_E / C - D - F As
so often, it's the spaces between the chords that make this so good. The guitar sound is classic Brock, brash
without being harsh, full but not fat, bright but not trebly. This track is on the 1990 Space Bandits album,
and the passage I'm referring to kicks in at 2 minutes and 13 seconds... This is one of my favourite tracks of
the 90's, although the freeform breakdown in the middle is tiresome, and I'm not a fan of Bridget's vocals, or
lyrics for that matter. Alan Davey shines on this track too, but once you look past his powerhouse bass
work, what do you find but more classic Brock guitar riffing...
19. Mask Of The Morning
From the 1992 Electric Tepee album, this song was a radical reworking of Mirror of Illusion from the first
album. What stands out here is...well, the whole thing really. From the skyward ascending chord sequence
of the opening, to the way the guitar in the verse somehow counterpoints the vocal line while holding to the
chord structure...I believe it's the right hand strumming that achieves this, with a different string being
accented each time the chord is played, resulting in something that's halfway between picking and
strumming. Playing simultaneous lead and rhythm guitar is a difficult trick to pull off, and this is a really
innovative approach to it. Also worthy of mention is the F...E muted strum on the bridge parts, and the
riffing in the middle section is great, too.
From 1995's Alien 4. Hawkwind had become very keyboard / rave orientated on their previous album (It Is
The Business Of The Future To Be Dangerous), but with Hawkwind everything changes all the time, and
that's one reason why they're still going. With this album the Mothership changed course yet again, going
into a thrashier sound than we had heard before. The best track track was Xenomorph for my money, built
around some classic Brock tone set against an unusual chord sequence, featuring minor 7th chords (more of
a Huw Lloyd Langton trademark) and an innovative one-step segue between verse and chorus. The middle
section is upheld by some wah'd rhythm and lead guitar starting at around the three minute mark before the
typical Brock jamming chords kick in, doing the sort of thing you could hear way back in 1972 on Space
17. State Of Mind (Instrumental)
The only non-Hawkwind track chosen here, this is from 2001's "Memos and Demos" Dave Brock solo
album. The intro is simply magnificent, bursts of analog synth over the top of a brilliant chord progression,
which first surfaced on Looking In The Future, the closing track on Church of Hawkwind. But on that
album, the chords were played on a keyboard and here the Captain had the wisdom to pump them out on his
(t)rusty Westone Spectrum LX. This is one of those tracks where the guitar does something different almost
with every bar of the song, so you get a bit of everything really. There is also a vocal version of the track
immediately following the instrumental one, and if I'm not mistaken, there's more lead guitar on the vocal
version. But this song is included for that awesome chord progression.
16. Psychedelic Warlords
Long before the Gang of Four or Extreme or anyone else who attempted to play funk in the context of rock
music, we had Dave Brock artfully pulling it off in 1974 on the Hall Of The Mountain Grill album. I know I
go on about this, but I felt vindicated when Sigh did a funk version of this song (not that it worked IMHO) on
the recent Daze Of The Underground tribute album. Perhaps the reason it worked so well for Hawkwind was
that only the guitar part had the funk inflections, and it was limited to the pattern of the riff, with Dave
otherwise employing a cleaned-up version of his standard tone, and avoiding the temptation to use a wah
pedal, which might have dragged it down into white boy imitations of 'Shaft'. It's one of the enduringly
strange things about Hawkwind that their major songwriter plays off the beat all the time, nowhere better than
15. 25 Years (single version)
Not an easy one to hear these days, as this isn't on any album (apart from the 3CD "Epoch-Eclipse"
compilation!). It was included on the 1980 Charisma Records compilation, 'Repeat Performance' and is a
much rawer, tougher take on this number than was on the Hawklords album. That is in large part due to
Brock's savage rhythm sound, maybe energised by the emergence of the New Wave - but the reason I put
this in the top 20 is the guitar solo. It's not complex or widdly but is a great melodic solo which fits perfectly
within the overall vibe of the song, loosely following the chord progression at first, and then opening right
up. It's a classic rhythm guitarist's lead guitar, if anyone knows what I mean by that.
14. Right To Decide
Once again, the middle section is singled out for praise in this number, from Electric Tepee. It's mellow with
a hard edge, being around a pair of minor seventh chords, very effectively contrasting the major chord
progression in the rest of the song. The middle section kicks in at 2:05. At first the guitar just riffs around
the chord progression, with a few wolf notes thrown in (on chords? not easy!) before the lead guitar plays a
melodic solo in a major seventh key, at a guess. Maybe this is hard with a mellow edge rather than
vice-versa. Jilly Goolden might be the right person to ask.
Another middle section, I am starting to see a pattern here. The live version on 'This Is Hawkwind, Do Not
Panic' (1984) starts at 2:47 and lasts for a couple of minutes. What I'm referring to of course is the
ferocious muted strumming based around an F# chord which mutates into F# - G - F# - A. On the
eponymous studio album (1980) we get to this point in 2 minutes and 16 seconds, and you have to listen
carefully for Brock grinding away underneath Huw's lead parts and acoustic jangles. At about three minutes
the Captain seems to float up closer to the top of the mix, and thereafter Huw's lead parts feel more like an
embellishment. What's great about it, especially on the live version, is the way the rhythm guitar and bass
lock in together and just obliterate everything in their path.
12. Space Is Deep
This is the only song I can think of, ever, where an acoustic guitar manages to sound spacey. The spaciness
of the guitar is something to do with the small room reverb that's been applied to it, and so it's hats off the
Brock the Producer as well as to the guitar player. Otherwise, its the phrasing - as I've mentioned before, it's
as much where he leaves spaces as what he plays that does the trick. An interesting thing is that when this
has been played live in recent years, it's really only been the 'blanga' section which closes out the song that
has worked using electric instruments. So listening carefully to the original version on Doremi Fasol Latido
(1972) I was surprised to find that this coda is not actually played any more forcefully than the preceding
verses and choruses: the power is there, but it's implicit in the riff and the arrangement rather than being
derived from thrashing the guitar.
11. Hurry On Sundown
Dave Brock is a very, very underrated acoustic player. Cackhanded people like me might be able to figure out
his electric guitar parts, but are completely left standing by this, and all the other examples of his clawhammer
fingerpicking, for which he uses an innovative technique involving the thumb and first finger only, instead of
the traditoinal thumb and first three fingers. Trying to follow this is impossible, and if that wasn't impressive
enough, he plays it on a 12-string acoustic instead of a 6-string! Of course, the jaw-dropping stuff is mostly
in the intro to the song, but it makes a comeback right at the end, which is best heard on the original studio
version from the first album, 'Hawkwind', back in 1970.
My favourite version of this is the later of the 2 that Hawkwind have released: the demo version, which has
Dave Brock's vocals in place of Lemmy's. It's a sparser version than the full track, and has only guitar, bass,
drums, vocals and some incidental synth on it. This really allows the monstrous riffing and amazing guitar
sound to shine. The first time this saw the light of day was, I believe, on a Flicknife single in the early 80's,
with Valium 10 as the B-side. The sleeve of the single proclaimed the A-side as "Motorhead (the way it
should have been!)" and I can't argue with that. The guitar is high in the mix for Hawkwind, and the way
Dave plays with Lemmy, and yet plays off him, is what makes this so high-octane. It's another example of
the wonderfully measured quality of his rhythm playing, which lets Dave get away with playing between the
beat, and not sound ragged.
9. Master Of The Universe
This I have included to highlight Dave's talent for arrangement when it comes to guitar parts. It's one of the
simplest Hawkwind songs, and for my money the first (studio) version, on 1971's In Search Of Space has
never been touched by any subsequent live rendition. This is because there are two rhythm guitar tracks, one
dark and one light. The lighter sounding guitar is only semi-distorted, has little sustain, and is more trebly. It
kicks in first, on the left channel to lay out the familiar intro. We get a couple of bars of the verse before the
second guitar bursts out of the right channel, sounding much 'deeper', as it's more distorted and has had the
presence (upper-mid frequencies) backed off. This one really delivers the power in this track, which would
otherwise sound a bit toytown IMHO. Both guitars are phase-shifted in perfect unison, from 3:50 through
4:50, and this must have taken some doing, but we can't give Dave all the credit. Can we?
8. Shot Down In The Night
Included for one simple reason, a few seconds of playing which still makes the hair on the back on my neck
stand up. The Live 79 version of this is a long guitar-dominated workout in which Huw Lloyd Langton takes
most of the limelight, but there are a couple of things about it that underline how anaemic Hawkwind can be
when Dave isn't doing any guitar playing. At first Dave plays no guitar and it all sounds a bit thin. His
rhythm guitar joins in at around 1:56 and then cuts out again on the bridge following that verse, rejoining on
the chorus. It sounds so much better when Dave is playing. And then, on the lead-in to the middle section
(the chords here are F and then G) the song goes from being anaemic to musclebound as Dave really starts to
punch it out. Huw throws a great solo, but the underpinning rhythm guitar is very effective, playing sustained
chords to back Huw up without distracting from his lead guitar with unnecessary overplaying. The whole
middle section becomes more jam-based, before pulling together for the last verse-bridge-chorus. After that,
there is another guitar solo from Huw, which IMHO is terrific, and almost completely outshone by the
mightiest riffing from Dave Brock. This starts at 6:43 with Dave pumping the chords out right on the beat all
the way through to the end of the track at 7.38. A late night favourite, loud and on headphones, guaranteed to
get me playing air guitar...
7. Kings of Speed
This must be the hardest hitting guitar sound Hawkwind have ever used, and that's why I include it. This
track is very deceptive, as it's a conventional mid-70's piece of boogie with plenty of softened edges
(keyboards and violin among them) and the overall effect you get when listening to it is quite diferent to what
you hear if you get the headphones on, crank the volume and listen to the guitar. Guitar players have this
annoying habit of talking about "tone" but it's the only thing that explains this. The lead guitar parts are
throwaway IMHO, but the rhythm could cut steel. Dave was using a Fender Jaguar at around this time, and
they are said to have a "boss rhythm sound". This track certainly does and so I reckon's that's what he used
to lay it down.
Again, it's the studio version, from Doremi (1972) which floats my spaceship rather than any of the countless
subsequent live renditions. From the start of this track, the guitar is what makes it sound unlike anything else
- crude, primitive and utterly spacey: one of the most science-fiction sounding Hawkwind songs, redolent of
something like Dune rather than Starship Troopers. That opening chord really blares out...but for most of
this track I would not single out the guitar playing as anything other than one constituent of the overall cosmic
soup. Brainstorm is not one of the stronger songs in the Hawkwind canon, being more a collection of
ritualistic space chants and battle hymns, as it says on the sleevenotes - i.e. a collection of riffs strung
together. The song is credited to Nik Turner, but I have always suspected that Brock supplied some of the
riffs, and one in particular. (This is the thing with the best Hawkwind tracks - they come out with a terrific
riff and improvise with it - when you think they're finished, they come out with another, even better one.)
What I'm droning on about here is right at the end of Brainstorm - the outro, starting at 10:40. This takes the
form of a simple chord progression (A - G - F - E) but Brock uses a superb effect on the guitar to make the
whole thing sublimely cosmic. The effect in question is actually tremolo, but with constant variations in
speed. It's another moment that makes you think of spaceships accelerating away across the void (though as
space is near-vacuum, you wouldn't be abe to hear anything, of course...). I have figured out how to
reproduce this effect using a tremolo unit and a volume pedal to vary the speed, but can't, of course, make it
sound anything like as good as Mr. Brock does.
5. Kadu Flyer
Another one to listen to up loud, on headphones, to get the full effect. I dare say this would not be on Mr.
Brock's own personal list of favourites, as the song is credited to House / Mandelkau, but that is part of the
appeal. Y'see, while I love almost everything that Simon House has done in Hawkwind, this is a fey little
number indeed. That does not make it bad, it's just on the light side, with some gruelling keyboard work from
Mr. House being the only thing to give it any ballast at first. Great chord progession, great tune, interesting
lyrics, good singing from Nik, and yet it lacks something. Until, that is, the Boy Brock bursts rudely onto the
scene at 1:54 and kicks everbody in the arse - hard. The guitar sound here is fuzzed out and somehow slots
in perfectly under the other, airier sounding instrumentation. The verse/chorus which follow the guitar's
entrance are musically the heart of the song, but unfortunately the rhythm guitar is all gone by the three
minute mark, and after that the song goes off into an eastern-sounding miasma, all a bit too jingly and jangly...
4. High Rise
This is here for one reason. The original version, which is a live cut on the PXR5 album, contains the best
guitar solo I've ever heard from the Captain. I will spare you lengthy descriptions of the track and cut
straight to the quick: the solo starts at 2:58 and is a beautiful, plaintive, melodic thing only lasting 30 seconds,
but perfectly reflecting the mournful quality of the song without mirroring any part of the vocal melody or
keyboard figures elsewhere in the track. Incidentally, the version on the vinyl PXR5 album is much better
than that on the PXR5 CD.
3. Born To Go
A live track from 1972 (Space Ritual) which might be the most complete bit of guitar playing Dave Brock has
ever pulled off. It starts with a locktight riff from the rhythm section, where you couldn't slip a playing card
between the guitar and the bass. A wild psychedelic wah guitar solo starts at 3:20, initially with chords, and
then lead guitar, no repetition anywhere along the way, and it just goes on and on, twisting and weaving all the
time. This goes straight into some brilliant stuttering rhythm guitar from 5:30 to 6:04, which is surpassed by
the next bit of psych riffing (from 6:32 to 6:53) where the guitar just machine guns the audience.
Awesome. Considering that this is the first real song on Space Ritual, after the very intro-ish Earth Calling, it
really sets the tone for the stunning quality of that whole album.
2. You Shouldn't Do That
The live version originally on the Roadhawks album, and these days appearing as a bonus track on the Space
Ritual CD. It dates from December 1972 and is probably out there on its' own in terms of heaviness.
Starting with a strummed chord while Dave slowly opens and closes the wah pedal, the drums and bass join
in before the song suddenly kicks into another trademark unison riff, bass drums and guitar all playing as one,
with a distant sax in the background. This continues for some time before a middle section dominated by
Lemmy and Simon King piledriving away, which in turn gives way to a coda: a simple two chord riff which
gradually accelerates and was first heard as 'Seeing It As You Really Are' on the first album. It is in this coda
that Dave Brock comes to the fore, in a couple of different ways. First, as the song transitions from the
middle section to the coda, he throws a superb one-off riff at 4:55, a muted double-time strum which sounds
like one of Simon King's fabulous drum rolls in this number. It's a shame this only happens the once, because
I can hear in my head how he could have done more - but it's the only one of its' kind. But something else
comes along at 5:07, when Dave opens up with some cleanish sounding power chords. There's no fuzz here,
just the natural sound of his Dick Knight custom guitar pushing the power stage of a valve amp into
overdrive. The best guitar sound I have ever heard.
1. Lord Of Light
Well, there are so many amazing things about this, my favourite Hawkwind track of them all. By a narrow
margin I plump for the studio version on Doremi Fasol Latido (1972) rather than 1973's Space Ritual version.
The reason for this is that, although the latter is arguably a more exciting rendition, the studio version does
some wild things which weren't, at the time, replicable in a live setting. The first of these is the incredible
intro to the song, which is all Brock, using the guitar to play the effects, a heady mixture of echo, tremelo and
phasing. These are the sounds that flying saucers make, and listening on headphones especially, you really
get three dimensions, with the sound panning left to right and backwards and forwards: the flying saucers are
overhead. And then the verses of the song give us the best example of Brock's measured, rhythmic riffing,
perfectly complemented by *that* crunchy tone, with it's upper-mid frequencies boosted. You're thinking it
can't get any better than this, but it does. At 3:45, here comes the most cosmic wah'd guitar you've every
heard, and we're flying through space. But wait...the best is yet to come. After the 'Flying is Trying is
Dying' vocal interlude (which brought us back to Earth), the guitar starts to phase-shift at 4:54, and the effect
gradually increases in intensity, going ballistic at 5:16: the guitar leaves the atmosphere altogether and achieves
re-entry exactly on the stroke of 5:32. This is the best use of this effect by anyone, ever, and still gives me
the goose bumps in the right circumstances, and god knows how many hundreds of times I have listened to
this number. I never get tired of it.
|Like many Hawkfans,
what I like best about
Dave Brock is seeing him
with a guitar in his
hands. He's an excellent
synth player and
producer too, of
course...but this Top 20
concentrates on the
Captain's guitar exploits.
Most of the things I've
picked out are from the
earlier part of
Apart from being the era
I like best, it's fair to say
that most of the amazing
things that Mr. Brock has
done with six strings he
did in the first decade or
so of the band's life.
Since then it's been more
of the same good stuff,
and Dave also
concentrated more on
synths from the 80's
onwards, leaving less
room for the guitar,
unfortunately. So here
we go with the Top 20
Brock Guitar Moments...