World of Fantasy: Michael Moorcock and His Aural Escapades

Author Michael Moorcock is famous for his Elric series, his many political and social standpoints, and for his multiverse series featuring the “Eternal Champion,” in his numerous books. For the light treading, Moorcock’s canon is a mountain. Even for a fantasy diehard, its a challenge to break in to his expansive bibliography. Yet not all his creativity was limited to albino wizards, demon swords and meta-heroes. In his day Moorcock frequently collaborated with musical artists, especially space rockers Hawkwind. Moorcock also formed his own group for a spell, and collaborated with other artists also. All featured Moorcock contributing with either music, lyrics or inspiration. Here are some of Moorcock’s musical works:

Sonic Attack,” from the Hawkwind album, Space Ritual. This 1981 track features little in the way of melody, verses, chorus or any typical song structure. Instead “Sonic Attack,” mimics public broadcast messages and backs the words with oscillating, repeating cacophony. Moorcock contributed the lyrics, which you need to read and maybe gain some kind of meaning from it.

Sleep of a Thousand Tears,” from Hawkind’s The Chronicles of the Black Sword. The Black Sword is both a recurring element across Moorcock’s fiction and a principle object/character in the Elric book series. It depicts chaos and doom, and its most famous form is the dreaded Stormbringer, the mourneblade possessed by a demon, and which feasts on souls. The Black Sword has its own will, manipulating and assisting Elric according to its own ends. All of Chronicles profiles the Elric books, but Moorcock is credited for “Sleep of a Thousand Tears,” specifically, among other songs.

The Wizard Blew His Horn,” from Hawkwind’s Warrior on the Edge of Time. This 1975 album is unique due to its release at Hawkwind’s commercial zenith in the UK, marking Lemmy Kilmister’s (Of Motorhead fame) final record as a band member, and it features numerous Moorcock lyrics and poetry. With this album Moorcock referenced much of his Eternal Champion work. The Eternal Champion is a thematic hero, one whose appearance and time varies, but whose core traits remain the same. Jerry Cornelius is Moorcock’s favorite and best known champion, while The Black Sword is his eternal enemy and sometime ally. The music and words are in the same neighborhood as “Sonic Attack,” eschewing traditional song structure and melody for straight-up eeriness. 

Moonshine in the Mountains,” from the Robert Calvert solo LP, Lucky Leif and the Longships. This one’s a stretch but the album is distinct for Moorcock’s instrumental, rather than lyrical contributions. Calvert was the longtime poet/frontman for Hawkwinds, so the association preceded the record. The vision and lyrics on this one are all Calvert’s. This LP’s notable feature is having Moorcock on the banjo. Typically he played guitar, mandolin and vocals on the albums where he guested.

New Worlds Fair, by Michael Moorcock & The Deep Fix. Not content to guest on Hawkwind’s group and solo albums, in 1975 Moorcock released his own album, and Hawkwind’s members contributed to his music instead. On it Moorcock wrote the lion’s share of songs, played guitar and mandolin, and sang. As mentioned before, several Hawkwind members appear, but so does onetime Thin Lizzy guitarist Snowy White. The album starts as spacey as typical Hawkwind, but does coalesce into a dreamy, but cohesive album. It can be a love it or hate it affair, though. Deep prog fans will appreciate it but it lacks anything one could call a pop single.

Veteran of the Psychic Wars,” by Blue Oyster Cult, from Fire of Unknown Origin. Eventually Moorcock branched beyond his Hawkwind buddies and, since the solo band didn’t quite take off, he found new collaborators in Blue Oyster Cult. No doubt people recognize this band from their hits, “Burnin’ For You,” and, “Don’t Fear the Reaper.” In the 80s though the BOC were trying different tones and sounds, and Moorcock lent his popular Elric series to yet more musical interpretation. “Psychic Wars,” cross-references Elric with other Moorcock heroes like Jon Daker (From The Dragon in the Sword). Of the Moorcock works so far, this tune features the most traditional sounding structure. It’s keyboard heavy, typical of the 1980s, but follows a verse/chorus/verse pattern less challenging than most of the author’s Hawkwind collaborations.

Black Blade,” from Blue Oyster Cult’s, Cultosaurus Erectus album. In this BOC effort Moorcock again talks about Stormbringer, his favorite antagonist/MacGuffin. The song itself skews both psychedelic and prog, but has some of BOC’s trademark guitar interplay within it.

Alien Injection, by Spirits Burning. A more contemporary affair, Spirits Burning is a latter-day space rock/ambient jazz band with again, ex-Hawkwind members and Moorcock contributing. This album has Moorcock on guitar, vocals and mandolin on various tracks. King Crimson, Hawkwind, Pink Floyd and prog fans will find like on this album, one of Moorcock’s most recent recorded works, having appeared in 2008. It shows that even in his seventies, Moorcock is still at it and has lots of spacey, mind-bending music left to give alongside his paradigm-challenging novels.

 

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