|Hawkwind, Moorcock & Chaos Theatre
I found this article in a comic called Rock'N'Roll, and more precisely in an issue entitled "Sci-Fi Space
Rockers"; Hawkwind were listed on the cover which I assumed meant there would be a comic strip
devoted to them within. No such luck. However I've dug up something pretty comic of my own to
accompany this article:
The Sonic Assassins. The Hawklords. The Masters Of The Universe. These names and more describe
Hawkwind, conjuring images of murky concert halls, phantastic poetry, ethereal instrumentation,
space-warrior costumes, and indescribably haunting liquid lightshows.
The scene: Ladbroke Grove, U.K., early 1970. Inspired by post-Sgt. Pepper psychedelia and Kubrick's movie
2001, a small group of science-fiction aficionados band together and combine their talents for rock with their
love of the fantastic.
Hawkwind's nucleus, guitarist / vocalist Dave Brock, is the only constant in this ever-evolving outfit and its
cast of thousands. In 1967, Brock met saxophonist Nik Turner at a concert in Holland. Their mutual interests
in science fiction led to a musical pairing, and the embryonic Hawkwind was born. By 1971, the Hawkwind
title album and its successor, In Search Of Space, were released. The latter yielded the famous "Master Of
The Universe," which became the first of many Hawkwind pseudonyms.
Scene shift: London, 1961.
Author Michael Moorcock published The Dreaming City, beginning the chronicles of Elric of Melnibone,
albino wizard and agent of the Lords of Chaos, and his soul-stealing sword Stormbringer. During the next
decade, Moorcock introduced new characters into his pantheon, notably Dorian Hawkmoon and Corum
Jhaelen Irsei, known as the Eternal Champions. The popularity of his novels drew one of his fans, a South
African poet named Robert Calvert, to seek him out. The two formed a friendship, and in 1971 Calvert took
Moorcock to see Hawkwind perform live and meet the band. Calvert already knew Nik Turner, and was soon
asked to join the band. Moorcock fit right in, and at the band's request, began penning lyrics for recitation
during the live Hawkwind performances. Moorcock's apocalyptical poetry, performed by Calvert, soon
became a live Hawkwind highlight. In 1972, the Hawkwind line-up of Brock, Calvert, and Turner was
supplemented by bass player Lemmy (later of Motorhead), and their third album, Doremi Fasol Latido, was
released, followed by their legendary Space Ritual recorded live in December 1972. Two of Moorcock's
poems appear on the album, "Black Corridor," and the quintessential "Sonic Attack."
These performances were abstract theatre, with semi-nude dancers, lights by Liquid Len and the Lensmen,
and outrageous costumes, with Moorcock's poetry providing some of the more surreal moments.
By 1974, Calvert, who had always been subject to erratic fits of lunacy, was now tottering on the precipice
of insanity. One highly publicized event in a British hotel lobby found Calvert brandishing a Scottish
broadsword he had lifted from a wall exhibit, bellowing challenges to all within earshot. On several occasions
he was institutionalised and sedated, and Hawkwind convinced Moorcock to sit in for the live shows until
Calvert was able to return. The 1974 release Hall Of The Mountain Grill marked Calvert's departure, and his
absence was easily apparent in the lack of the dementia that had characterised the live Space Ritual. The
addition of violinist / keyboardist Simon House also had a mellowing effect on the recording, which opened
with the fan favorite "The Psychedelic Warlords."
In 1975, Hawkwind and Moorcock collaborated to create the first hybrid of rock and science fiction. Based
on Moorcock's Eternal Champion books, the album Warrior On The Edge Of Time chronicled the struggle
between the Lords of Law and Chaos. This time Moorcock not only contributed to the writing of the album,
but he also made his first personal appearance on a Hawkwind record, narrating his poems.
In the live performances of Warrior, Hawkwind took a step closer to theatre, detailing the Eternal Champion
saga with additional narration by Moorcock that was not on the record. This was Lemmy's final record with
Hawkwind, as he left to form his own band, Motorhead, after being mistakenly busted for cocaine
possession while crossing the U.S./ Canadian border to a gig in Toronto.
After Warrior, Moorcock too left Hawkwind to form his own band (Michael Moorcock and The Deep Fix),
and Hawkwind continued in the vein of sci-fi oriented rock. The 1976 release Astounding Sounds Amazing
Music saw the return of Bob Calvert, and its follow-up, Quark Strangeness & Charm, shocked fans by
announcing the sacking of saxman Nik Turner, who was rapidly embracing the world of punk music. These
records, as well as the following releases PXR 5, Sonic Assassins, Hawklords Live, and Hawklords 25 Years
On, were a radical departure from the earlier Hawkwind albums, with chief lyrical credits going to Calvert, in
his tongue-in-cheek style. Sonic Assassins is noteworthy as the first appearance of Harvey Bainbridge, who
would play bass / keyboards for the next fifteen years. In 1978, Calvert left the band for good, having
suffered mental collapse during the 1978 tour of America. Hawkwind completed the decade with two
releases, Live Seventy Nine and Levitation (with surprise guest ex-Cream drummer Ginger Baker), after
which Michael Moorcock rejoined the crew. .
Before returning to Hawkwind in 1981, Moorcock penned two classic tracks for Blue Oyster Cult, "The
Black Blade" (about Elric's sword Stormbringer), and the BOC live staple "Veteran Of The Psychic Wars,"
made famous in the soundtrack for the animated science fiction feature Heavy Metal. Deep Purple used
Stormbringer as the title for an album, albeit without Moorcock's permission. Rejoining Hawkwind in 1981,
Moorcock contributed narration and three songs for the album Sonic Attack.
1982 saw the release of Church Of Hawkwind, followed by the 1983 landmark Choose Your Masques and
1984's Stonehenge-This Is Hawkwind, Do Not Panic. These two albums mark a radical change in the band,
with the catalyst being the surprise return of punk Nik Turner, complete with day-glo spiked hair. However,
Nik's punk leanings still clashed with the Hawkwind sound, and in 1984 he left to again pursue his solo career.
Hawkwind's final collaboration with Moorcock (to date, anyway), The Chronicle Of The Black Sword,
revolved around Moorcock's most famous character, Elric of Melnibone. Performed live in 1985, "The
Chronicle" is Hawkwind's greatest theatrical triumph. With actors portraying Elric, his sister Cymoril, his evil
cousin Yrkoon, and the Chaos Lord Arioch, highlights of Elric's saga were performed with battles, blood, and
fire. Moorcock narrated the performance, a task he undertook with frightening zeal. The film of Hawkwind's
theatrical apex is available as a British import video, and is highly recommended.
In 1988, Bob Calvert died of a heart attack at the tragically young age of 43, as he was preparing to return to
the band. The album Xenon Codex was released, succeeded by Space Bandits.
In 1990, Hawkwind returned to America for the first time since Calvert's breakdown tour in 1978, yielding
the excellent live CD Palace Springs and the companion live set California Brainstorm. After Harvey
Bainbridge jumped ship, Hawkwind continued as a trio, and released the excellent double album Electric
Tepee in 1992. Plans are currently underway for a return to America with a full theatrical presentation,
including holographic special effects.
Throughout their career, Hawkwind wrote many songs in tribute to famous science fiction authors, such as
Asimov (" Robot," "Winds Of Change"), Bradbury ("Fahrenheit 451"), Zelazny ("Lord Of Light"), and Hesse
("Steppenwolf"). One particularly effective tribute to Tolkien was a direct quote taken from the climactic
scene of the Lord Of The Rings. This article only touches on Hawkwind's 30+ records, and Moorcock's
100+ novels, but for those interested in Hawkwind / Moorcock, the following are highly recommended:
Hawkwind: Space Ritual, Warrior On The Edge Of Time (recently released with an excellent book written by
Robert Godwin) and Live Chronicles.
Moorcock: The Swords Trilogy, and Elric Of Melnibone (six books)
|What can I say? I was young and stupid when I drew this. Corum's cheesecloth shirt is modelled on
one I had that was similarly embroidered! Believe it or not there's plenty more where this came from...