Sworded Tales

This article comes from the Nov/Dec 1985 issue of Kerrang! and was penned by Dave Dickson
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At the curtain call, the cheers for "Elriiiiiiic!" were accompanied by calls of "Author!  Author!"
It can't have escaped your notice that there's something of a psychedelic revival (man) going on at the
moment, what with paisley shirts back in the shops and 'concept' albums back in the racks. Hawkwind, the
ultimate in 'cult' bands, may yet find themselves back in (God preserve us) 'fashion'.

But before the Masters Of The Universe can reclaim their lost glory, the Lords Of Chaos have to be ousted
from this world and the man assigned that particular task is King Elric of Melnibone, a kind of cosmic bailiff
if you like, evicting the squatting tenants of this plane of reality (man). But before we move on: a word of
explanation concerning this Elric dude and these Lords Of Chaos and their connection with the new
Hawkwind album, 'The Chronicle Of The Black Sword'.  Pay attention, this doesn't get any simpler.

Elric is the last of a great dynasty of sorceror kings who have ruled the empire of Melnibone by the exercise
of that power.  Elric, the albino king, is weak, his power waning; he is addicted to drugs and his evil cousin
Yrkoon threatens to usurp his throne.

Eventually, Imrryr, the dreaming city and capital of Melnibone, falls and Elric is forced into exile. His
sorcery enables the anaemic king to gain one of the two Black Swords, Stormbringer (the other is called
Mournblade - these names ring any bells with you?), that promise to return his power and strength.  What
Elric soon realises to his cost, however, is that that strength is obtained via the sword's lust for blood and its
stealing of the souls of its victims.

Elric wanders around collecting numerous adventures, a side-kick called Moonglum and a goodly number of
souls in the belly of Stormbringer. Eventually, he marries a girl called Zarozinia and knows a brief period of
peace before she is kidnapped and turned into a serpent (and why not?) shortly before being rescued by her
avenging husband. She sacrifices herself on the blade of Stormbringer with predictable results (this sword is
not particularly fussy where its next meal comes from!).

Elric's Guardian Angel is one of the Lords Of Chaos, called Arioch, whom he worships and obeys. But
through his trials and tribulations he realises that perhaps this isn't such a smart idea and when push comes
to shove sides with the 'enemy', the Lords Of Law, in order to restore the Cosmic Balance. To bring this
about, as well as the simultaneous end of his own empire and world-as-he-knows-it, thus heralding in our
world-as-we-know-it, Elric has to toot four times on the Horn Of Destiny. But has he the strength left after
the awesome Cosmic Battle he has just waged with the Forces of Chaos...?

You'll find the answer to this vital question and a whole host of entertaining ideas in the six Elric books
written by Michael Moorcock and issued by numerous publishers. Written between about 1961 and 1965,
the books are, in order (though I could be wrong so don't quote me on this!): 'Elric Of Melnibone'; 'The
Stealer Of Souls'; 'The Singing Citadel' (a collection of four short stories, only one of which concerns
Elric); 'The Sleeping Sorceress'; 'Stormbringer' and lastly The Jade Man's Eyes', another short story
published by the now defunct independent Unicorn Press in Brighton. This is an exceptionally rare tome and
should be snapped up if and when you ever see a copy.

Elric also had all sorts of other incarnations, such as Dorian Hawkmoon, Erekose, and a host of others I
cannot at this moment remember the names of (much less spell!). Suffice it to say that Moorcock published
a veritable plethora of these 'Sword And Sorcery' novels, all pretty much variations on a theme, but none
quite as good as the Elric saga -THIS is the one to seek out if you fancy dabbling into the mercurial world of
Sixties Moorcock.

The Moorcock / Hawkwind connection goes back eons, even before the heady days of the 'Space Ritual'
(on which album Moorcock supplied a couple of lyrics) when they all lived around London's Ladbroke
Grove area, the capital's closest copy of the Paris Left Bank / Latin Quarter artists' ghetto.

Here musicians, pop artists, poets and authors would assemble in the Mountain Grill cafe for cheap food and
intellectual discussion (man).  Hawkwind even appear in the film adaptation of Moorcock's first Jerry
Cornelius story, the ill-fated 'The Final Programme', as well as in their alternative guise of the Hawklords in
a couple of dire novels penned by a character called Michael Butterworth that also bore the Moorcock name.

Dave Brock also played on Moorcock's solo album ('The New World's Fair') and Moorcock has performed
onstage with Hawkwind in the past, once replacing resident poet. Bob Calvert, while he spent some time
extricating himself from a padded cell. And generally, all things between Moorcock and Hawkwind were
well groovy.

Given this extensive connection between the two parties the question here is not why have Hawkwind
suddenly, 17 years into their existence, decided to base a concept album around the Elric saga, certainly the
most popular of Moorcock's 'S&S' fables, but rather why has it taken them this long to get around to
actually doing it?  Answers please, Mr Brock.

"I'd like to know why now, myself! When Bob Calvert was in the band we used to talk about doing Elric but
we never actually got round to it. I suppose we were too side-tracked by Science Fiction at the time - we'd
always been into SF, going off into the future...but now I suppose we've decided to do 'Sword & Sorcery'
for a change...be different, ha!"

"What happened was that we'd been working on the Earth Ritual thing (a projected 'Space Ritual' Part II, the
return to Earth) but we didn't have enough money to do that and in the meantime I'd been working on this
S&S stuff because Michael (Moorcock) had sent me a lot of his lyrics and then I thought, well, maybe we
can do Elric instead.

"I then had to condense six books into one really, a synopsis of the whole six. And then we had to put that
to music and then work out a stage show. The stage show's been real hard to get together but we've got a
mime artist. Tony Carrera, who did the 'Space Ritual' tour with Stacia, playing the part of Elric. And the
backdrop's fantastic! The whole show's a mammoth undertaking but it should look really good!"

By the time you read this that tour will already be well under way, so Hawkwind fanatics may well be aware
of the intricacies involved - backdrops and four separate projections creating a 3-D effect including flying
dragons...a mammoth undertaking indeed!

Although thematically the show is dominated by Elric and his struggles both personal and Cosmic,
interspersed along the way will be older Hawkwind material that appears pertinent, so those not familiar with
the Elric saga and/or the new album 'The Chronicle Of The Black Sword' (out now on Flicknife!) need not
panic (as if a Hawkwind fan were ever prone to such a condition anyway!). Brock, meanwhile, has plans
for this intertwining of older Hawkwind material and the new Elric songs.

"What I'd like to do is a double album of the show, in fact we probably will. We've got 22 numbers which
will obviously have to be condensed down a bit, and then you've got to keep the old favourites in. It's
strange but everything seems to slot into place with the Elric numbers: we've got 'Dragons And Fables' off
the 'Earth Ritual', which fits in well; then there's 'Angels Of Death' which is an old HM number, which fits
perfectly into the scene where Elric conjures up the spirits; and 'Masters Of The Universe', which is a big
'Sword And Sorcery' thing, too."

Brock reels off a list of old numbers that complement the new material surprisingly well given the intricacy
of the Elric tale. But how it will work in the flesh and off the drawing board, who can say. With luck a
Cosmic Balance will be struck but the undertaking itself deserves to succeed simply by virtue of its daring
-few bands these days seem to stick their necks on the line in quite the same way that Hawkwind manage
to. Hawkwind have often enough been victims of the whims of the Lords Of Chaos themselves as Brock,
the last surviving founder member of the band, knows to his cost.

"I find it very easy to actually put myself in the position of Elric; you can draw a lot of parallels between the
character and this band. Hawkwind is like the sword, Stormbringer - it sucks the life out of you, it really
drains you! I found it very easy, especially doing this book (Elric: The Condensed Novel!), to relate
psychologically to him and how life shifts from one side to the other (The Cosmic Balance!).

"I know when Calvert used to work with us - it was really good working with Bob because we used to feed
of each other's energy; he was really good with words and I used to mainly do the music and we'd work off
each other - but Calvert used to go over the top and become the character he was portraying."

Yet another casualty along the route, another soul plundered by Hawkwind's black sword, was Nik Turner,
last seen sporting an extremely phallic green horn from his forehead (and why not?). Brock, despite finding
himself paralleled in Elric, remains rooted to this earth; if anything concerning Hawkwind can be said to
achieve a certain semblance of normality then it is the character of Dave Brock.  

Despite, or perhaps because of, these casualties, Hawkwind has always been a fairly fluid set-up based
around the nucleus of Brock; Huw Lloyd Langton and Harvey Bainbridge will be there as usual alongside a
couple of new faces - Alan Davey on bass and Danny Thompson on drums.  And then there's always the
possibility of some old demons from the past returning to tread those familiar boards. Michael Moorcock is
likely to appear at the London shows and even the deranged Turner may be allowed in again!

In the meantime, Hawkwind are back on the road with a new album and a totally new stage show that
should prove both exciting and innovative.  Who knows, the band may yet become fashionable again.  
America awaits, so too does Europe. Will Elric tip the Cosmic Scales in Hawkwind's favour?  Questions,
questions, the answers lie somewhere buried in the runes of England, maybe this tour will unearth them...

-Dave Dickson