Friday, March 13, 2009

Mike Moorcock on record

Comics are written by creative types and it's no surprise that there's a spill-over between comics' creators and the music industry. The earliest connections date back at least to the 1950s when Mike Butterworth, the editor of Valentine, set up the Great Pop Prom, which was sponsored by Valentine and its companions, Marilyn and Roxy. The Great Pop Prom followed the Last Night of the Proms at the Royal Albert Hall and the first shows in the late 1950s could boast Tommy Steele, Cliff Richard, Chris Barber's Jazz Band, Billy Fury, The Vernon's Girls, Alma Cogan, Cuddly Dudley [Moore?] and many others. In 1963, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones appeared on the same bill for the first time and, by the end of the Sixties, the Pop Proms were a seven-day event and could boast Led Zeppelin on the opening and a last night headlined by Chuck Berry and The Who.

But it was another Mike—Mike Moorcock—who became the first comics' creator to make an impact with his own music. Mike was a young editor at Tarzan Adventures when he cut his first demo disc in 1957 for EMI, although, as he would later admit, "it was, even by the standards of the day, considered too dreadful to release." This was this his first brush with music. "I was playing guitar in a whorehouse at the age of 15," he has said, "not because I was that good on the guitar or that sexy but because I got on well with the girls and they liked me. I was a sort of mascot."

He subsequently joined, and left, Fleetway Publications (1959-61), and supported himself by playing guitar in clubs and coffee bars. "Skiffle groups first of all, then Woody Guthrie style country/folk blues and finally a kind of John Mayall trip," he told Steve Lake in a 1975 interview. He was briefly in a county and western group called The Greenhorns but, he says, "When I discovered that I could make more money by writing than playing music, I stopped playing music."

That's not quite true. In 1971, Mike was contributing to Frendz magazine—a serialised story, "Voortrekker" appeared in early issues—and, through editor John Trux and another contributor to Frendz called Bob Calvert, was persuaded to see a band called Hawkwind. Impressed by his first gig at Shepherd's Bush he saw the band again and, not long after, was invited to work with them. When Bob Calvert disappeared—the first of many bouts of psychiatric illness for which he sought treatment—Moorcock stood in, debuting with the band on 23 July 1971 at the first of three free gigs performed underneath the arches at Ladbroke Grove.

Mike's first experimental song for the band was "Sonic Attack", which became a seminal track when it appeared (performed by Calvert) on the live album Space Ritual. A few months after his debut with the band, he penned the comic strip "The Sonic Assassins", drawn by Jim Cawthorn, which appeared in the November 1971 issue of Frendz.

Mike's recording career probably peaked in 1974-75 when he wrote a number of tracks for Hawkwind's The Warrior On The Edge Of Time LP, including the single "Kings of Speed" (UP 35808) released in March; the album (released in May) was loosely based on Moorcock's Eternal Champion and featured three Moorcock-penned tracks "The Wizard Blew His Horn", "Standing On The Edge" and "Warriors". Mike read "The Wizard Blew His Horn" and "Standing On the Edge" for the album. "Kings of Speed" was originally written for Mike's own project which was also to appear in May '75.

The New Worlds Fair (UAG 29732) was released under the name Michael Moorcock's Deep Fix and featured Mike on guitar, mandolin and vocals, Graham Charnock (guitar, vocs), Steve Gilmore (guitar, vocs), Kuma Harada (bass) and Peter Pavli (cello), along with an array of guests on various tracks, including Snowy White (guitar), Herbert North (guitar on "In the Name of Rock and Roll"), backing vocalists Shirely Roden and Debi Ross, plus various Hawkwind members—Dave Brock (guitar on "Last Merry Go Round"), Simon House (violin, keyboards), Nik Turner (sax), Simon King (drums) and Alan Powell (drums).

The original release was to have been preceded by a single "Starcruiser" / "Dodgem Dude" but United Artists passed on it and it was only given a belated release by Flicknife (FLS 200) in December 1980. The original New Worlds Fair had 11 tracks...

Candy Floss Cowboy
Fair Dealer
Sixteen Year Old Doom
You're A Hero
Song For Marlene
Come To The Fair
In The Name Of Rock 'n' Roll
Ferris Wheel
Last Merry Go Round
Dude's Dream

... with some connective narration. The album has been re-released a few times on CD with additional tracks: in 1995 by Griffin (GCD 332 0, Mar 1995; in the UK by Dojo (DOJO CD 88, May 1995) with "Candy Floss Cowboy (demo)" (the original LP track is a narration) "Dodgem Dude", "Starcruiser" and "The Brothel of Rosenstrasse"—the latter originally released as a single by Flicknife (EJSP 9831) in December 1982 (b/w "Time Centre"); and in 2008 by Esoteric with a further three additional tracks, previously unreleased demo versions of "Kings Of Speed", "You're A Hero" and "Dodgem Dude".

A variant version of the album, remastered from the original tapes, appeared from Voiceprint in 2005 under the title Roller Coaster Holiday (VP 351CD, Jan 2005) which included (in addition to the "Starcruiser" and "Dodgem Dude" tracks) a different demo version of "Candy Floss Cowboy", an instrumental "Starcruiser" and an acoustic "Dude's Dream" with different lyrics.

Mike also contributed to Bob Calvert's 1975 album Lucky Leif and the Longships (United Artists UAG 29852, Sep 1975), playing banjo, and the 1981 album Hype (A Side Records IF 0311, Sep 1981), playing 12-string guitar.

He has also written lyrics for Blue Öyster Cult: "The Great Sun Jester" (Mirrors, Columbia, Jun 1979), "Black Blade" (Cultösaurus Erectus, Columbia, Jun 1980) and "Veteran of the Psychic Wars" (Fire of Unknown Origin, Columbia, Jun 1981), the latter a call-back to the Warrior on the Edge of Time track "Standing on the Edge" which includes the phrase "the veterans of a thousand psychic wars". Mike performed live with BOC at Dragon Con in Atlanta in 1987.

"I got a bit disappointed with music," Moorcock has said. "Pete Pavli and I produced a lot of stuff both for Gloriana (the musical) and for The Entropy Tango which didn't really get a lot of enthusiasm from our then manager."

The various sessions were eventually released. Following the release of the "Dodgem Dude" single, Flickknife put out "The Brothel In Rosenstrasse" / "Time Centre" (EJSP 9831, Feb 1982) as a limited edition single. These two tracks, plus "Good Girl Bad Girl" and "Another Quiet Day In Auschwitz", has also been released as a cassette (Cyborg Records, May 1992). An official bootleg cassette, Moorcock's Deep FixConcerts and Rehearsals was given away free at the Atlanta Fantasy Convention in August 1990.

These various tracks have resurfaced on a number of Flicknife compilations, notably the Hawkwind: Friends and Relations series: "Good Girl, Bad Girl" and "Time Centre" on Friends & Relations (SHARP 101, Mar 1982), "Dodgem Dudes" and "Time Centre" on The Best of Hawkwind: Friends and Relations (SHARP 1724CD, Nov 1988) and "The Brothel In Rosenstrasse" and "Starcruiser" on Hawkwind, Friends and Relations: The Rarities (Anagram Records CDM GRAM 91, Mar 1995); "Dodgem Dude" also appeared on the Hawkwind & Co.: Your Last Chance 7" EP (FLS 214, Feb 1983). "Time Centre" has also been released on the compilation Space Box: 1970 and Beyond (Cleopatra Records CLP 9772 2, 1996).

"The Tale of the Entropy Tango" had originally appeared on a vinyl LP which Brian Tawn produced for Hawkwind Feedback... it was actually issue 12 of his fanzine Hawkfan (HWFB 2) but delays caused it to be released in July 1986, after issue 14 or 15 was released. The track was credited to Michael Moorcock's Deep Fix and Brian Tawn. The album has subsequently been released along with a second vinyl album Tawn released (The Elf by Alan Davey) as The Elf and the Hawk (Black Widow Records BWR 026, Jan 1999).

During this time, Mike had again become more involved with Hawkwind: a studio recording of "Sonic Attack" became the title song for Sonic Attack (RCA Active Records RCALP 6004, Oct 1981), which also included three other songs penned by Mike: "Psychosonia", "Coded Languages" and "Lost Chances"; Mike contributed "Running Through The Back Brain" to Zones (Flicknife Records SHARP 014, Oct 1983), which had been recorded as a demo in 1981, and "Arrival in Utopia" and the title track to Choose Your Masques (RCA Active Records RCALP 6055, Oct 1982).

The Chronicles of the Black Sword (Flicknife SHARP033, Nov 1985) was Hawkwind's 14th studio album and, like their 5th (Warriors on the Edge of Time) was heavily influenced by Mike's writings, in this instance the character Elric of Melniboné (along with one song, "Needle Gun", inspired by Jerry Cornelius); Mike is credited with only one track, "Sleep of a Thousand Tears", a live version of which appears on the CD version (SHARP033D) Flicknife released in 1986.

A live version of the album, Live Chronicles, was first released in 1986, although a dispute with Hawkwind's management meant that Mike's contributions to the live show were missing. A later re-release (Griffin GCDHA0136-2, Feb 1994) reinstated Mike's contributions, "The Chronicle of the Black Sword", "Dead God's Homecoming" and "The Final Fight". He can also be seen on the Chronicle of the Black Sword video (Jettisoundz JE150, 1986) which has since been released on DVD.

Mike can also be heard live on Yule Ritual, recorded in 2000 (Voiceprint Records HAWKVP 19CD, Oct 2001), including the only recording (I believe) of him performing "Sonic Attack". I'm not sure if he's on the earlier Choose Your Masques: Live 1982 (Voiceprint HAWKVP 3CD, Nov 1999), although he certainly performed with Hawkwind at Hammersmith during the nights that the album was recorded in November 1982. Two tracks ("Coded Languages", "Warrior on the Edge of Time") from the same live shows appeared as a bonus on the CD version of Out and Intake (Flicknife SHARP 040CD, May 1987). He is also on Nik Turner's live recording Past or Future? (Cleopatra Records CLP 9685 2, Mar 1996).

The various sessions recorded by Mike and Pete Pavli were eventually released in December 2008 as The Entropy Tango and Gloriana Demo Sessions (Noh Poetry Records), credited to Michael Moorcock & the Deep Fix. The album has also been released in the UK by Voiceprint (VP477CD, Jan 2009). The CD includes an interview with Mike conducted by Don Falcone of space rock collective Spirits Burning. Mike recently performed vocals on "Every Gun Plays Its Own Tune", "The Entropy Tango", "Ingleborough" as well as playing guitar and mandolin on other tracks on the Spirit Burning album Alien Injection album (Black Widow, 2008); the various tracks are taken from the Entropy Tango and Gloriana sessions. You can get a taste of the music on the Deep Fix myspace page.

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