Friday, March 21, 2014

Michael Moorcock: Rock 'n' Roller

Having blazed through a copy of The Dragon in the Sword my son got me for Christmas (the final tale of the Eternal Champion), I've found myself in a mood for Moorcock (that's what she said). Michael Moorcock, that is. I fumbled my way through the Elric books as a youngster, but they were a bit over my head at the time. But the last two Moorcock novels I've read - the incredible Gloriana and the aforementioned DitS, I devoured. So I decided to delve back into the Elric novels as the first stop on my quest to read all of the novels mentioned by Gary Gygax as "essential reading" in the famed "Appendix N" of the original Dungeon Masters Guide.

This coincides happily with an obsession I developed last year with Blue Oyster Cult. Moorcock was a fan of the band, and wrote lyrics for "Black Blade," "The Great Sun Jester," and "Veterans of the Psychic Wars." He was also a confidante of the band Hawkwind (somewhat obscure in the United States, where they are known chiefly for having schooled Lemmy of Motorhead), for whom he also wrote lyrics.

Reading about Moorcock's relationship with rock'n'roll, I learned that he actually released an album of his own - New World's Fair, by Michael Moorcock and Deep Fix. Fans of his Jerry Cornelius novels will recognize Deep Fix as the fictional band fronted by Cornelius, but this album is all too real. Check out some details here. Another article focusing on Moorcock the Hard Rocker is here, and worth reading.

My reaction - Moorcock has a weird voice, one that ranges from warbly, high-pitched keening to malevolent, sinister whispers. He also uses the word "dude" almost constantly, which I found strange in a British guy. Tracks range from somewhat folky ballads to balls-out rock in the Blue Oyster Cult vein. Moorcock sings and plays guitar, and he's not half bad at it. Highlights, however, are Moorcock's spoken word bits between the tracks. His spoken voice is creepy.

All in all, it's perhaps best that Moorcock's career has been focused on what he's really good at - writing mysterious, evocative, psychological but action-oriented prose. However, this album is a must-have for Moorcock fans, as it shows a side of him one might not expect. Whether you think it's cool or embarrassing depends, of course, on you. It is certainly not in the ranks of the finest rock albums of the 1970s, but it's an interesting addition to my collection, and one I'll probably listen to again. It's no surprise, really, that Moorcock, arguably the vanguard of fantasy and sf's "New Wave" of the 1960s, should have been involved with the hipsters, stoners and rockers of his day. He was, in fact, one of 'em, and may have consumed more drugs than everyone's favorite incarnation of the Eternal Champion, Elric.

2 comments:

  1. Niven has a bit to say about adventuring with Moorcock. One bit that sticks out is a story about Niven and his Wife driving around at some scificon with Moorcock in the back seat tripping and whispering to himself.

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  2. I read something similar about a piss-drunk Fritz Leiber trying to climb out of a back seat to take a steering wheel from a tripping Moorcock.

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