I am not you I am me…

What does a grown man do when his family goes to Central Oregon leaving him home alone? Obviously he gets out his most ridiculously fun album and plays it as loud as his ears can stand. Then he realizes this album is 31 years old and well enough said.

Live Chronicles may not be the greatest Hawkwind album, it is however a fine album that captures at least the sound of what happened at the Liverpool Empire in 1985. The smoke the dancers the narration and the in my mind immortal Tony Crerar who was secure enough to paint himself white and wave a large black sword around for almost three hours. I loved it so much I think I saw it in Manchester and Preston as well.

The Chronicle of the Black Sword was something of a return to form for Hawkwind in the 80’s, although to be honest the early part of the decade had some great songs on dodgy sounding albums. It has a return to the Eternal Champion concept and Moorcock even helped out.

Live Chronicles is superior to the studio effort, it has some wonderfully loopy narration IMG_5421that ties the whole thing together man, just like the rug in the Big Lebowski. It is populated with mostly newer songs but Magnu and Master of the Universe turn up dutifully, Brainstorm is referenced in there and Assault and Battery is on the CD but never made the album for some reason because we really needed Moonglum instead. Side 3 and 4 are when things really kick of with the wondrous Choose Your Masques and things descend into Hawkwind mayhem until Moonglum when you get to use the toilet. The whole album has Huw Lloyd Langton noodling like an ADD heavy metal Jerry Garcia, sometimes a bit too much but in general well.

22560214I am sure the evening began for all three nights at the Swan Inn on Wood Street drinking Old Peculiar and Owd Roger to fuel ourselves for the travails ahead, whether that was a walk to the Empire or a train to Manchester with the requisite cans of Special Brew before the ceremony of a Hawkwind show. The evening probably ended right back where it began at the Swan unless it was too late and then the Freewheeler awaited.

This was the look the cat has on it’s face for the duration of the album, I think this constitutes a recomendation.

IMG_5416

 

She introduced me to her favourite books…

Ever since I began buying records they have been tied up with books. I began buying books long before I began to buy records though. This afternoon I was feeling a little melancholy and turned to Moorcock. Not the slash up sword and sorcery of the past but the more introspective serious writing that more and more he has been engaging with.

The soundtrack was Steven Wilson’s Hand Cannot Erase which with it’s themes of alienation and loneliness seemed to go with Moorcock’s Lunching With The Antichrist.

hand

Both the book and the album have left me feeling particularly introspective. I don’t have a lot apart from this from Mr Moorcock in 1993.

“It is heartening to note, as our economy collapses perhaps for the last time, a return to the language and sentiments of mutual self-interest. London was never the kindest of English cities but of late her cold self-referential greed has been a watchword around the world. Everything we value is threatened in the name of profit.”

Substitute the city and the country and you have a pretty good picture of the world as it is.

All of which leads me to conclude that you should only listen to Hawkwind when reading Moorcock.eye switching to another musician has caused a dis-regulating experience.

The Steven Wilson however is one of my favorite albums of the year and the concert was one of my most memorable as they crammed a quadraphonic sound system and a big rock show into a hall that normally hosts reflective folk musicians.

I have to confess I had to give up reading as the music became too compelling and I finished the book in silence once I was done with the record. This either attests to the music being attention grabbing or acknowledges my brain is not necessarily able to allow for the input of two types on information anymore.

Lord of Light

When I began this blog it was to record my reading. Over time that has changed to be some sort of ongoing discussion of my obsessions, from music to books to whatever is on my mind at the time.

I do however still read, surprise to some. I still have my original project of trying to read some of the greatest science fiction written, as well as my current re-reading of the Eternal Champion Cycle by Michael Moorcock and my return to vinyl. So much going on in this messed up head of mine.lolnovel

Today I finished another of those classic sf books in Roger Zelazny’s Lord of Light. I have always enjoyed Zelazny, he has the Hawkwind connection for those interested, Lord of Light being an epic track from The Space Ritual album, with searing synth work and a driving blanga beat that cannot be beaten, Simon King and Lemmy at their best. That however is for another post I think.

A novel taking on every major religion in a satirical manner, looking at the dangers of religion and the joys of religion and absurdity of gods. It is also a fun filled adventure. What is not to love?  Zelazny is one of the best writers of sardonic science fiction and does not miss the mark with this novel.

 

The unmade movie script for this novel was the cover story used by the CIA as shown in the movie Argo which I am sure amused Zelazny.

Way more information here: http://web.archive.org/web/20110724150727/http://lordoflight.com/

And then there is this which has nothing to do with the book whatsoever:

Now I’m Just A Cosmic Man

I have loved Hawkwind since the first time I heard them. I have been l at times completely infatuated with and then at other times totally dismissive of them. The first album I ever heard was Hall of the Mountain Grill and I was captivated almost immediately. Swirling mellotron’s, thunderous bass from Lemmy and the relentless guitar of Dave Brock all crowned with Nik Turner parping away on untutored sax and violin, rock violin. It is a cacophony that only one band can ever get way with, strange dystopian science fiction lyrics sung so seriously all surrounded by driving drums and an almost punk attitude.

Titles like Psychedelic Warlords, D-Rider and Paradox and You’d Better Believe It, do not prepare you for what you are about to hear never mind Goat Willow, the cover of a space ship crash landed in a swamp can only hint at the insanity inside. hawkwind-hall-of-the-mountain-grill-non-sticker-lpIt was a revelation to me, almost Floyd but too harsh, not metal, not pop it was something I later discovered is space rock, although that term can’t really do what you find inside justice. The best term I have ever heard to describe the music is BLANGA, for a full description of what the term means go here:

http://www.doremi.co.uk/hawks/index.php

For me it is that moment when the chaos settles, the beat goes on and all is well with the world, Crazy Horse can get there but Hawkwind do it almost without thought on a good day.

Hawkwind while a bunch of anarcho hippies did not have that slightly fey west coast hippy vibe, they looked like they may destroy your town when they arrived and you would feel good about it after they leave. They were more influenced by the metronomic music of German rock music such as Amon Duul, Neu and Can. They were relentless in their drive and their search for the perfect trance like moment. Space Ritual is the epitome of this but Hall of the Mountain Grill is my album.

I remember the strange days of my teen life crouched around a pye record player listening to a borrowed scratched copy of the album. Trying to understand what was going on and almost succeeding. I read the entire Hawkmoon trilogy by Michael Moorcock to this album.hawkmoon And then I got to that point in my Eternal Champion reading and I knew I had to get the album again before I started so off I went searching it out and buying it for the 5th or 6th time in my life. It is one of those audiophile 180gm vinyl versions, They have spread it over two albums and it has lost some magic because of this, they should have kept the original package. Audiophile and Hawkwind are two words that do not make sense.

The album sounds great from that 1st wash of synth and the riff to the ending insanity of Paradox but it was never a double album, it was 40 minutes of perfection and now we have extra tracks and alternate versions stretching it out.

Oh well it is still my Hawkwind, raucous and comforting, dangerous and safe all at the same time, as my friend Greg would say, it’s the dialectic man don’t you get it?

Or in the words if Dave Brock:

You think you know the answers but we don’t tell no lies
We can take you anyway thro’ seven different highs
World turned upside down now, there’s nothing else
to do, but live in concrete jungles, but they block up the views

These Fifty Years

So I have entered my fiftieth year, and along with that realisation came all the insecurities and celebrations that go along with it, So begins the mid-life crisis with two maybe three projects that are not necessarily incompatible.

The first is to practice mindfulness on a regular basis and live more in the moment and experience the simple joy of living. Something that my family will benefit from as much as me but is more of a struggle than you may imagine.

The second is to read Michael Moorcock’s Eternal Champion sequence in order.

The third is to take the time to gather my absolute favorite albums on vinyl and enjoy them.

January and February have been something of preparation for this adventuree.

The Moorcock has been bought and stacked on the bookshelf. It all looks really impressive, a necessary mix of hard and paper back but it is all there, the only exception being Earl Aubec which is in a different addition but I was not able to get myself to pay so much as 80 dollars for a book, although I came close. I began the reading with the Eternal Champion Omnibus, remembering almost every line as I went, playing Hawkwind and Uriah Heep as  I read, memories of those teen years when I discovered Moorcock and Hawkwind almost the same month.Then I began Von Bek, a much more serious book, darker, richer and more mysterious. Almost immediately Tom discovered these books and began to read them as well, something that instantly made me feel closer to him. As you can see there are gaps on that shelf.

Moorcock

Along the way I started buying vinyl with no turntable in place. Goodwill can be a terrible place. Well there are two turntables  in my home but they belong to Tom and Chris and I wanted this to be my experience with my equipment. I immersed myself in reviews of turntables. Which one was best, direct drive over belt driven, vintage over new. I read again and again how this is an expensive hobby and not for the feint hearted. I looked on craigslist, made plans thought about it agonized and realized I am not necessarily an audiophile and had never really been one. Yes I had always had good stereos but not the most expensive. In a house with five stereos it seemed overkill to head down the expensive road, I also looked at some of the vinyl I had brought from the UK and realized it was all in very good shape particularly considering how it had been played over the years. So those mid-price turntables of the past did not destroy that precious vinyl so it may be a safe gamble.

So the decision was made, get the best quality entry level belt driven deck I could find, I had no intention of using the deck to scratch so belt driven was the preference, also they have less interference. Then which one, no usb turntable, I have some of these albums on CD and mp3 already so why would I rip them, also the desire was to experience the past on some level to revel in the warmth of vinyl. I also wanted an internal pre-amp, so much easier. Again more reviews and then the finances hit in so I got the Audio Technica ATLP60, the reviews were generally good, apart from the audiophiles who are convinced that this deck will tear your vinyl to shreds and leave you with bleeding ears. Yes I know it has limitations and that as I get obsessed with vinyl I may have to upgrade, Ben is counting on this so he can have the turntable.

 

vinylWell I am sure if I spent two times or four times as much as the $60 I did that I would be happier, spending makes us all happy at the end of the day doesn’t it? It sounds great, that rich warmth of vinyl, occasional pops and clicks included, despite the Bose speakers is an all enveloping experience. But that spending may have labeled me a hipster wannabe.

So then all I have to decide is what are those albums that mean the most to me so I can play them on this fine machine, This is made difficult by having given the majority of my albums to Tom and Chris over the years. I may have to buy them over time which could be fun. Also you have to be careful of what pressing you get, going analog means just that and avoiding those digital transfers to vinyl. Heavens there is so much to think about. They will however be records that have meaning to me not necessarily the greatest records ever made. I do have a liking for the Kinks Preservation Act albums and Floyd’s The Final Cut so you never know what you may see.

Well the mindfulness part may be the most difficult right now. Although listening to an album is a mindfulness exercise, it is much more focused an experience than mp3’s or CD’s in the car. The fact of the muscle memory of placing the disc on the turntable, sitting and listening and then flipping every 15-20 minutes, very relaxing almost like visiting another time period.

Played so far:

Al Stewart, Love Chronicles, Zero She Flies and Orange

Neil Young, After the Goldrush

CSNY, 4Way Street

Yes, They Yes Album

Born To Go

Hawkwind in the USA and on the west coast. This is a statement that I absolutely never thought to be writing, saying or even thinking. Yes there have been tours on the east coast, appearances at festivals and other events, but never anything in reach for me. Of course in reach means the twelve hour drive from Portland to San Francisco but how could I do otherwise.

Hawkwind were one of the first bands I ever saw, then they became one of the bands I saw most frequently throughout the eighties and nineties in Liverpool until we moved to the USA. This effectively ended my ongoing fascination with the strange trip that Hawkwind is. They are a band it is hard to classify, more members than most American Football teams and many changes in sound. They have flirted with metal, techno, ambient and punk in their time. They have overwhelmed with sound and visuals and at times been a bit silly. I am convinced Hawkwind are one of the bands in mind when Spinal Tap was made. They have astounded and confused sometimes in the same song, they have however always managed to be interesting, even when they reached too far.

This tour they are playing the album Warrior on the Edge of Time in its entirety. This has consistently been one of my favorite albums ever since I first heard it. Not only in the days of vinyl did it have the cool fold out album sleeve that became a shield but it has some of the most dense music you will ever hear, two drummers, electric violin, Lemmy’s bass, Turners sax and flutes and Brock’s guitar holding it all together. Now many of those elements will be missing, in fact the only original  member is Dave Brock but the current band is more than capable of pulling this off. The band have also promised, dancers and the whole light show, yes it will be silly of course but isn’t that the point, rock music is just a little silly.

So I am taking two of my children to a Hawkwind show, along with Gong and Here and Now Hawkwind are legendary in my house. Let’s face it San Francisco is the perfect place to see Hawkwind, although I am maybe thirty of forty years too late. October 18gth is destined to be a special day, and the tickets have arrived so its real.

Of course Warrior and the Edge of Time is the first Hawkwind album to be so closely linked to Michael Moorcock. It is a musical representation of the Eternal Champion story, Hawkwind would revisit this with the Chronicle of the Black Sword but this was the first and original attempt.

Most of the Time

The thing about being a child of the late 70s and 80s is that the perception is there was no good music. The sixties had the revolution of music, the 70’s had the excesses of rock and then the purge of punk. The eighties according to most writers had post punk and little else of note. How sad to be defined as after something else, of course we brought this upon ourselves with New Romantics, awful synths and gated drums. The decade fashion forgot etc. the slurs go on and on. Forever defined musically as the moment between punk and grunge that had no redeeming features. Well as one who lived through the rejected decade I have to say there was some good in there, yes you had to search between Wham and Duran Duran but it was there honest.

I remember a summer spent on the LLeyn Peninsula in North Wales, all I had for company was a copy of Pink Floyd’s the Wall, Rumours  and Live by Fleetwood Mac and every science fiction novel they had for sale in small gift shops at the beach. It was a heavenly summer, the one that stands in my mind as perfect.Llyn peninsula Two weeks in a small cottage in Wales, with no worries, I think it was the year before O. Levels so it was relatively stress free, the next year I was waiting for O. Level results, it rained continuously and the house felt like the walls were closing in. That was the year we went home early, never to go back to that house.

Back to 1981, Ghost Town by the Specials on the radio everywhere we went, that and I Don’t Like Monday’s by the Boom Town Rats which was the song most often played on the pub juke box my parents dragged me to some evenings. All the girls seemed to be wearing yellow that year and have Stevie Nick’s hair. Sat on the beach I read Philip K. Dick, Clarke, Heinlein and as much Moorcock as I could find, I swam in the cold Irish Sea, snorkeled around the crusted rocks and sank the stupid canoe, climbed on cliff faces, fished with my Dad and learned how to cook crab. It was that idyllic summer that in a Stephen King novel would have turned to terror but in reality was just a wonderful lazy summer that you forever try to reach again. I don’t think my parents ever realized what they gave me although I have tried to tell them.

Which all has nothing to do with the music of the eighties in the end apart from to say those albums are etched in my mind as the soundtrack to my youth. In 1982 I went to Cropredy and then other festivals throughout the decade. I was introduced to Richard Thompson’s music and discovered a more roots based music than my contemporaries were listening too. I also became a pretentious ass, preferring the Barrett Floyd to the Gilmour/Waters version which meant I had to listen to the Dark Side of the Moon and Animals in the closet.

The music I remember from that era now is Julian Cope, the Teardrop Explodes, the Icicle Works and Waterboys and also Robyn Hitchcock. I still return to that music even now. I also have a fondness for Here and Now who seemed to be on every festival stage passing the hat around.  My wife was very much in the Benatar, Idol, Journey and Foreigner camp. I remember listening and on strange occasions dancing to it in smoky Liverpool clubs but have to admit I don’t return to it. The biggest musical constants in my life though had to Fairport Convention and Hawkwind. I always seemed to be going to a Hawkwind gig or planning for the next and saving for Cropredy, or going to the seemingly endless tours a band that had split up constantly was on.

It could be a little odd at times to watch your peers succumbing to the synth pop agenda, of course now I can enjoy Depeche Mode and Ultravox along with Japan and the others but at the time it was anathema. So I ended up spending time looking for those lost gems of the 70’s and 60’s and actually becoming more pretentious than my lip stick wearing contemporaries, it also meant I missed out on the Jam, Elvis Costello and other joys through having my head so far up my own behind. I did allow myself as mentioned earlier to enjoy some contemporary music but it had to be performed by relative failures, if it was on top of the pops it sucked if it was on the Tube it was cool etc.

Anyway here is the mix of what I was allowing people to know what I was listening to during that weird strange period. As I made this I realized that with the exception of Hitchcock and the Icicle Works I discovered most of the other music of the eighties once the period was over. I guess I was more pretentious than I realized, although that may be the reason for a blog at the end of the day.

The mix:  https://anonfiles.com/file/fb2b53d006e85fdf82774ffedb437222

 

 

Song of the Swords

Michael Moorcock has been part of my reading life since my early teens. Yes he can be a difficult author because  he has produced so many words. Some of those words are definitely in the pulp category and others in the literature category. He has at times been called anarchist, iconoclast and sometimes just plain weird, however when given the opportunity to write a Dr. Who novel he jumped at it. Moorcock has an appreciation for the fantasy genre but does not pander to the perceived greats. He has been critical of Tolkien and Lewis although he can appreciate their achievements even though in the fantasy world criticism of Tolkien is tantamount to heresy. Moorcock writes what he wants to read it seems which is what all good authors do, sometimes that is a rip roaring adventure that has more in common with Douglas Fairbanks or Burroughs than anything else, other times it is a reflection on the rock’n’roll world of the 70’s and 80’s and then it can be an homage to London of the blitz and beyond.

Moorcock is not just an author, he has made records, wrote screenplays, published New Worlds, was an editor and was entrenched in the counter-culture. He recorded with one of the most uncompromising bands of the 70’s, Hawkwind. He was part of the Ladbroke Grove scene that spawned much of the stranger side of pop culture of the 70’s and influenced punk. His association with Hawkwind is such they released three albums connected to the Eternal Champion. He has also written lyrics for Blue Oyster Cult which is not as cool but they are their best songs.

For a teenager growing up in the early 80’s he was a role model, if authors are allowed to be role models. Instead of wasting away in my room feeling sorry for myself listening to Joy Division as many of my contemporaries were I was losing myself in the sensory overload of Michael Moorcock and his cohorts. Instead of wondering how the world got so dreary and drab I was wondering how Moorcock possibly came up with those crazy worlds. For awhile I was convinced he had better drugs than other writers, I cast him as an Hunter S. Thompson for science fiction but then discovered he was not drug crazed he just thought up those crazy ideas, they did not come to him in some shamanic  drug fueled vision. At a time when excess seemed the order of the day Moorcock for me signified the idea of being a creative person without having to blow your mind. His ideas are crazier than Dick’s but come from his mind without the clouded view that addiction brings. Now his characters were willing to throw themselves into the party wholeheartedly imbibing and ingesting at a rate that would make Keith Richards have to take a step back in wonder, but you always got the feeling Moorcock was observing this world than engaging in it. This however may be the English way.

Michael Moorcock’s Multiverse and his various incarnations of the Eternal Champion have been constant companions. They have invaded my waking life and at times my dreams. After all who would not want to be Jerry Cornelius, he was well dressed sophisticated, witty and as likely to seduce you as blow you up.  For a period in my late teens I was either reading Moorcock or listening to Hawkwind, sometimes I would be doing both at the same time. To this day I cannot imagine reading a Cornelius story without The Hall Of The Mountain Grill  of Warrior on the Edge of Time thundering away in the background.

Moorcock has specialized it seems in the sympathetic anti-hero. Jerry Cornelius, Elric, Oswald Bastable, Corum , Hawkmoon and all the others are uncomfortable with their situation. They want to live their own lives but are chosen by Chaos or Law depending on what is out of balance to stand in for the rest of us. Their role is to return the balance not necessarily do what we from our perspective would consider the right thing. Right, wrong, morality and ethics are secondary to the balance in Moorcock’s multiverse. There are villains but sometimes they become uncomfortable allies. This is what makes Moorcock’s fiction attractive, there is only one rule and that is that the multiverse seeks balance. He does provide respite in the form of Tanelorn but that can be fleeting for the champion as he is called from his life to fight again. I think it is significant Moorcock chose the word Champion rather than hero to describe his characters. The Champion is a stand in for the king, village, city or world. He represents everyone and his sacrifice is required to appease fate. A hero swoops in to save the day, champions are chosen often against their own will and forced to at times to be representative for the choser.

This weekend as I rummaged through the Book Bin in Corvallis, Robert’s Books in Lincoln City and then on to Powell’s downtown Portland I realized that I am still a collector of Moorcock, for a few months I have been happy with just words on my Nook but when it comes to Moorcock I want the actual physical books. This is not easily done in the USA, Moorcock is not the popular author here that he is in Europe. He has never had a successful movie made out of his work, he has never written a truly popular fantasy, the Elric series is probably his best known cycle of stories but it is a little too ambiguous at times for readers. His idea that Chaos and Law need to be in balance and are neither good nor evil is an idea that audiences find hard to comprehend in a society were the comic book hero fighting for right is so popular. This is especially true when Chaos is seen as being the creative side of the equation.

So now I have finally admitted I collect Moorcock. I looked and I have several duplicate books because oftentimes they have funky new covers. It’s not about the first edition or hardcover over paperback it’s about discovering a new cover or maybe even a little nostalgia for those heady days of the eighties when those Mayflower editions seemed to be so enticing in Philip Son and Nephew in Liverpool all nicely lined up on the bookshop shelves.

For the time being there is only the couple of shelves of Moorcock but I can see that growing. Especially as there are six more sitting on the fireplace waiting to be added.

It really is becoming an obsession to own the books especially the White Wolf  publications of the Eternal Champion series although as with most things that are desirable they oftentimes go for silly money.  It is also good to have a reason to browse bookstore shelves again after the admitted convenience of buying the e-book. So maybe at the end of the day there is a place left in the world for bookstores if only to feed the addiction of the collector.