British sci-fi/fantasy writer Michael Moorcock, who turned 71 on Saturday, is well known for his Eternal Champion mythos stories. He's also the rocker whose scifi lyrics drove some of the most iconic rock songs of the 1970s.
Elric illustration by Chris Achilleos.
Moorcock's Eternal Champion short stories and novels chronicle the adventures of various heroes who are facets of one character who exists in every dimension of a multiverse, defending the "cosmic balance" in the endless battle between Law and Chaos that is Moorcock's central concept. Easily the most famous of these is the albino warrior Elric of Melniboné, whose demon sword Stormbringer keeps him alive while demanding to be fed the souls of his victims.
Perhaps unsurprisingly for a writer who came of age in the 1950s and 1960s, Moorcock felt a strong kinship with rock musicians. The adventures of his character Jerry Cornelius take place in the late '60s and early '70s. One of the novels, 1971's A Cure for Cancer, was an elaborate metaphorical denunciation of the war in Vietnam, as well as an almost Naked Lunch-esque collection of absurdist vignettes, and a rock 'n' roll feel permeates all the Cornelius stories. So Moorcock's move to direct collaboration with rock bands that shared his interests can easily be seen as inevitable.
His most productive creative relationship was with the British band Hawkwind. The band was a sort of psychedelic hard-rock outfit whose best albums (1971's In Search of Space, 1972's Doremi Fasol Latido, 1974's Hall of the Mountain Grill, 1975's Warrior on the Edge of Time and 1973's double live Space Ritual) featured extended one- and two-chord jams-many dominated by the grinding, dragster-in-low-gear roars of bassist Lemmy, who'd go on to form a band called Motörhead of whom you may have heard since-with swooping synths and distorted saxophone over the top. Hawkwind's maniacal light show and onstage nude dancer can be seen as a direct influence on the Butthole Surfers' similarly audience-bludgeoning work in the 1980s.
Moorcock was a major lyrical influence on Hawkwind. He wrote the words to "Sonic Attack," from Space Ritual, and the lyrics to "Black Corridor" come from his 1969 novel of the same name. For Warrior on the Edge of Time, which was more or less a concept album based around the Eternal Champion mythos, he made an even larger contribution, writing lyrics for four songs-"The Wizard Blew His Horn," "Standing at the Edge," "Warriors" and "Kings of Speed," and contributed vocals to "Warriors" and "The Wizard Blew His Horn."
The Elric album
The relationship continued into the 1980s, with Moorcock writing another four sets of lyrics ("Psychosonia," "Coded Languages," "Lost Chances" and a reworked "Sonic Attack") for the band's 1981 album Sonic Attack, and peaked with 1985's The Chronicle of the Black Sword. Though Moorcock only wrote lyrics for one song, "Sleep of a Thousand Years," the entire record (as its title indicates) is based around the Elric novels; other track titles include "Song of the Swords," "The Pulsing Cavern," and "Elric the Enchanter." The following year, the band released Live Chronicles, which featured performances of much of the same material, and spoken-word between-song interludes by Moorcock.
Moorcock also played guitar and banjo on two albums by Hawkwind's in-house poet/lyricist, Robert Calvert, 1975's Lucky Leif and the Longships and 1981's Hype. And in 1975, he recorded an album of his own, New Worlds Fair, credited to Michael Moorcock & Deep Fix and featuring contributions from many Hawkwind members, including guitarist Dave Brock, saxophonist Nik Turner, violinist/keyboardist Simon House, and drummers Simon King and Alan Powell.
Blue Öyster Cult
Hawkwind wasn't the only band Moorcock wrote lyrics for, though. He was also a fan of New York's Blue Öyster Cult, a fact that should surprise no one. The Cult were sort of the Steely Dan of early '70s hard rock/metal-a bunch of sardonic East Coasters with talent equal to their intellect and a sharp lyrical wit, who dissected the society and pop culture around them while crunching out anthemic, pummeling rock songs like "(Don't Fear) the Reaper," "Godzilla" and "Cities On Flame With Rock and Roll."
They brought in multiple outside lyricists during their mid '70s/early '80s heyday, including Patti Smith and rock critic Richard Meltzer. Moorcock contributed three songs to their oeuvre-"Black Blade" (see if you can guess what that one's about) from 1980's Cultosaurus Erectus, "Veteran of the Psychic Wars" from 1981's Fire of Unknown Origin (and also included on the soundtrack to the movie Heavy Metal) and "The Great Sun Jester" from 1979's Mirrors. He also performed live with the group exactly once, at the inaugural Dragon Con in Atlanta, Georgia.