Hawkwind: The Chronicle of the Black Sword
Those who live in Mass might remember a record store in Cambridge called, Second Coming (insert your own teenaged depraved variant of the name here, I sure did back then as I was the right age). Most Saturdays some friends and I would hop the train to Cambridge so we could record shop. Why did we go there so much when so many other closer stores were around back in those daze? Two words: concert bootlegs. Second Coming was a temple for bootlegs both on vinyl and cassette. They had so many boots that when word would somehow come to the store that they were due to be raided, the store would have almost nothing left in it. More than once we were in there to find only maybe a fistful of albums and tapes were on the shelves. Normally there would be thousands. How did they know in advance the cops were going to come? Who knows?
So into this store I walked one Saturday. Flipping through the bins I stumbled across Hawkwind (they had their own small section). I knew the name of the band so it wasn’t a stunner. Music writer/critic Jim Sullivan had name-dropped them in a write up about Motorhead in one of his articles in the Boston Globe. I knew who Motorhead was and who Lemmy was and that he had once been in Hawkwind.
Hawkwind were also mentioned in a few episodes of the English comedy show, the Young Ones, which once also featured Motorhead. What fan of the Young One’s can forget Neal whining, “Play some Hawkwind or Marillion!” and in the credit sequence Hawkwind was written on a chalkboard. So yes, I knew the name.
Still that day, I think my jaw might have dropped. Not because I found a section of their albums, but because I was staring at an album called The Chronicle of the Black Sword.
Why was that a big deal? Well, because I had read the Elric books by Micheal Moorcock. A wild trippy fantasy series about the weakling, non-human, sorcerer, Elric and his living, soul eating, black sword, called Stormbringer and here I was, staring at an album that was devoted to that series.
The cover was a beautiful macabre painting that outdid all of the Elric book covers.
So yes, I bought it without listening to it, or any hesitation at all. As I told my friends, “I don’t care if the music stinks, at least the cover is great.”
Later that day when I got home that album was what I put on the turntable. When the pulsing opening synth barrage hit me in the face I was floored. This album is a fantasy metal psych attack. My brain wasn’t ready, but it rolled along. After listening to it once through, I called my friend Paul Armstrong and told him he had to hear it. I put the album on and held the phone towards it.
Yes my mind was blown. I will always treasure this album. The Chronicle of the Black Sword was my stepping-stone into a different world.
If I hadn’t bought this album, I may never have discovered Aural Innovations the space rock internet radio show, which led to me writing words for the great Atlanta band Spaceseed, some of which were performed by Harvey Bainbridge who played keyboards on The Chronicle of the Black Sword album. Most likely I never would have wound up recording with the amazing Harts Horn, or recording with the mighty Tim Mungenast, and even contributing to a birthday song for Michael Moorcock himself. I certainly never would have gone to Alabama to perform at Carlo Robet Deshouten’s SpaceRock Con if the Black Sword hadn’t been added to my collection.
Yeah, this album changed my life in a profound way.
And just for the record, the music is still amazing. I could write a lot more about this album and one day I just might.
Here’s a taste of the psych fantasy metal tunes.
Yours in the song of the swords,