Terminal Café

Graham Charnock on Moorcock

On Moorcock...

One thing I would like to testify about Mike was his enormous generousness of spirit. If he had an item of gear he couldn't understand (and he had many) he'd give it away at the drop of a hat. I still have his wah-wah pedal to this day. He had a Pignose Amp, I believe too, which we used in rehearsals and which he probably gave away to someone else. When Cellist Peter Pavli fell down some stairs on the tube and broke his Cello, Mike magnanimously contributed a portion of our fees as performers towards buying a new instrument for him. That I only found out about this several months later doesn't diminish from his generosity. It just means I'm going to tickle his scrotal sac the next time I see him.

On recording New Worlds Fair...

When were writing the songs which went on NEW WORLDS FAIR Mike was song-writing working with a Rickenbacker Twelve String, a luxuriant instrument which evoked memories of the Byrds. I was playing a Telecaster through a VOX AC 30. Steve Gilmore was pretty much just singing and strumming. Kumar Harada was playing bass. Initially Terry Olsen played drums on demos, but was quirky on timing and replaced by Alan Clarke. But we were all very much dependent on the core of Hawkwind. Nick turner did sax bursts, and Dave Brock spread layered guitar across everything. We worked with the producer the late Vic Maile (of Doctor Feelgoods Fame) out of Pye Studios, Jacksons, and One time in Majestic Studios in Clapham High Street I actually played bass through Lemmy Motorheads burnt out speakers, which buzzed like hell. But "They're supposed to sound like that."

Vic Maile was a nice guy and I have a nice story to tell about him. He was a producer without bullshit or attitude. One time we were thinking about adding harmonica to one of the tracks. No one else stepped forward so I offered to play, because I could basically blow and suck like Bob Dylan. The take was okay. Then on the replay of the track, Vic just settled back with the harmonica, off tape, and blew the most marvellous country stuff, kind of putting me in my place.

On New Worlds...

The thing you have to appreciate about NW is that the fossil-issues that pass through your hands now, represent a more-or-less obsolete technology, akin perhaps to the heyday of Analog type pulp publishing, except that it was much more of a cottage industry.

It was a monthly magazine running, for a few years at least, on a regular time-based routine of production. And that production was totally separated from printing and distribution. Manuscripts came in, were read quickly, filtered, discarded, selected. Then passed to type-setters who would send back pages of type to be physically cut-and-pasted on the kitchen table into printable pages. Later more of those jobs were handled in house. Fortunately most of the people involved in production lived within a half-mile radius of each other in the Notting Hill area, Mike (and not to forget his family, Hilary Bailey And kids, Max and Sohpie) in Ladbroke Grove, Langdon Jones and Jim Cawthorn and Graham Hall in the Cambridge and Oxford Gardens axis (and whatever Americans Abroad came over to lodge in Mike's commune for a changeable duration - Tom Disch, Normal Spinrad, John Sladek, John and Judith Clute, James Sallis, Burt Filer, they were all were co-opted in varying degrees into the editing/production process. It was a case of any hand to the pump in fact.

So, yes, perhaps that goes a little way towards explaining the immediacy, the authenticity you speak of. Here was a functioning, changing, community of writers, as disparate in their politics and indeed sexuality, as any you could imagine, but all grouped around and interacting with this little rather-badly selling but highly regarded literary magazine, sparking off each other, as well as (let's admit it) re-writing previously unsaleable stuff to suit the current mood. A Doomsbury set rather than a Bloomsbury set.

If the editorial process was centred at Mike's place in Ladbroke Grove, the main engine-room on the production side for a long time was Charles Platt's flat, which he shared with his girlfriend Diane Lambert, not far away at 261 Portobello Road. Here Charles had installed a cheap mechanical compositor. It was basically a high-quality typewriter that printed and justified a line of type at a time, depending on some complex calculation the operator had to feed into the machine a line at a time. I remember setting Ian Watson's first published story in this fashion and almost driving myself mad at the same time. All this stuff was legwork, which would have been as beyond Mike as tuning his guitar, on the principle of can't do it won't do it, but perhaps fortunately he had people like Charles, and, Graham Hall, and even me to a degree around, who could handle those mechanical things. It was a tough job, mama, but someone had to do it.

Personal correspondence.