“Veteran of the Psychic Wars”: Blue Öyster Cult collaborates with sci-fi author Michael Moorcock

By on May 8, 2018

In this twenty-minute “Blue Öyster Cult: Video Profile” you’ll be able to see a couple of the band’s early ’80s videos, including “Veteran of the Psychic Wars,” a brooding intense mini-suite — featured on the soundtrack to the 1981 R-rated animated epic Heavy Metal — that was co-written by BÖC frontman Eric Bloom and British sci-fi author Michael Moorcock.

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You can read more about the interview with Blue Öyster Cult‘s Allen Lanier and Joe Bouchard in our previous Night Flight blog post.

This video profile — which originally aired on June 25, 1983 — also airs in our full episode of “Night Flight” from  month later, the one dated July 15, 1983, which you’ll also find streaming on Night Flight Plus.

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Michael Moorcock (left) onstage with Blue Öyster Cult

The video for “Veteran of the Psychic Wars” — propelled forward with echo-filled tribal drum beats, churning and humming cello and synth notes, and one of Buck Dharma‘s incendiary guitar solos — was filmed at the Hollywood Sportatorium in Hollywood, Florida, on October 9, 1981.

Moorcock — best known as the creator of the albino anti-hero marauder Elric of Melniboné — has also published works of non-fiction, comics and screenplays, and his lyrics for Blue Öyster Cult (and Hawkwind) weren’t the only times his writing veered into the world of music.

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After befriending some of the English punk and post-punk bands, particularly members of the Damned, Moorcock was asked by Virgin Records, in 1980, to write the tie-in novelization for the Sex Pistols movie The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle.

Moorcock subsequently made a documentary on “new” punk for UK TV, featuring Siouxsie Sioux and others.

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Moorcock had originally met Blue Öyster Cult’s Eric Bloom in New York in 1977, and they soon began writing songs together.

Moorcock typically sent Bloom lyrics by mail, who put them to music.

After they’d already collaborated on a few tracks, Bloom asked Moorcock if he’d co-write a song for an animated feature-length film, Heavy Metal.

The first lyric Moorcock sent Bloom was “Vengeance (The Pact),” featuring Moorcock’s mythic hero Jon Daker (from The Dragon in the Sword).

The producers of the film, however, felt the lyrics had summarized their film’s “Taarna” segment — Taarna is the heroine of Heavy Metal vignette — a little too specifically, describing her killer sword and bone-white hair.

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The producers decided to use a different song they’d collaborated on, “Veteran of the Psychic Wars,” which Moorcock recycled from lyrics he’d performed as a spoken word piece with his group the Deep Fix.

You see me now, a veteran of a thousand psychic wars
I’ve been living on the edge so long, where the winds of limbo roar
And I’m young enough to look at, and far too old to see
All the scars are on the inside, and I’m not sure if there is anything left of me…

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The lyric “We are veterans of a thousand psychic wars” had already appeared in Moorcock’s song “Standing On The Edge,” a track that had released on Hawkwind’s 1975 concept album Warrior On The Edge Of Time.

The lyrics collectively tell the tale of a futuristic battle-weary warrior — the epic pan-dimensional Eternal Champion concept, of which Elric is one extreme example — who is left suffering from the effects of post traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) and feeling hopeless after years of endless apocalyptic warfare.

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The song’s title also shows up in Moorcock’s story “The Dragon in the Sword,” published in 1987:

“We are the lost, we are the last, we are the unkind. We are the Warriors at the Edge of Time. We are the cold, the halt, the deaf, the blind. Fate’s frozen forces, veterans of the psychic wars…”

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Read more about Michael Moorcock and Blue Öyster Cult below.

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Michael Moorcock

Moorcock also collaborated frequently with Hawkwind (they’d named themselves after Moorcock’s Hawkmoon), contributing songs that were meant for chanting onstage.

Hawkwind’s 1973 double-LP Space Ritual featured a long extract of his “Sonic Attack,” a sci-fi satire of England’s public information broadcast (“In case of sonic attack on your district, follow these rules/If you are making love it is imperative to bring all bodies to orgasm simultaneously”) that Calvert read aloud.

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Michael Moorcock (left) onstage with Hawkwind at Windsor Free Festival, 1973 (photo by Dave Walkling)

The best example of a pure Moorcock alliance with Hawkwind in the band’s 1985 album The Chronicle of the Black Sword, a concept album — accompanied by a light show, graphics, mime and dance movements — built upon his Elric saga.

Moorcock also wrote a Hawkwind comic (The Sonic Assassins) for one issue of Frendz, a UK-based Rolling Stone spinoff that the band’s Robert Calvert wrote for.

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Moorcock also collaborated with Bloom on 1979’s “The Great Sun Jester,”and “Black Blade,” written in 1980.

The latter track was written about Elric’s soul-devouring black-bladed sword, Stormbringer, featured in several of Moorcock’s sci-fi sagas (e.g. Elric of Meininbone and Stormbringer).

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Writer Jason Heller says that “Veteran of the Psychic Wars” — which he calls a “pseudo-mystical post-Vietnam parable” in his excellent 2012 A.V. Club post “did more than just sing about an incarnation of Moorcock’s epic Eternal Champion. It became one.”

Blue Öyster Cult’s eight studio album, Fire of Unknown Origin, released in July of 1981, ended up featuring three songs that had been written for Heavy Metal: “Veteran of the Psychic Wars,”  “Vengeance (The Pact),” and “Heavy Metal: The Black and Silver.”

The album featured their last Top Forty hit, “Burnin’ for You,” which charted at #1 on Billboard‘s Album Rock Tracks chart.

Watch Night Flight’s “Blue Öyster Cult: Video Profile” on Night Flight Plus.

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.