Void City


Friends & Relations Vol. 3 (1985) by Hawkwind.

Unless you assiduously collect everything you’ve ever worked on—which I don’t—you occasionally have to rely on the web to remind you of something you created years ago. This Hawkwind album is a good example, being one of the last releases by the band to use a piece of my artwork. (And I’ll quickly note that the accompanying type design was nothing to do with me; my design suggestions were always ignored, hence a growing frustration at that time with album cover work.) The album itself was the third in a series of odds and ends compilations gathering stray tracks by, yes, friends and relations of Mr Brock and co. Subsequent CD reissues used different packaging so the original vinyl is the only place you’ll see this illustration.

The reason I don’t have a copy is that the record label never sent me anything so unless Dave Brock put something in the post I had to buy them myself. (This happens more often than you’d expect.) I evidently didn’t think this one was worth it even though I much prefer the artwork to many of the earlier things of mine that were used. The drawing was a couple of years old, being inspired by the track Void City on the Choose Your Masques album from 1982. Void City is an atypical piece of electronica which I liked for its resemblance to some of the higher level synth pop and industrial music that was around in the early 1980s. 1982 to ’84 was the height of my JG Ballard obsession so Ballard is also a slight influence here. I had in mind his 1981 novel Hello America, which takes place in a post-apocalypse United States. And there’s also a trace influence from one of my early pieces of writing, a mercifully unpublished splurge of intense prose influenced by the New Worlds school of speculative fiction in which someone wanders around a vast and almost completely depopulated city. Looking at this drawing now it seems emblematic of my loss of interest in doing any kind of science fiction art; it also no longer seems futuristic. I produced my last album cover for Hawkind, The Chronicle of the Black Sword, in 1985; in January 1986 I started adapting HP Lovecraft’s The Haunter of the Dark. This took me out of the public eye for a few years but it was a more rewarding place to be for many other reasons.

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Previously on { feuilleton }
Hawk things
The Sonic Assassins
New things for July

10 thoughts on “Void City”

  1. I like it. Always enjoy seeing ‘early days’ work from creatives before their more solid professional working methods are locked into place. It’s like looking at the work of a different artist or person. What is it, ink and watercolour?

  2. “Void City”: I liked that, too, but it took your mentioning it to remind me of its existence.

    I had a big Moorcock/New Worlds/Hawkwind thing going in the 1980s. Subsequent rejection of a lot of that was surely as much to do with embarrassment with my teenage self as with growing sophistication (of which there is surely little sign, even now).

    I may–no promises!–still have a copy of F&R Vol. 3 in the attic. If I do, do you want it for your archives?

  3. Alfie: Yes, it was a very fine Rapidograph pen for the ink drawing, and diluted gouache for the paint. I still have the pen, as it happens, although I don’t know whether you can still buy the ink for those things.

    Matthew: I’d be happy to take a copy if you have one, thanks. Postal address is c/o Savoy Books, 446 Wilmslow Road, Withington, Manchester, M20 3BW, UK.

  4. I’ll have a look this evening, & then I’ll let you know.

    I suppose we ought to stitch together the Hawkwind & Rapidograph strands with Calvert’s poem:

    Cleaning a Rapidograph

    There is nothing more obstinate than this
    Prima donna of precision pens.
    Neglect it for a while and it will hiss
    at your attempt to make amends

    By scratching at the page without a sign
    Of the eloquent arias of its line.

    Take it to the nearest sink, unscrew,
    and let its pent-up blackness flood:
    A sudden massing of all you drew;
    A burst of murdered dragon’s blood.

    Watch, as it merges with the water: plumes
    Of squid’s secretion; of octopus fumes.

    In a while of soaking, the hollow nib
    Should free itself of clotted ink.
    And reassambled, be just as glib.
    And nimble as the speed you think.

    It took me less than a minute-and-a-half
    To write this, with my Rapidograph.

  5. Rapidograph pens, I remember getting one for christmas when I was 14 when I thought drawing comics was a viable career option. Think I broke the nib trying to assemble it.

  6. Ha, I’d forgotten about Calvert’s poem. I never had a copy of that book although I think it’s all online now.

    I always took great care cleaning my pens, and I’m pleased to say I never broke a nib. Part of the caution was down to the expense of having to replace one if it got damaged; The Cleaning of the Pen became a regular ritual. Apart from the delicate nibs the other part you had to treat with care was the very fine filament which runs through the nib to provide the flow of ink. Break or bend that and you’d have a serious problem.

  7. Man, it’s dusty up there!

    LP retrieved. There will now be a short pause, while I look for something to mail it in (as it’d be a shame to mar it after 25 years).

    (Also saw the Imperial Pompadours’ Ersatz LP, two more JC covers–Black Sword & Night of the Hawks–, and a lot of Fripp, Eno, and Van der Graaf Generator. Sigh!)

  8. Many thanks for that, and there’s no great hurry. The Imperial Pompadours album has gained attention recently thanks to the ongoing Barney Bubbles revival. I don’t know whether that means it’s worth anything or even in demand but some collectors may want a copy. It was pretty good, as I recall.

  9. It is in the hands of the Royal Mail:

    Order Number: OLP220610062
    Indicia number: 9X9XX98E
    Service bought: First Class stamps

    The item is being sent to:
    John Coulthart,
    c/o Savoy Books,
    446 Wilmslow Road,
    M20 3BW,
    United Kingdom



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