I was shocked when I learned, via Facebook, that UK counter-culture legend Mick Farren, had passed away, after collapsing on-stage. He was playing a gig with the re-formed Deviants, the psychedelic-punk band he fronted in the late 1960s, while also working the door at the UFO Club, editing issues of the International Times (the bi-weekly hippie newspaper published in London) and various other activities. Farren had been in ill-health and moved back to England from the U.S., because he couldn’t afford the care he needed.
Thousands of words will be written about Farren’s impact on the UK late-sixties scene and his subsequent work as a sci-fi novelist, NME provocateur and political observer/agitator. I can’t remember how I discovered The Deviants, probably through a book or magazine article. I bought a reissue CD of “Ptooff!“, the first full-length, originally released in 1967. It wasn’t what I expected at all. Raw and rockin’, it’s worlds away from the acid-drenched curios offered by The Beatles and Pink Floyd, as much as I love those. One track in particular, Nothing Man, is a sort-of sound collage that wouldn’t be out of place on a 90s electronic record. Check it out for yourself – almost as radical as The Velvet Underground & Nico, or Kick Out The Jams (itself released nearly two years later):
The second Deviants LP followed in 1968. Called Disposable, it features one of the most blistering attacks on the establishment and calls for a hippie utopia. Somewhere To Go features a bass line that recalls The Zombies‘ Time Of The Season, only it was released a year before “Time Of..”. To me, it’s one of the best Deviants tracks, and possibly one of the best of the 1960s:
The Deviants folded late in 1969, after releasing one final LP. Farren recorded a solo album, called Mona – The Carnivorous Circus, then left the music scene to concentrate on writing. A series of sci-fi novels, political screeds and music journalism were published throughout the 1970s, 80s and 90s. He would re-convene the Deviants every so often, with various line-ups. The latest incarnation of the band featured the original 1967/’68 rhythm section of Duncan Sanderson and Russell Hunter.
You can read Charles Shaar Murray‘s excellent obituary here. R.I.P. to one of the true originals and a beacon for the counter-culture, rock-and-roll spirit!