Monthly Archives: July 2013

Mick Farren: A Rock-N-Roller To The End

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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 ZombiesTime 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!

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Cinema Corner: A Field In England

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Hey now! July already??? I apologise for the long delay – I was fairly busy throughout June. I left my job, having worked where I did for three years. There were several reasons – an announced recruitment freeze, meaning that if one person left our team, the rest would have to pick up the slack. I was determined that I wasn’t wasn’t going to be a slack-picker-upper. I also didn’t like the team management, their…ah…style didn’t really suit me. A few other things, too – I had it in mind to leave sometime this year, etc. etc.

In any case, I’m now job-hunting again. So far, it’s not gone as smoothly as I’d hoped. I was hoping to at least have an offer by now. I’ll keep on keepin’ on, though.

I also visited my family in The States for two weeks in June. My father has not been well for the past year and has been in and out of hospital. He also turned 71 this past June, so I thought I should go visit. You never know with age and illness and we could all travel to the bardos at any time. I meant to post about my visit, but I didn’t get much time while I was there. Perhaps I will at a later date – depending on my work schedule (heh heh…)

Now, the reason for this post is the newest Ben Wheatley film, called A Field In England. Pixie and I recently (six weeks ago?) watched his dark romantic comedy Sightseers and I quite enjoyed it. I’d recommend it, but with the caveat that there are moments of gruesome violence, if you’re a bit squeamish. “A Field In England” was launched with simultaneous releases in the cinema, DVD, pay-to-view and shown free on Film Four. I think that has been done with a few other films – but this was the first time for a very low-budget independent film.

I’ll try not to include too many spoilers, but the plot concerns a group of deserters from an English Civil War battle, from both sides of the conflict. There are four men, three are common soldiers, but one, Whitehead (played brilliantly by Reece Shearsmith), is educated and reveals that he works for a ‘master’ who has alchemical knowledge. There’s the promise of an alehouse ‘just over the next field’, by one of the soldiers, so they head in the direction he suggests.

After that, things get strange. They arrive in a field ringed by mushrooms (which turn out to be of the psilocybin variety). After eating a stew made from them, they free a necromancer (another great performance by Michael Smiley), by tugging on a rope wrapped around a wooden cylinder found in the field. The necromancer, called O’Neill, knows Whitehead and enlists him in a search for a ‘very valuable treasure’ located somewhere in the field.

What follows is by turns creepy, trippy and confusing, but at the end, a transformation. The characters themselves go through metamorphoses (metamorphi?), so that the real alchemy becomes about the changes in people, not lead to gold. Maybe it’s the mushrooms, or maybe it’s the circumstances – we’re never told. I quite enjoyed the film, the cinematography seems superb, all shot in crisp black and white. The dialogue veers from salty swearing to quasi-magickal pronouncements and while not completely in the language of the Stuart era, still seems ‘realistic’ enough.

It may not be your cup of (mushroom) tea, but I’d recommend “A Field In England”. A strange, psychedelic period piece that attempts to do something different. In an ideal world, it would be the film of the summer.