Last week as I was reading Keep it together! Cosmic Boogie with The Deviants and The Pink Fairies Rich Deakin’s sprawling, exhaustively researched and extremely engaging biography of the ever shifting n’er do well personnel of the bands variously known as The Social Deviants, then just The Deviants, and eventually The Pink Fairies, I was annoyed to find that there was little video footage of the group—little? Try none! WTF?—on YouTube. What a difference a week makes because something amazing was posted there in the few days since I last looked.
I’ll let Mick Farren, one of the main characters in this rock and roll saga, take over. Quoting from Mick’s Doc 40 blog:
After waiting more than an unbelievable forty years to see the light of day or be seen by anyone, glorious grainy black and white footage of The Deviants in Hyde Park in September 1969 has finally been posted on YouTube by a crew called VideoHeads out of Amsterdam, led by the legendary Jack Henry Moore. It makes me very happy for a number of reasons, not least of which – after taking so much shit at the time as the allegedly “worst band in the world” – we actually kicked ass in front an estimated audience of 80 thousand in a manner that would have been wholly acceptable and even lauded some six or seven years later. Russell and Sandy are a rock solid foundation. Paul Rudolph’s guitar is mighty, and, as for me, when did you see jackknife shaman dancing the like which closes the show? Okay, so Rudolph and I engage, at one point, in some the atonal freeform bellowing that we called “mouth music”, but no one seems to have a problem with it. And we always attracted Hells Angels and crazy naked psychedelic women.
What you have up on YouTube right now is two sections of around nine minutes each, which – believe it or not – make two halves of one song – what the Pink Fairies would title “Uncle Harry’s Last Freakout”. I guess that was the real difference between the 1960s and 1970s. We could make a thrash last 17 minutes where the Clash or the Pistols would cut it off after three. And, by way of explanation for the opening harangue, the London Street Commune were staging a protest against homelessness by occupying the mansion at 144 Piccadilly at the other end of Park Lane. I’d been warned by the ranking cop at the park concert that my feet wouldn’t touch if I got into any kind of rant about the squatters who were about to be evicted in a massive police action. I just had to test the limits.
But don’t take my word for it. Here are some reminiscences from ukrockfestivals.com
“The most memorable bit for me was when The Deviants were playing and a semi-nude young lady got up on stage and began to dance. As she started to remove the rest of her clothes there was a huge cheer from the crowd. Then a Hells Angel also got on stage and took his leather jacket off to another great cheer but then he put the jacket over the young lady’s shoulders and guided her off the stage, this time to a chorus of boos from the disappointed audience. It was though, another wonderful afternoon in Hyde Park with great music and relaxed atmosphere.” – Steve Trusler
“I remember Al Stewart sitting down on a chair on stage and playing a mellow set of bedsitter folk songs. Quite a few people seemed to like him, but I found him rather wishy-washy (yawn). I remember that the Deviants were absolutely not wishy-washy ~ very aggressive and angry. I’ve heard them described as being the first real punk band. Works for me. But most of all I remember being entranced by the sublime musicality of the Soft Machine. A brilliant band. So totally outside. Imprinted on my memory is the sight of Robert Wyatt singing, and playing amazingly complex drum patterns, wearing just a pair of Y-fronts.” – Jeremy S.
Reading Keep it together!, I was listening daily to the music that Mick Farren has made over the years, primarily Ptooff! and the best of selection, People Call You Crazy: The Story of Mick Farren. Some of it’s pretty amazing stuff, but sadly unheard by many of the music fans who would appreciate it the most. The Deviants’ sound was quite obviously influenced by early Mothers of Invention, The Fugs and The MC5. It could be menacing and leering (“I’m Coming Home”), proto-punk protest (“Garbage”) and sometimes they just wanted to rock out with a Bo Diddley beat. Although I do like the Pink Fairies and also some of Twink’s solo material, I’m really mostly interested in the era when Farren was providing the radical, intellectual lyrics and fronting the group. The Deviants were the first British band who were true anarchists. “Street Fighting Man” was just fashionable pose, these guys lived and snorted their politics. Agitprop bands like The Clash, Crass and the Manic Street Preachers would most definitely tread in their ideological footsteps, whether conscious of it or not.
I also returned to Mick Farren’s autobiography, Give The Anarchist A Cigarette and spent some time looking over the issues of The International Times that are online. When I was in my teens, maybe 15 or 16, I found a whole stack of old issues of IT magazines (which Farren wrote for) in a used bookstore where I’d normally buy old National Lampoons, comics, Rolling Stone and Creem. How they got there, I will never know, but Mick Farren’s political rants and commie/anarchist screeds really resonated with me. Finding these underground papers demonstrated for me the existence of a world outside my hometown—an underground—that I had to become a part of myself. It was an amazing score for a kid like me, as you might imagine and I would read then over and over again. I’m sure that stack of mags had a lot to do with me picking up and leaving home when I was 17 and moving to London, where I lived in a succession of squats for a couple of years. Reading Keep It Together, I became much more aware of what a big influence Mick Farren had on me politically during my formative years and that influence, I think was major. Extremely important to me, thinking back on it. (Whenever I see that one of my own political rants makes it to Mick’s Doc 40 blog, I always get a kick out of it).
About that same time, I was a subscriber to The Trouser Press magazine, which Mick wrote a lot of each issue. Via that publication—which I would wait by the mailbox for each month, willing it to show up—he was probably the rock writer second only to the great Lester Bangs in turning me on to good music.
If ever there was a figure of 20th century counterculture who should be lionized and treated as a respected and revered elder statesman whilst he is still with us, it is the one and only Mister Mick Farren. Farren left sunny Los Angles to return to the UK late last year. People of Great Britain, a legend drinks amongst you! Where the hell is Mick Farren’s Guardian column already? Come on let’s pick up the pace.
“This is British amphetamine psychosis music and if you don’t like it you can f*ck off and listen to your Iron Butterfly albums”—Mick Farren
As intense as the MC5 and The Stooges and as irreverent as The Fugs, here are The Deviants, LIVE:
“I’m Coming Home:”
“Billy The Monster”: