Mick Farren 1943-2013
Mick Farren collapsed and died on stage at the Borderline in London on Saturday night while singing with the latest version of his band, the Deviants. After three decades in New York and Los Angeles, he had spent the last few years back in Britain. Here’s a tribute by his old friend and NME colleague Charles Shaar Murray, and here’s my obituary, both from today’s Guardian.
I knew Mick at the end of the ’60s and the beginning of the ’70s, which was probably his best time, and I always enjoyed his company. I’d first clapped eyes on him in Nottingham in 1967, when an enterprising friend of mine organised the city’s first (and only) “happening” at the Rainbow Rooms, and booked the Social Deviants — as they were then called — along with a projector and a print of Kenneth Anger’s Scorpio Rising, a bubble machine and the bits and pieces to make a rudimentary light show. How cool we were, suddenly transformed from mods into hippies! I bought a Tibetan love bell and gave my friend Paul Smith, then managing the men’s floor of a boutique called Birdcage, 25 shillings to get his tailor to make me a royal blue kaftan with floral braid. It looked fine until I tried to dance and discovered that the arm-holes had been made so small that I could barely move. So much for letting it all hang out. (Having some sense of history, I kept the garment; it made a second public appearance in True Brit, the exhibition devoted to Paul’s work at the Design Museum a few years ago.)
The photograph above is taken from the back of the dust jacket of Mick’s excellent memoir, Give the Anarchist a Cigarette, published by Jonathan Cape in 2001. It was taken by Barrie Wentzell, the Melody Maker‘s staff photographer, and it records a round-table discussion at the MM‘s old Fleet Street offices, probably in 1971. The discussion was being moderated by Michael Watts, who has his back to the photographer, and our much-missed colleague Roy Hollingworth, on Watts’s left. Neither of us can remember who the hippie on Hollingworth’s left is. That’s Farren next to the unknown person, with Sandy Denny opposite him at the top of the table (no, it’s not Sandy Denny: see Comments). On Sandy’s left, wearing a cap, is Robert Wyatt. On Robert’s left is another person whom neither of us can identify. We can’t remember what the subject of the discussion was, either. Maybe someone out there can help.