Thursday, March 27, 2014

BOOK REVIEW! ELVIS DIED FOR SOMEBODY'S SINS BUT NOT MINE, a lifetime's collected writings by Mick Farren (Headpress, 2012)

Like Lenny Kaye, Patti Smith or Lester Bangs, Mick Farren was one of those rock writers who epitomized the best that the mid/late-sixties had to offer (which I will ashamedly admit consisted of more hippie musings than I ever would have given those lice-infested mutants credit for in the past) merged with the nascent underground energy and fury of what was being brandished around as "punk rock" during the early-seventies. All of which coalesced into something that was so interesting that even a suburban slob such as I hadda turn away from the HOGAN'S HEROES reruns once in awhile in order to pay some much needed attention.

Past + Present was always supposed to = Future, and although the eighties never did pan out as the ultimate culmination of rock 'n roll as it was supposed to stand for us as that International Youth Language at least hunting down long-gone Deviants albums and Mick Farren books was one good way to beat the squeaky clean gush that was that decade. If anything this is one reason I revere Mick Farren even if everything about him should have me rushing away from him like hillbillies from a bar of soap. And here, just in time for Farren's own skeedaddling from this mortal slinky came this book (actually a year in advance) which collects his writings in a nice little package which is something we all could have used a good decade or three back. But hey, why is it so sparse???

I guess it's because there just ain't enough of the Mick Farren we want in this book and just too much of the one we get! Mick was a whole lotta things to a whole lotta folk from a hippie provocateur to proto punk leather hood as well as a Science Fiction writer and all 'round kultural kritik whether it be political, societal or (best of all) musical. Even tee-vee, which is something you wouldn't have thought afro-haired  rabble rousers watched. But it's all here and although ELVIS DIED does hunk out a good cross-section of Farren's scribing for a wide array of publications it just doesn't satisfy you the way I'm sure that issue of THE NEW MUSICAL EXPRESS did to all you English kiddies once you got hold of the latest issue and rushed to the comfort of your fart encrusted boudoirs and read the latest scribblings courtesy Farren et. al. with unbridled teenage glee.

Speaking of NME I sure coulda used more of Farren's rants for that paper of record and tape because frankly there just ain't enough to satisfy me here. We do get some choice articles including a pretty high-larious one on Frank Zappa conducted during a time when Zappa was suing the Royal Albert Hall because they wouldn't let him perform "Penis Dimension", while the one with Chuck Berry is also a top notch must-be-read-by-everyone bit, especially the point where Berry tells Farren (and with a straight face at that) he was never ever in prison! Not once in his entire life which is a point I'm sure Farren coulda easily counteracted though really, how would it have looked if he got in a barroom brawl with one of the originators of rock 'n roll anyway??? I mean, this sure wasn't gonna be Lester Bangs going tootsie-to-tootsie with Lou Reed and although I wouldn't have minded reading about a possible Farren/Berry kerfuffle it is nice to know that Farren had a sense of caution about him!

This is the Farren I plunked down my precious kopecks for and I sure wish I coulda read more of his rock-oriented odysseys in them thar pages.

Not that his LA READER,  CITYBEAT and TROUSER PRESS material was anything to kerchew at, but by the eighties I guess everybody was getting worn out. And with the quality of music sinking oh-so-fast it wasn't like raving buckets over Pebbles was akin to the pioneering screech of Richard Meltzer's review of Jimi or Lester Bangs rhapsodizing over Count Five albums that were never made. But while Meltzer lost faith in the rock aspects of sound after the capitulation of late-seventies underground and Bangs died probably because he saw the future and it was Chuck Eddy, Farren managed to exist as a bonafeed rock writers for quite some time after most thought the entire game was dead and gone. Of course he was writing about subjects that weren't always within the mindset of your average punque wannabe but hey, if you hadda read an article on David Bowie or even Michael Jackson better it be from the pen of Farren than the Glade Air Freshener prose of your typical college paper glitzy who gets her oh-so descriptive adjectives from tampon boxes. Farren's eighties work is so good and beyond the dimension of press sheet hype you get the feeling that he's still trying to cling to the wild rampant rockism of the seventies until they pried it from his stiff, dead fingers.

Of course Farren's more politically-oriented opines don't always jibe with me, and it ain't exactly because I really don't see eye-to-eye. Sometimes I do believe-it-or-leave-it, but when Farren talks politics he comes off about as patented left groove as many mainstream conservative pundits fall into their own comfy enclaves. His admiration for Che Guevara rots even more now that the truth about the motorcycle longhair being a rock 'n roll hating guy who shot twelve-year-olds and bashed heads with shovels has come out, and while his critiques of the cagey politicians who make up the Amerigan "conservative" movement do ring true at least when he isn't getting into a kultural revolution snit he sure does his best keeping his eyes closed to some of the atrocities being perpetrated by those on his side of the Great Political Divide. I will give him kudos for seeing the political worth of the Ron Paul Revolution no matter how little of a threat it may be at this time in history, but you can read similar-minded takes and fits on-line just about anywhere you look now, albeit none of the writers would have a rock 'n roll rapsheet as long and gnarled as Farren's.

You get lyrics, chapters from a variety of Farren novels and even a forward from Charles Shaar Murray. Unfortunately you don't get such wanted wonders as Farren's articles on STAR TREK or Kenneth Anger let alone some of his early record reviews for IT or even that great piece on the El Lay hardcore scene that popped up in an '81 NME, I guess we should be thankful for what we've received (like the prophetic "The Titanic Sails at Dawn") though man, I sure could have used some more rockist action and less El Lay schmoozing that's for sure!

1 comment:

PD said...

I got this tome the week before Farren died onstage, and that perhaps tainted my reading of the whole thing as Charles Shaar Murray's preface predicted Farren's imminent demise in a weird way - the skipping around bee-bop of the layout and organization leaves a lot to be desired but I too wish for more of the HARD THROB Farren than the politico bull or ramblings. It seems such a small cross-section of the high-energy blurt he spewed forth for us.