Mick Farren, author, counterculture radical and singer, has died aged 69.
According to reports, he collapsed on stage at London’s Borderline last night [July 27] while playing with his band, the Deviants.
Farren, who was born in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, was a man of many disciplines. A key writer (and, briefly, editor) of the International Times, he also wrote for the NME, for whom he authored the famous The Titanic Sails At Dawn polemic, first published June 19, 1976, which prefigured punk: “The iceberg in this case seems to be one of a particularly threatening nature,” he wrote. “In fact it is an iceberg that is drifting uncomfortably close to the dazzlingly lit, wonderfully appointed Titanic that is big-time, rock-pop, tax exile, jet-set show business.”
He also authored a memoir, Give The Anarchist A Cigarette – a vivid snapshot of the British counter-culture during the 1960s – as well as 23 novels, 11 non-fiction books and four books on Elvis Presley. A career-spanning anthology of his writing, Elvis Died For Somebody’s Sins But Not Mine, was published earlier this year by Headpress.
As a musician, Farren was best known as singer with his band, the Deviants, which formed in 1967 in Ladbroke Grove. They released three classic LPs between 1967 and 1969: Ptoof!, Disposable, and 3. In 1970, Farren released his first solo album Mona: The Carnivorous Circus. But his place within the counterculture went deeper. He was doorman at the UFO club in 1967, the Deviants played at the 14 Hour Technicolor Dream and also opened for Led Zeppelin early on in their career. He wrote lyrics for Hawkwind and Motörhead, and in 1970 he brought both the MC5 and William Burroughs to Worthing, Sussex, to appear at his Phun City Festival. The same year, he was instrumental in “freeing” the Isle of Wight festival after helping bring down the fences.
Politically active throughout his life, Farren had taken part in the anti Vietnam war march on the US embassy in Grosvenor Square, London, March 1968 and also founded the London chapter of the White Panthers.
Most recently, he co-authored a hardback book, Classic Rock Posters: 60 Years Of posters, Flyers And Handbills: 1952–2012, published by Omnibus.
Photo: Estate Of Keith Morris/Redferns