The music world has suffered two losses worth noting in recent days, especially since they haven’t gotten the wider attention they deserve.
Mick Farren was a pioneering British music journalist and musician, a peer and friend of the great American rock critic Lester Bangs, and an inspiration to him and many others in terms of approaching writing about music as an art form in and of itself, and one that is arguably equal to making music.
Farren was the writer who first encouraged me to read Oscar Wilde’s classic essay The Critic as Artist, and it changed my life.
A key agitator and Leftie activist in London’s psychedelic underground during the mid-60s, Farren began writing for underground newspapers like The International Times, though his best rock criticism appeared in The New Musical Express through the ’70s. He never stopped writing about rock ‘n’ roll, though he segued into becoming a successful and prolific science fiction writer, starting in the mid-’70s, and continuing through the end of his life.
Farren’s 1999 novel Jim Morrison’s Adventures in the Afterlife stands both as one of the most imaginative books I’ve ever read and as one of the most genuinely laugh-out-loud funny.
As for his musical adventures, Farren was the vocalist and driving force behind the Deviants, which originated during that psychedelic explosion preceding the Summer of Love, and which really never stopped going. As punk in their primitivism and disdain for virtuosity as they were trippy in their interstellar overdrives—think of an unholy combination of the Fugs and Hawkwind—their debut album Ptooff!! (1967) is a classic that was rightly rediscovered in the punk heyday.
Farren died the way he lived: making an awesome noise, performing onstage with the Deviants at a club in London. He was 69 years old.
The most eloquent tribute I’ve read came from another great British writer, Charles Shaar Murray, in The Guardian.
Tim Wright was another artist who was ahead of his time, playing a key role in not one but two underappreciated bands whose influence looms large to this day: Pere Ubu and DNA.
Wright was the founding bassist in Pere Ubu, propelling the band through classic early art-punk singles such as “Final Solution” and “30 Seconds Over Tokyo.” In 1978, he moved to Manhattan to join guitarist Arto Lindsay in DNA, the key band in the No New York noise-rock movement. (There is no Sonic Youth without it.)