Above is one of my favourite pictures of Mick – sporting one of the great Afros – the cover shot for a piece by Charles Nicholl that asked the question: ‘Was the Underground press a shortlived volcano? Many of its papers have folded and many youthful idealists are now veterans of progress.’ By September 1973 the glory days of the underground press were largely over but many of its writers survived and thrived. Mick, like myself and many others, joined the good ship NME in the 1970s, Time Out survived and went on to make its proprietor Tony Elliott a millionaire and of course dear Felix founded an empire that continues to thrive to this day. More of which anon.
Headpress have recently published this excellent anthology of Mick Farren’s journalism, comment pieces, fiction, song lyrics and blog posts which provides a welcome addition to his substantial ouevre which includes the excellent autobio ‘Give An Anarchist a Cigarette’.
Mick has much to say about bars and aliens, even more about Elvis. There’s standout encounters with Gore Vidal and Johnny Cash and a great exchange of letters with Pete Townshend. The early underground press stuff makes particularly interesting reading now, capturing as it does the weird headiness and naivete of the time.
Mick has a signature dark style and while holed up in LA and New York during the Bush years, bunkered down in the wee small hours with Jack Daniels for company, he produced a great string of apocalyptic essays post 9/11 which captured well the edgy feel of those times.
A natural contrarian, he remind us that, whilst admiring Bowie he feels it important to point out that this demigod also recorded ‘The Laughing Gnome.’ As time has gone on, his work has got, if anything, pithier – if that’s a word – and his smart gnomic utterances on the bleak blackness of what passes for everyday life in the 21st century continue to provide salutary reading on his Doc40 blog and Facebook.
See Previous Posts: 60s Underground: Mick Farren and The Deviants; Inside Dope: Speed Goes Global (including a review of Mick’s fast history of amphetamine; The Underground Press Gazette (stuff of Mick, Boss Goodman – who unexpectedly turned up on my doorstep yesterday) - and Edward Barker [who we all still miss].
Never one to miss a trick, Felix Dennis bounces back from his recent treatment for throat cancer with a new British and European poetry tour. You can read Sean O’Hagan’s article here although don’t expect any surprises. He singularly fails to reveal anything new plus the piece has several errors in captioning and spelling. As a longtime friend of Felix’s from the days of Oz onwards its good to see him roaring forward. The grim reaper will get him eventually but not without a struggle. These two new books have arrived in recent months
Former Senior Editor at US Maxim, Jason Kersten joined the tour bus in 2010 to record the shenanigans on one of Felix’s previous poetry outings. Naturally Felix travels by helicopter. Its a chatty account and brings to life the nutty side of such enterprises. Having attended several of the Brighton gigs on these tours I can attest the wine is good and the audience is appreciative. As the years have progressed the stage show has got tighter and Felix, being a natural showman, wins everybody over. Catch him this time round. Full details here . The book is published by Ebury Press.
‘A Garret In Goodge Street’ by Mark Williams is a limited edition history of the first 40 years of Dennis Publishing. Many of us served time on such classic mags as TV/SCI-FI Monthly, Star Wars Monthly and numerous one-off poster magazines. Needless to say I eagerly scanned the index to find mention of my name. I’m noted as one of ‘a floating retinue of ex-underground freelancers, including Jonathon Green, John May, Chris Rowley and Mick Farren.’ on page 26. In the Index it says page 29. This pic of me is on p89. Check the Dennis publishing website to see whether any copies are still available.
Finally, also receive a name check in Mick Kidd’s delightfully titled autobiography ‘From Earache To Eternity’ in which Mick entertainingly takes us through his helter skelter life story at a brisk pace. Much of it involves squatting or looking after friend’s pads, finding new girlfriends and cycling long distances.
Mick and Chris Garratt are of course best known for Biff cartoons which appeared in The Guardian for many years and many other publications. Mick has wry turn of wit and this self-published work through Dory Press really captures the flavour of those long-lost times. You can order a book direct from Mick Kidd by sending him a cheque made out in his name for £10 (inc p&p) to 42 Ferme Park Road, London N4 4ED. E-Book available here on Amazon.
Of courses memories are funny things. Mick records that he applied for the post of Business Manager at Frendz magazine. he says: ‘The Editor John May sent me a friendly letter saying it was obvious that I had no business experience but that I could write’. An article from Mick on Synchronicity was published but I have no reminiscence of the first incident.
On the following page he writes that an article on dreams was held over ‘but later appeared in Index of Possibilities, envisaged as a three-part-survey-come-UK equivalent of the Whole Earth Catalogue. In the event only the first instalment ‘Energy’ was published.’ So far so good.
‘Frendz and Index were both devised in a room in Blenheim Crescent off Portobello Road with music playing in the background. (Unfortunately the music in question was The Eagles…). Everyone sat round a large round table firing off suggestions and ideas, like a spaced out version of the Alonquin Circle. rejected ideas were dismissed with ‘impossible even on Venus’. At one point I was asked to write the dream piece while in a dream state.’
In fact Frendz was produced from 305/307 Portobello Rd and had closed before the Index started at 2 Blenheim Crescent. Full details about the Index on this Previous Post.
Mick is listed in the index as ‘Interplanetary News’ on the page on dreams entitled ‘Midnight Movies’ but the actual piece is credited to Dr Ulixes Brent, no doubt a pseudonym. In the thanks and credits Mick is listed as ‘the interplanetary explorer, for mutual rip-offs’
The correspondence files of the Index contain many letters and cards from Mick. Typical one reads:
Dear John May and the Hurricanes: I’d like to call round to see you either Tuesday or Thursday this week. I’d like to find out where Clare Hodgson lives and also tell about an idea I have for a new paper called INTERPLANETARY NEWS. The universe in 185,000,000,000,000 wacky instalments starring Frank Sinatra as the Crab Nebula and Rick van Schmidt as a blues guitar player. Some press previews:
‘This is the paper I’ve been waiting for since 1066’ – Irate, Manchester.
‘A breathtaking sweep. The editor obviously has no idea what he’s “on about”
I AM WHAT I AM WHEN IT IS
See you in the eyeshade parlour by the street of a thousand joss sticks by the great green greasy Limpopo.