As much as this book is a biography of one of my favourite bands from the 1970s it’s also a fascinating bit of social history.
The band in question is the Pink Fairies, who I was lucky enough to see at London’s Chalk Farm Roundhouse a couple of times. Always better live than on vinyl, the version of the band that I saw only featured two of the guys on the book jacket (drummer Russell Hunter and bass player Duncan Sanderson) and they all kept their clothes on. Formed in 1970, the Pinks I saw in 1976, had the great Larry Wallis back on guitar slinging after his brief stint with Motorhead, backed up by second guitarist Andy Colquhoun. Wallis was a much better frontman and songwriter than Paul Rudolph, however that is a different story.
Dean’s book kicks off with the band that the Fairies morphed out of, the Social Deviants. The Deviants were formed by Mick Farren, who is better known today as a writer. Farren put the band together in 1967 when he moved to London from Gloucester. If I’m completely honest I never really thought the Deviants were that interesting musically, but at the time Farren was also writing for underground magazines like International Times and it’s here with Farren’s involvement in the hippy counter-culture that the book becomes more than just a band history.
In hindsight it all seems quite absurd, but the establishment’s reaction towards the hippy counter-culture of the 1960s betrayed a real sense of threat. Magazine offices were bugged and people kept under police surveillance. Farren while editing Nasty Tales, just like the editors of Oz found himself on the receiving end of a visit by the Obscene Publications Squad. Farren however successfully defended his case in court and avoided the prison haircuts dished out to Felix Dennis and Co at Oz. To make matters even more bizarre during one such raid the Obscene Publications Squad officers forced Farren to flush his illicit drug stash down the toilet so that the Drug Squad would not have a reason to muscle in on their nick. Absurdities aside, I remember that anyone who looked the part at the time could expect routine harassment from the police or customs officers. Mind you about ten years later a similar overaction attended the birth of punk!
Another incident that the book details is Farren’s involvement with the disruption of David Frost’s interview with American Yippee cult leader Jerry Rubin, all very childish, but worth a look just to see Frost completely lose control of the audience and become almost a parody of himself.