Keep It Together – Cosmic Boogie with the Pink Fairies and the Deviants

Deakin has an admirable way of organising his material and allowing loquacious characters like Larry Wallis and Russell Hunter their head, (not to mention Mr. Farren whose chief delight – even after all these years - is to embellish and fashion his narrative in any way he sees fit).

 

(Rich Deakin)

Headpress Books http://www.headpress.com

 

Now I am well disposed towards this book - not least because I have a signed copy from both author and one of the main protagonists in the story (and a hero of mine) Mick Farren. In any case this is one of the great stories of the British underground, the fragments until now only partly assembled through newspaper articles, obituaries, hazy recollections and dog eared copies of IT and Frendz. The magnificent Days in The Life by Jonathon Green hinted at more than it told: many of the talking heads in that book almost deliberately queering the pitch for fact-finders like me, (oh to own the bits left out of that Bible of the Underground).

It seems that author Rich Deakin also saw his book as an attempt to get down all the hearsay in one final effort, an attempt to capture in words the addled pixie dust that so informed this particular scene. And so he should, for the story of the Deviants and the Pink Fairies (via the Pink Fairies Motorcycle & Drinking Club and with a dash of Hawkwind and Edgar Broughton thrown in for good measure) is the lost tale of the British underground, it should have the same credence as UFO, punk, the summers of ’87 and ‘88 and the winter of ’78-9, TwoTone, Factory, Zoo or Stiff.

Luckily (like Green), Deakin has an admirable way of organising his material and allowing loquacious characters like Larry Wallis and Russell Hunter their head, (not to mention Mr. Farren whose chief delight – even after all these years - is to embellish and fashion his narrative in any way he sees fit). The history, previously hazy or alluded to, guarded by various quarrelling factions and wrapped in the gossamer threads of multiple stoned memories is now clearly set out and proves a tough, human, and often bitter story. It was a hard shift for the bands to get their wild Muse across, especially in the teeth of an increasingly faked and commercial dream. The difficulties of the Deviants touring Canada with half the band nearing mental and physical collapse, or the Pink Fairies’ constant near misses at some kind of success (and all too frequent bull’s-eyes with hard drug fall out) are stark reminders of how exhausting and demoralising a business rock and roll can be. And Deakin keeps a light hand on the tiller throughout: it’s a magnificent achievement to create such a detailed and rattling read.

Those who don’t like decadence had better move on. This is a story of hedonism that few could match, with only some contemporaries (maybe Pretty Things) being equally as hell raising. The fury of the drug taking (leaving overdose victims for dead in the back of the touring van) seems shocking now, the idea that Mandies or heroin use could be seen as part of the elevation of the collective consciousness or even as a mundane element of the urban warrior’s armour, along with macrobiotic food and crushed velvet seems as remote and ridiculous as some mediaeval joust. Suicides and madness are constantly in the picture: as is farce. That both bands were treated with contempt and ridicule is evidenced throughout the book: “a bunch of middle class fakers and perverts to boot” is one such appraisal of the Fairies: “the worst band ever in the history of Mankind” is an all too often remark thrown the way of the Deviants. What makes them special? The Deviants can lay claim to being the first British punk band and with Ptoof!, creators of the first independent DIY LP. The Fairies were one of those weird rock bands in the early to mid ‘70’s who claimed allegiance to no-one (see also Kid Strange, see Peter Hammill, or incarnations of the Pretty Things), paving the way for aspects of the punk and the post rave, crust core mind-set.

In any case this is a great book, well written, rarely obsequious or obdurate and very much a source document.