Mick Farren, music writer and singer with The Deviants, passed away last Friday (July 27) in London after collapsing on stage at The Borderline with a re-formed version of his group. He was 69.
Farren, who was a leader in the UK’s counter culture, had published 23 novels and 11 non-fiction works. His autobiography, Give The Anarchist A Cigarette, was published in 2001. In July 1976, while writing for NME, he wrote the story that was to become his most famous, ‘The Titanic Sails At Dawn’ (quoting Dylan’s ‘Desolation Row’), in which he predicted the rise of punk.
Farren was born in Cheltenham, England, and later attended Worthing High School For Boys when his parents moved to Sussex. In 1963 he moved to London to study arts at St Martins. He edited the underground newspaper IT and became friends with members of Hawkwind (for whom he later wrote lyrics). In 1970 he attended the Isle of Wight Festival after setting up his own counterculture event a month earlier at which MC5 played. The same year he also released his debut solo album.
By 1974 Farren was working as editor of NME’s Thrills review section and two years later wrote his prescient piece on punk. He became friends with members of The Clash and Motorhead and pursued his writing, which included the science fiction novel The Feelies, and his recording.
In 1980 Farren moved to New York, got married and wrote for The Village Voice. Later, after the break up of his marriage, he moved to Los Angeles and for five years wrote for the City Beat. Farren returned to the UK when he became ill and decided that he needed to avail himself of the National Health Service.
Farren was diagnosed with cancer in early 2012 but continued to work at a frenetic pace, publishing three further books and putting together a new version of The Deviants with whom he played regularly.
Early in 2013, Headpress Books published Farren’s Elvis Died for Somebody’s Sins But Not Mine, a career retrospective that included some of his music writing along with poetry and fiction. The collection includes ‘The Titanic Sails at Dawn.’ Farren recently said that the article, ‘was kind of disingenuous anyway, because I was well aware that what I was calling for was already happening.’
You can read Charles Shaar Murray‘s tribute in The Guardian here: Goodbye, Mick Farren