Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Mick Farren—
Broken Statue/It's All In The Picture


Released 1979 on Logo
The Seth Man, March 2001ce
“Now you are in pieces
You can no longer speak
You’ve fallen from your pedestal
You could have been a genuine antique...”

The above lyrics open “Broken Statue” -- a track as fantastically blazing as it is lacking in coherence.

Total rock’n’roll, in other words.

The relief and freedom of felt un-sense.

Mick Farren followed up “Vampires Stole My Lunch Money,” his second solo album with this, the non-LP single “Broken Statue.” And it held all the careening drive and headlong carelessness of his very best work. Whereas the production and approach on “Vampires” veered into pop territory (as well as some circuitous routes via drunken darkness) “Broken Statue” was -- even by 1979 standards -- an utterly reckless, imbalanced recording of refugees from the smouldering remains of The Pink Fairies, Hawkwind and Tanz der Youth who assembled and thrashed out mean and filthy behind Farren’s vocals which registered trace elements of a monotone Gene Vincent on the A-side and Beefheart drunk-as-a-skunk on the flip. And the stellar cast backing him on this rock’n’roll shrug-of-the-shoulders-while-storming-the-gates-of-Heaven were Larry Wallis, Andy Colquhoun and Alan Powell. And although all three had appeared on Farren’s aforementioned “Vampires” LP, what they put down here was far rougher a proposition: “Broken Statue” sees the production on Farren’s vocals push them into an over-echoed, weakly slapback effect that was effective enough to shoot his vocals up into Gene Vincentsville as they bark over Wallis’ hectic and rebounding guitar rhythms and lead as the manic, over-recorded tom-tom fills from Alan Powell make it seem as though he was still drumming in Hawkwind.

And who knows exactly what Farren’s singing about, because he’s totally off his trolley and just going for the moment. Only fragments of his lyrics are discernable through the song, but the whole feeling from the band is on such a gut level, it would be a shame and pointless to boot to try and deconstruct it, let alone making some lame and glib excuse that it was about Steve “Peregrine” Took or some such old mate gone down the sink hole of drink and drugs.

From the strummed bass and crashing cymbal and tom-tom intro to the crazed, echoed and mere seconds worth of solo from Larry Wallis to the chorus of the title fading it all out, “Broken Statue” is a psychedelic punk shot in the dark that hit all targets simultaneously. And throughout the piece is a wafting, ever-present weird drone of Wallis multi-tracked rhythm guitars that flesh out the background in the most subliminal/sublime way.

“It’s All In The Picture” opens with a black, crayoned curlicue of a guitar over the studio glass as Powell runs a tom-tom fill that’s so overrecorded its placement is directly on the boundary between plain amateurish and genius. Meanwhile, Farren’s vocals have submerged into a drunken, twilight guttural as his imperatives and vocal finger pointing becomes even more obscured than on the A-side. And the greasy, near-fumbling approach of “It’s All In The Picture” is somewhere between revved-up Chuck Berry with over-recorded tom tom fills covered with a “Let’s cut the fucker live and get it down, forfuckssakes; last call in an hour” urgency. And Colquhoun’s switched his bass with Wallis, and his playing heads left right and centre before the whole thing collapses at the end as our heroes race to the end of track with the sort of abrupt, new wave-ish type ending so prevalent at the time, but without cramping the effortlessness of the whole punked mess one whit, no sir.