Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Mick Farren—
Mona-Carnivorous Circus


Released 1970 on Transatlantic
The Seth Man, April 2000ce
A dizzying collage of words, aural overlays and strung-out proto-headbanging from the heart of darkness, “Mona” was conceived two months after Farren split from The Deviants during a live freak out in Vancouver. Upon his return to London, he made up a third of what became (for a short time, anyway) the initial Pink Fairies along with ex-Tyrannosaurus Rex percussionist Steve “Peregrine” Took, and ex-Pretty Things drummer and vocalist, Twink. They all appear on this demented rant’n’roll record, backed by two members of Quatermass and wah-wah inclined guitarist Steve Hammond. “Mona” is an album of rock’n’roll cut and pasted into a revolutionary tract of smoldering fury, like a post-Altamont therapy session. More than a token release to appease the clause of recording contract, it was a crazed, warped vision that was perhaps the best Deviants record in disguise. It took the whole concept of The Deviants into a territory of wildly edited freak rock, voice over narrations and rock and roll covers combined into a bewildering assemblage like an orchestra-less and British “Lumpy Gravy.” There are two versions of Bo Diddley’s “Mona”, a great cover of “Summertime Blues” with casual, barking vocals and everything in between cross-faded and given separate subtitles under the two umbrella tracks: “The Carnivorous Circus (Part One)” and “(Part Two).” It goes from interviews with an English Hell’s Angel, Steve Took recounting his time inside the nick, Hitler speeches to the ultimate freak/spazz out of “Society of the Horsemen”, the subtitled coda to “Carnivorous Circus (Part One)”. Here the question “Who needs the egg?!!” is shouted, snarled and ultimately beaten into the ground by Farren, Took and Twink until you feel lame -- no, SCARED -- for not knowing the answer.

But for all the weirdness, a weary Farren is able to state “This is the best part” right before the closing “Mona (The Whole Trip)” on side two, sounding like a “Soft Parade”-era Morrison who’s seen too much: his band departed from his vision, his deserted wife and a revolution fallen from his eyes, no less. Still frail from the physical and mental ravages of the ill-fated Deviants tour of North America, Farren sounds desperate, freaked out and militant as hell. He’s hoarsely screaming “Are you listenin’??!!” on side two over descending guitar blasts and cymbal tones of methedrine-edged paranoia. From the De Sade quote to the bearded-self portrait on the back cover as an aviator-shaded prince of the black flag, Farren looks every inch a man ready to bite the head off anyone in his path. After this album, Farren quit record making, though not rock and roll, and continued his tenure at International Times and then the NME. Rock gained an insightful and hilarious journalist, but lost an innovator and punk progenitor in the process and it would be a full eight years later until his next complete solo album. But by this time they were calling music like this punk rock while simultaneously detracting its creators as mere hippies. Records like this fall into no easy category even thirty years on, but to say it’s cut from the same primal scream intensity of John and Yoko’s pair of “Plastic Ono Band” albums from the same year would be an understatement.