Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Mick Farren—
Play With Fire/Lost Johnny


Released 1977 on Ork
The Seth Man, November 2000ce
There’s one thing about being totally pissed off: it doesn’t go out of style. And Mick Farren had been a righteously pissed off visionary troublemaker of epic proportions for years. His career of noisemaking and promotion of revolutionary ideals that were based in the utmost wiseacre-ing combined with common sense and a whole lotta guts. Ever since 1967, whilst the ever-swanning psychedelic beautiful people adjusted their King’s Road finery in the mirror, he was getting down in the street and put his money where his mouth was with England’s premier punk noise-mongers, The Deviants. But after his first solo album of 1970, “Mona-The Carnivorous Circus” (a spleen-venting piece of psychedelic punk and overall fucked up-ness) his racketmaking ceased for a period of time as he turned to editing and writing for International Times until the eve of its demise in 1974. From there he began contributing to the NME for several years, until his move from London to New York on or about the time of this single. You can’t really call his vocalizing here ‘singing,’ as that would be patently untrue: more a verbalisation of words that seeks to collect all his rage into a semblance of coherence. Only by the end of the cover of The Stones’ “Play With Fire,” he starts screaming and railing at some woman who’s done him wrong, jeering at her only to snidely apologise that he didn’t mean it all only to confess “Shit I’m so drunk I can’t remember what I was saying!” by song’s end. Backed by a sped up, helium-ingested chorus, “Play With Fire” is rendered by a slinky slide guitar behind Farren’s Dylanised, whisky-ised and cocaine fried vocals that were frustration itself.

On the flipside, the backing band of anonymous NYC musicians (I think Jon Tiven was the drummer) speed through “Lost Johnny,” a song co-written by Lemmy and Farren. First appearing on Hawkwind’s “Hall Of The Mountain Grill,” it was then resuscitated by Lemmy as a Motörhead track with Farren guest appearing on it live from time to time. And here he’s barking over the din of a spattering of fuzz guitar rendered at blind drunk/fury speed, turning the blocked stupor of the Hawkwind version into a fiery Dylan ’66 ampheto-buzz sizzle. Lyrics are forgotten, lead guitar cuts out near the end for no good reason and the band plays on. A mess of a punk single that smacked of no hope for airplay whatsoever. Farren would pursue recording with another single for Stiff, a second solo album “Vampires Stole My Lunch Money,” and a final single on Logo, “Broken Statue” / “It’s All in The Picture” in 1979. After this, he would then re-focus back to writing for several years.