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Give the Anarchist a Cigarette

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  • Dan Clore
    News for Anarchists & Activists: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/smygo It wasn t all flower power in the 1960s Nicholas Lezard enjoys Give the Anarchist a
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 17, 2002
      News for Anarchists & Activists:

      It wasn't all flower power in the 1960s

      Nicholas Lezard enjoys Give the Anarchist a Cigarette, by
      Mick Farren

      Saturday August 17, 2002

      The Guardian (UK)

      Give the Anarchist a Cigarette
      by Mick Farren
      (Pimlico, £9.99)

      Here we go - yet another memoir of the 1960s from One Who
      Was There. I picked it up with a foreboding of ennui, not to
      mention déjà vu. Yet this is an almost instantly engaging
      book, which starts well and actually manages to get better
      as it goes on. Over 400-odd pages, this is quite an

      Mick Farren was on the periphery of the in-crowd of the
      1960s - not quite close enough to be mates with the
      megastars of the era, but close enough to bump into Jimi
      Hendrix in a pub by the Marquee and get a free invite from
      the man himself. (He wonders whether the similarity of their
      hairstyles might have had something to do with it.) He
      helped run the radical newspaper International Times through
      all its upheavals, formed and was eventually thrown out of
      the Social Deviants, a proto-punk band who could barely play
      their instruments at first but managed to persist through
      noise, willpower, and amphetamines. Anecdotes about the
      Deviants are among the funniest moments of the book.

      Early in their career, booked to play in front of an
      audience of Geno Washington-worshipping skinheads, they
      found that the punters took a dislike to them so instant
      that they didn't even have to play a note. "The skinheads
      saw us in our self-invented hippie outfits and didn't
      hesitate. Straight at the stage, at us - like one of those
      Chinese Red Army human waves out of the Korean War. Have you
      ever seen a drummer wrap his arms around his entire kit,
      pick it up, and run? Not easy, but Benny accomplished it."

      That is a detail that had me chuckling even as I was writing
      it down just then, and if you don't find it even a little
      amusing then I suspect the book is not for you. But within
      the slapstick tomfoolery lies a significant part of the
      book's message, if that is the right word. For Farren is, I
      guess, suspicious of messages, unless they are vague,
      threatening, and strangely stirring. But the idea we have of
      the 1960s is that the youth were united behind a banner with
      the words Flower Power on it, all busy placing posies down
      the barrels of guns which were never actually going to be
      fired. It was not really like that, if we are to believe
      this memoir - and I see no reason why we should not believe
      it. Britain was still an ugly place then, and the very early
      hippies were in a dangerous position, as all young people
      did in those days for amusement was kick each others' heads

      At the germinal stages, when they hardly knew what they were
      themselves, they were so odd that rockers bumping into them
      in Brighton would ask, "are you geezers fucking mods?" and
      mods running into them a short while later would ask, "are
      you geezers fucking rockers?" The response to the question -
      "no, mate, we're beatniks" - got the same reaction: "you
      mean like Bob Die-lan?" A year later, and the beatniks would
      become targets of the state as well. It was not all bongs
      and fairy lights and sensitive singer-songwriters.

      But there was some of that, too, and Farren mocks them now,
      as he mocked them then. He was always a bit cross about
      something, and he relished the punks, could even be said to
      have heralded that revolution too (he's had Germaine Greer
      and Julie Burchill, or rather they had him), even if Johnny
      Rotten teased him about his flares. This is marvellous
      stuff, superbly told, and it will make you want to go out
      and find a record by the Deviants.

      Dan Clore

      Now available: _The Unspeakable and Others_
      All my fiction through 2001 and more. Intro by S.T. Joshi.

      Lord Weÿrdgliffe and Necronomicon Page:
      News for Anarchists & Activists:

      Said Smygo, the iconoclast of Zothique: "Bear a hammer with
      thee always, and break down any terminus on which is
      written: 'So far shalt thou pass, but no further go.'"
      --Clark Ashton Smith
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