Although the two nations’ social climates were significantly different, British youth culture of the late ’60s provided the same fertile environment for the blending of radical politics, recreational drug use and rock’n’roll as America did. If the Deviants were less incendiary (both in outlook and sound) than the MC5, the loose London group was every bit as subversive, and played a crucial historical role by transmuting into the Pink Fairies and launching the genealogical and stylistic process that, alongside Hawkwind and a few other hippie hordes, kept the countercultural spirit alive in British rock’n’roll through the early ’70s. In a very real sense, the Deviants — singly and collectively — played a not insignificant role in godfathering the punk era.
Founded and fronted by singer/writer Mick Farren, the Social Deviants — later just the Deviants — made three bizarre albums in two years before caving in, as such chemically polluted anti-authoritarian enterprises were wont to do, leaving behind such anthems as “Let’s Loot the Supermarket,” “Slum Lord” (both on the goodnaturedly weird Disposable) and “The People Suite” (“We are the people who pervert your children…we are beyond rehabilitation…”) and “Metamorphosis Exploration” (from the harder-rocking and spacier #3).
After the Deviants folded in 1969, Farren recorded a solo album with a short-lived Pink Fairies that featured drummer/singer Twink (John Alder, a veteran of the Pretty Things who had a momentary band with Syd Barrett that actually performed in public in 1972). When the first Pink Fairies fell apart, Twink assembled a second version with the other three ex-Deviants and recorded Never Never Land, performing two songs from it on an apocalyptic side of Revelations, the Glastonbury Fayre festival live triple-album: a terse “Do It” (later covered by Rollins Band) and 20 minutes of “Uncle Harry’s Last Freak-Out.” Twink then flew the coop, leaving Duncan Sanderson (bass/vocals), Paul Rudolph (guitar/vocals) and Russell Hunter (drums) to carry the Fairies flag.
Despite a fair measure of artistic confusion and the lack of a real vocalist, What a Bunch of Sweeties is an offbeat and occasionally exciting, but now totally dated, guitar-rock (plus drum solo) record. Things really got good, however, when Rudolph was replaced by Larry Wallis (a veteran of both the jazzy Blodwyn Pig and the nearly metal UFO). With Wallis singing, playing ingenious guitar and doing nearly all the songwriting (in one case, collaborating with Farren), the resulting Kings of Oblivion is absolutely amazing, a thunderous jolt of electricity with monumental melodies and bizarre sideways lyrics like “I Wish I Was a Girl,” the drugged-out “When’s the Fun Begin?” and “City Kids.” Still brilliant sounding after two decades, Kings is a widely unknown masterpiece that stands on its own but also set the stage for Motörhead, which Wallis and Hawkwind refugee Lemmy initially formed in 1975.
Flashback is a compilation of studio tracks from the band’s first three albums; although not released until ’82, Live at the Roundhouse (which includes renditions of “City Kids,” “Uncle Harry’s Last Freak-Out” and “Waiting for the Man,” among others) was recorded in 1975 by a Fairies reunion that featured Twink, Rudolph, Wallis, Hunter and Sanderson.
The Deviants and Pink Fairies names have been used for various one-offs over the years: Human Garbage, for instance, is a 1984 live recording by Farren, Wallis and Sanderson. The ’77 Mick Farren & the Deviants EP is a raunchy-sounding 7-inch that includes a fun new version of “Let’s Loot the Supermarket” and three other tracks, produced by Wallis and performed with Rudolph and guitarist Andy Colqhoun (then of Warsaw Pakt).
Colqhoun and Wallis — as well as Twink, Hunter and Sanderson — are all on the recent Fairies reunion album, Kill ‘Em & Eat ‘Em. Although there’s no problem with the straightforward rock music, the quintet’s attempt to recapture and reglamorize the past in songs like “Taking LSD” and “White Girls on Amphetamine” is a serious drag.
As one step in Twink’s late-’80s reactivation, he cut the inexcusably dull You Need a Fairy Godmother mini-album live in a Chicago club, blandly backed — on a far-ranging selection of career oldies (including the Pretty Things’ “Alexander,” the Pink Fairies’ “Do It” and a 1978 solo tune, “Psychedelic Punkaroo”) and one terrible newie (“Seize the Time”) — by Plasticland. Brad Warner of Dimentia 13 guests on one of the seven tracks; Twink plays drums on another, leaving lead vocals to P-land’s Glenn Rehse.