The Deviants — “Somewhere to Go”: Brace for the Obscure (60s rock)! — August 27, 2022


564) The Deviants — “Somewhere to Go”

Mick Farren and the Deviants rose out of the London underground to blaze the trail for ’70’s punk rock. Ptooff!, their first album, is hailed as an accidental masterpiece. “Somewhere to Go” is not from that album. Farren described Disposable, their second album (’68), as “truly awful”. “Somewhere” is from that album.

To me, “Somewhere” is one of the Deviants’ greatest songs, a hypnotic call for revolution, but also a call for patience, that revolution will come, or maybe it will come . . . if we can find somewhere to go. “Got to find somewhere to go. Got to find someone who knows. Got to find some place to stay. Got to find some other way. ” “Somewhere” has a definite Doors-y vibe. In fact, it could effortlessly replace “The End” in Apocalypse Now.

Richie Unterberger writes that:

In the late ’60s, the Deviants were something like the British equivalent to the Fugs, with touches of the Mothers of Invention . . . and . . . British R&B-based rock . . . . Their roots were . . . in . . . the psychedelic underground that began to take shape in London in 1966-1967. Not much more than amateurs when they began playing, they squeezed every last ounce of skill and imagination out of their limited instrumental and compositional resources on their debut, Ptooff!, which combined savage social commentary, overheated sexual lust, psychedelic jamming, blues riffs, and pretty acoustic ballads . . . . Their subsequent ’60s albums had plenty of outrage, but not nearly as strong material . . . .

Unterberger also notes that:

The Deviants were only minimally competent instrumentalists when they made their debut album, Ptooff, in 1967. They had only worked up a bare handful of original tunes. But they had managed to synthesize their wildly diverse influences . . . into an album that transcended the group’s limitations into something of a minor masterpiece. . . . [that] anticipated the pre-punk thrash of the Stooges and MC5. . . . The Deviants may have been aligned with the hippie/underground movement. Yet if this was flower-power and free love, it was delivered with a sneer that had no patience for mindless flight from reality, with an anarchic energy that looked forward a full decade to punk. The Deviants went on to release a couple of more conventional, far less impressive albums . . . .

As to Disposable, Mark Deming writes that:

Plenty of psychedelic groups of the late ’60s embraced a sunny outlook of peace, flowers, and consciousness expansion, but some took a harder line on upending the straight society they sought to replace, and like their spiritual brethren the MC5, the Deviants . . . saw their music as a vehicle for a Total Assault On The Culture. . . . [A]nd while they created a sonic approximation of the rage and defiance behind the Freak Culture on their debut album . . . . their second LP, Disposable, lacks focus or direction and sounds like the work of addled would-be revolutionaries who aren’t sure just what they’re fighting against this morning. Farren has claimed that he and his bandmates were flying on speed during most of the recording of Disposable, but there isn’t much energy (artificial or otherwise) in these performances, and many of the tunes collapse into meandering jams performed by musicians who lack the chops . . . . There are a few exceptions [including] “Somewhere to Go,” the only extended jam . . . that manages to actually find a groove . . . . Disposable is fascinating as a document of the U.K.’s anarchist hippie scene and where it went both right and wrong, but as entertainment, you’re a lot better off listening to Ptooff! Or looting a supermarket [a song on Ptooff!].

Mick Farren was one of the great London personalities, of the ’60’s and beyond. Richard Williams writes that:

Throughout his life as a writer, musician (with his band, the Deviants) and provocateur, Farren did his best to incarnate the qualities he saw as vital ingredients of the rock’n’roll spirit. . . . In the words of his friend, the publisher Felix Dennis, he was a “doorman, editor, journalist, rock star, rabble rouser, critic and commentator, charlatan, jester, impresario, gunslinging cross-dresser, icon, author, songwriter, poet”. With his gigantic white-boy Afro, his studded belt, his leather jacket and his aviator shades, Farren certainly looked like the man who had led the White Panthers UK, a branch of the organisation which had been set up in Chicago . . . as a brothers-in-arms counterpart to the Black Panthers. The only impact made by the UK offshoot, during its brief and ill-defined existence, came as part of the unholy alliance of Hell’s Angels, Young Liberals and student radicals from France, Germany and Holland who tore down the 9ft corrugated iron walls surrounding the 1970 Isle of Wight festival. . . . [H]e joined the staff of the International Times, the [revered London] underground weekly . . . . To the coterie of former beatniks, proto-hippies, literary avant-gardists, anarchists and revolutionaries who formed its staff, he brought something different. “For him, the underground was a logical extension of the original rock’n’roll rebellion,” wrote Barry Miles, one of IT’s founders. “He cared passionately about Elvis Presley, Gene Vincent and all the original rockers . . . . He saw the Hell’s Angels and mods and rockers as part of the same energetic thrust to change society as the Beat generation or Che Guevara.” By that time Farren was also occupied as the lead singer of a band originally called the Social Deviants, the name under which they played at Alexandra Palace in April 1967 as part of the celebrated 14-Hour Technicolour Dream . . . . [They] borrow[ed] much of the scabrous wit of Frank Zappa but little of the finesse . . . .

Richie Unterberger’s 1997 sit-down with Mick Farren is probably the greatest, most hilarious rock interview I have ever read. Let me relay a bit of it as is relevant to today’s song, but you owe it to yourself to read the whole thing:

You know, we were pretty incompetent at the start. We were pretty incompetent at the end. . . . [W]e made a second album which was truly awful, Disposable. The first album, we didn’t really know enough to be daunted by what we were attempting to do. On the second one, we really, we learned a bit more, which was just enough to make it bad . . . . The musicians started wanting to play. Rather than just kind of tinkling, which we had going on the first album. . . . [where] we really didn’t know what we were doing, so we didn’t care. The second [album], we got into the band business, and ceased to be innovative, and just became another f*cking band. . . . The eventual demise of the Deviants was when me and the guitar player . . . really were at odds about musicianship. I kind of thought it sucked. He had really this idea to be Jimmy Page . . . . The only claim to fame the Deviants had is we managed to persevere and actually get some stuff down onto vinyl. ‘Cause there are other bands, like the Brothers Grimm and the Giant Sun Troll and the whole list of them you see on posters. But they never actually got to record. And back in those days, you didn’t tape the shows, because we didn’t have the technology. So a lot of that stuff was lost. Fortunately, we weren’t. That was an incredibly lucky break, or we would have just been a name on a poster. . . . Sometimes it’d be the hippies who’d get freaked out [at our live shows]. ‘Cause they’d be there with their beads and bells, and really not understand why we were snarling at them and setting fire to our arms and things. . . . [T]hey thought that was all a bit aggressive, man. We were a very angry band. We were pissed off, generally, at the state of the world . . . . But it frequently just came down to being pissed off with each other. You have to remember, we took a lot of speed and we drank a lot, and we also had the most incredible hangovers. . . . It doesn’t make for a harmonious traveling band. That’s why we didn’t turn into the Grateful Dead, I guess. Plus, we didn’t know that many guitar riffs.

Oh, and Farren clears up how the band got its name . . . first the Social Deviants and then the Deviants:

It actually comes from the fact that we all had a house in the East End of London. And we picked up the paper one day, and it said that Tower Hamlet, which was one of the new constructed boroughs in East London, had the highest percentage of social deviance in the country. “Right, that’s us.” But saying it became really a drag. “What band are you in?” “The Social Deviants!” “Wot?” “Okay, the Deviants.”

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