David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
Day 299: Mick Farren & The Deviants (Let's Loot The Supermarket Again Like We Did Last Summer)

November 10, 2023

It has now been 9 weeks since I have posted an educational-related blog at this website. I have started a few, but abandoned them because of lack of inspiration, usually because it feels like I am covering material blogged previously over the last 12 years. Since that September 4 WVU-based blog, I have posted 18 songs in this song series, many of which were not always easy to drudge out of generic lethargy, but at least came out of some creative spark.

And, then, yesterday, I finished my regular semester two-day punk lecture for SMC's "Introduction To Popular Culture" class, excited and inspired by an incredibly engaged set of students. Near the end, some question was asked (I forget exactly) that led me to talk about Stiff Records, one of the small record labels that punk helped promote to break up the monopoly of the EMI/A&M/Warner Brothers' record labels, and I mentioned other fantastic late-punk/post-punk songs off of my Stiff Records' Box Set, like Mick Farren's "Let's Loot The Supermarket Again Like We Did Last Summer."

Within hours I had raced home to add Mick Farren to my song series. That kind of response still ain't happening with higher education. I want to generally convey enjoyment through the blogs, even if the enjoyment is in mockery of pockets of higher education. Maybe I am a punk in more ways than I want to admit. At least with Mick Farren, I told myself "So much fun stuff to talk about."

The lyrics themselves: "times don't change but egos do/same old bullshit for me or you," admitting that I am not quite sure the word "egos" is accurate. Unwillingness to enunciate; inability to allow the vocals to be understood? Check the punk box! Later, it's "push and shove and stand in line/times get old in a bowl of crime," with me, again, taking a stab at the last phrasing. The attitude dripping much like the sweat of the pogoing/slam dancing/moshing at the front of the stage.

The connections to The Clash: Mick and his deviants are being more specific for how to "White Riot," and may have given Mick Jones and Joe Strummer their inspiration for "Lost In The Supermarket," one of the great under-rated Clash songs of all times.

The aggressive music: A guitar riff easily modeled after Steve Jones, a throbbing baseline worthy of Paul Simonon, and, at 2:20, a pace straight from a Ramones' playbook. 

Given this is the only song of his I know, I set out for some usual research. However, now I am not sure I know anything about him it at all.

I can't even call it post-punk? I knew it from the 1992 Stiff Records Box Set (also featured on Day 148), ironically released by Rhino Records, another benefactor of the punks opening up a market for small record labels. Until today I didn't know that it was from Mick Farren & The Deviants' 1977 EP Screwed Up. I make a mental note to link these references to deviance and being screwed up to American punks like Ramones more so than to British punks like The Sex Pistols. This will so easily be a quick addition somewhere in future punk lecture. However, deeper investigation reveals the song was originally off of The Deviants' (no headlining for Mick) 1968 album, Disposable. 1968?? Ugh, I spend time mocking the older musicians dominating pop radio in the mid 1970s (Neil Sedaka, Glen Campbell, Frankie Valli). Is Mick too old to be a true punk? I find pictures of Farren with an afro, and all of a sudden he and his band seem more in line with MC5 and the underground bands that inspired the punks. It looks like he even worked with MC5's Wayne Kramer during the 1970s. O.k., so I won't dispose of Mick and his deviants, just work the underground influence again.

That is until I realize that there are two different versions of the same basic song, the 1968 having the more succinct title of "Let's Loot The Supermarket," while the 1977 version adds "Again Like We Did Last Summer." The 1968 version sounds like a bunch of drunk hippies, the chorus' opening line of "come on everybody, come gather round friends," sounding like Crosby, Stills and Nash in the wee hours of a good party. The punk version does sound more like a rallying call. The hippie Deviants want to do "death's dance," while the punk versions of themselves want "to loot that store," the snarl of the repeated "while we got the chaaaannnnce" about as stereotypical punk snarl as one can get.

It makes me wonder if Jake Rivera (one of the founders of Stiff) sought out Mick and the boys and said, "wanna record an EP that includes an update of 'Let's Loot The Supermarket?" Or, did, Mick show up at the Stiff doors, itching for the notoriety of Nick Lowe, Elvis Costello, and others in the Stiff stables early on?

Either way, this reinvention of a band of deviants and a call to destruction is a reminder that Stiff lived true to one of its cleaner slogans: "The World's Most Flexible Record Label." After all this is the record company that released The Wit and Wisdom of Ronald Reagan, two blank sides of a record with nothing on them. Farren himself seemed very flexible, writing over 30 books during his life too. All of this is stuff I discovered in a few hours for some background to get to one of the greatest punk lyrics ever (and I recognize my frequent use of hyperbole in this series).

Ultimately, one point I like to make in the punk lecture is that punk could be really funny, especially American punk, even in the midst of its darkest nihilism. Now that I know the song had already been recorded -- 9 years earlier -- this whole idea of looting a supermarket again at least one season later is pretty hilarious, especially since we are being repeatedly that "this is the day civilization ends." It suggests a false bravado on the part of the punks who might believe they could bring down civilization, and/or speaks to the opportunism that nihilists could justify ("we might as well loot that Tesco, mates").

So much punk here, from band name to album name to ethos of chaos to biting wit, all in 2 minutes and 20 seconds of classic Stiff. Hence, why this punk had to get Day 299 done immediately, while I had the chaaaannnce.

Mick Farren & The Deviants. "Let's Loot The Supermarket Again Like We Did Last Summer." Screwed Up. Stiff, 1977. Link here.

Day 298: Glass Eye "I Don't Need Drugs To Be Fucked Up"

Day 300: Slim Whitman "Una Paloma Blanca"

See complete list here.