LONDON—The incomparable Mick Farren passed away Saturday a month and change shy of his 70th birthday. He died the way the luckiest among us exit this mortal coil, onstage doing what he loved, performing on a London stage with The Deviants, the proto-punk band he founded in 1967. Mick was a bone fide renaissance man who also happened to be a rock-and-roll original; a prolific writer of novels, a lifelong activist, he also managed to put together an active career as a mainstream journalist and porn columnist.
Indeed, even a quick perusal of Farren's personal blog, Doc 40, reveals a man whose embrace of life and politics never waned. July 15 was the last day he posted to the blog, but it was a busy day, and hints at the scope of interests that consumed this fascinating man. The very last post, titled "It's the Rich What Gets the Pleasure (by any means necessary and no matter what it takes)," in many ways exemplifies where he was coming from. Remembrances and appreciations of the great Mick Farren—hardly world famous, but memorable, meaningful and larger-than-life to anyone who knew him—are starting to come out in the sad aftermath of his untimely death at, yes, 69.
I never met Farren in the flesh, but I was lucky enough to inherit him as a monthly columnist for the now defunct AVN Online when I became its managing editor in 2002. Farren, along with another rock-and-roll icon, Paul Krassner, had been brought onboard by my predecessor to write monthly columns about pretty much whatever they wanted. I never interfered except to let them know if we had themed issues they might want to address.
I also edited Mick Farren each month but truth be told, I never did a lot; his columns never needed a lot of tightening; they usually got to precisely where they intended to get even if it took a few detours to get there. Mick was a real writer and thus usually better on the page, but of course the verbal was as essential a tool of communication for him as any other. It’s not like he didn’t love to talk!
In fact, when I heard the news that he had died, a flood of memories came immediately back to me. Life had intervened, time had passed, but I started to recall the innumerable hours Mick and I spent on the phone, talking about anything and everything. I had forgotten how much I missed those loose and mushy and beautiful talks that seemed to never end.
“Hey, mate, do you have a minute,” I would hear as I put the receiver to my ear, his deep and smoky voice as instantaneously recognizable as any I knew. A call from Farren meant I would not put the phone down for at least two hours, but it also meant that a great conversation was at hand. Mick usually had a reason he was calling—an unpaid invoice, an idea for a column he wanted to run by me—but those always seemed to be pretenses for the calls, which always came later in the day, probably during an interlude in his own writing schedule, which I imagined was rigorously spontaneous throughout the day.
As I recall, we rarely talked about porn, but we talked about politics and life a lot, and we certainly talked about science fiction. Mick was a prolific science fiction novelist and was in the middle of a creative spurt during that period, and for some reason liked to talk to me about his plans and plotlines. I was no slouch, having immersed myself in the form from when I was a kid, but I was certainly no match for Mick, who brought a novelist's obsession with detail to our chats. I was in awe, of course, and mostly listened.
As with most writers, money was always an issue with Mick, and I often found myself running to the accounting department to make sure his checks went out on time. He was always cool about it, but he was never shy about calling to inquire about a check, which for freelancers is a literal lifeline.
When I left AVN in 2004, my talks with Mick went with me even as he continued to write columns for several more years. We had established a real friendship that remained strangely but also safely contained within our editor/freelancer relationship, and I imagined he had a thousand other people who he would regularly call, asking with that remarkable voice, "Hey, mate, do you have a minute?" But I will always cherish our long languid chats during those late afternoons, not least because Mick Farren was so easy to talk to and because he was so bloody authentic. Not one to suffer fools gladly, and always interested in a good rail against the dying of the light, the Mick Farren I knew was a lovely and literate man whose heart was always in the right place.