Mick Farren’s collection about so much more than Elvis (but that’s the best part)
Collections of essays are my favorite thing to read after I’ve mixed a cocktail and sprawled out on the couch. You talk about music, and I’m absolutely rivetted. Mick Farren‘s collected writing, Elvis Died for Somebody’s Sins But Not Mine, out now via Headpress, works especially well, as he talks booze, in addition to music, politics, and assorted lyrics from his band, the Deviants.
The music writing is the big draw, here — his writing on the King, especially, given the title and all. You’ll read about somebody putting on one of Presley’s records at a make-out party and the response of all the girls just seals the deal. Farren has this way of expressing exactly why Elvis is more than just impersonators and Vegas and bad movies.
Farren’s writing style is best expressed a really lengthy analogy. Bear with me — it’ll make sense in a minute.
Farren is that friend any longtime bar patron has. He’s the guy who’s read a lot, can handle his booze, and has enough life experience to offer concrete examples to back up any opinions he might have. He’s witty, clever, and just wobbly enough after a few drinks to have lost any filter. He’s the best drink recipes, the strangest fiction, and can eludicate wonderfully on issues political.
One would think the political writing — going back decades as it does — would lose a lot in the intervening years, but strangely, all one discovers as they read through is that politics are the same, no matter the decade. People are scummy and weird and unpleasant no matter the era, sadly.
The fiction / poetry / lyrics do a fine job of providing an overview of all facets of Farren’s work. I have a few of Farren’s sci-fi paperbacks sitting on a shelf somewhere, and they’re just as strange as one would expect of a rabble-rouser who turned his hand to the more fanciful line of fiction. Still, the sections from his unpublished novels were more entertaining reads that the lyrics or poetry.
The Deviants lyrics tie in nicely to the essays which precede them, but the more free-flowing prose and poetry left me flipping past in search of something with a focus or narrative thread. Granted, that may be more a personal preference than any knock on Farren’s writing ability.
You’ll find yourself getting obsessed by the various essays in Elvis Died for Somebody’s Sins, to the point where you start placing limits on yourself: “Okay, to the end of this section, then I’m done. It’s getting late and I have work in the morning.” I can’t think of a higher compliment than that.