Whatever the hedonist politics, the results always merrily exceed the predicted...
Chris Jones 2002
If you take a stroll down London's Portobello Road today you'll see a bustling antique market, teeming tourists and leafy streets of Victorian grandeur. It's amazing to think that 30 years ago this was agit-prop central, riddled with squats, acid casualties and biker gangs. It was the Pink Fairies' stomping ground, along with their brothers in freakdom; Hawkwind and The Edgar Broughton Band. If you fancied a bit of hairy subversion in those days, the Fairies were your house band.
Their convoluted origins lay in the Pretty Things and journalist Mick Farren's Social Deviants. Farren bestowed on them their name (it was the title given to his 'drinking' club at the infamous Speakeasy) and indeed, it was his anarchist leanings - very much at odds with the peace 'n' love crowd - that gave the Fairies their beginnings. Farren's inspiration was New York's Fugs. But strangely, for a band who spent six months in San Francisco's communes, it was the White Panther rantings of John Sinclair and Detroit's MC5 that fuelled their muse. Farren was ditched, but the era of the free festival was blooming. With a contract from Polydor, the Fairies began to shake the walls of the establishment - or so they thought.
Whatever the hedonist politics, the results always merrily exceed the predicted outcome. These three albums are just good old-fashioned FUN. However the band always came across more as interplanetary renegades than as anarcho-radicals. Whereas their American cousins had a draft to fight and a genuinely brutal militia to contend with, the Fairies were fighting to play loud and smoke a few joints. The lyrics, it has to be said, never rise above in-jokes and cosmic vagaries - this was anarchy with a small 'a'. But, like Hawkwind, sonic parameters could still be pushed. The first album, Neverneverland still stands as their most focussed achievement, containing their calling card, "Do It" as its first track and a couple of genuinely 'out there' moments on ''Heavenly Man'' and the extended jam, ''Uncle Harry's Last Freakout''.
By album number 2, What A Bunch Of Sweeties, the legendarily maverick drummer Twink had gone and the band responded by injecting more humour (courtesy of cartoonist Gilbert Shelton with ''Pigs Of Uranus'') and tightening up with a more direct rock 'n' roll attack. Their very individual take on "Walk Don't Run" is equal parts joyful nonsense and dumb thrash.By number 3, Kings Of Oblivion, guitarist Paul Rudolph had left in protest at Russell Hunter and Duncan Sanderson's excessive LSD consumption (though how he thought replacing Lemmy in Hawkwind was going to be any better stretches the imagination). In came hard-rocking Larry Wallis (later of the first incarnation of Motorhead, who based their entire first album on the Fairies' template) on 'big guitar' and the outlaw biker credibility went up a further few notches.
It couldn't last, of course. Such a communal, and by today's standards, shambolic lifestyle couldn't support a musical career long into the decade, but these albums provide a vital snapshot of the Ladbroke Grove scene that had echoes in Punk and even Heavy metal. To listen is to realise that the ethos of enthusiasm over ability could always lead to very special music indeed. Up the Pinks!