A 35-minute manifesto standing against the wide-eyed drift of the day
Sid Smith 2009-07-16
Think of England in 1967 and the chances are that images of people wearing flowers in their hair, Jimi Hendrix getting all experienced and the supporting cast on the cover of Sgt. Pepper's will psychedelically swirl into view.
But some railed against what they regarded as a media-spun exercise in perception management right off the bat. The Deviants, led by writer and cultural agent-provocateur, Mick Farren, not only saw dead-hand establishment as the enemy but flower power hippiedom as a dead end in itself.
They regarded both as equally dangerous to the counter-culture and to be avoided at all costs. Their debut album was initially self-produced, self-packaged and sold directly to punters as a means of bypassing 'The Man'. Ptooff! offered something that wasn’t easily incorporated into 1967's homogeneous hallucination.
Gathering up spiky rock 'n' roll remnants along with shards of The Fugs, mutated Bo Diddley riffs, comic book cosmology, avant-garde tape loops suffused with polemics and left-over beat poetry, The Deviants hurled it all at a scene increasingly dominated more by commercialism than karma.
A suite of songs intercut with agitprop poetry, cut-price sci-fi, subliminal skits, sketches and skronking guitar, Ptooff! is a 35-minute manifesto standing against the wide-eyed drift of the day.
To describe the album as rough and ready is something of an understatement. Though musical skills improved over two further albums, Disposable (1968) and Three (1969), perversely this diluted their 'blunt weapon' appeal. The incendiary aspects of what The Deviants were trying to do were never as fiery or as full-blooded as on this first record.
A huge influence on the Pink Fairies and Hawkwind, these guys were proto-punk when Johnny Rotten was just a spotty-faced twelve year old. You don't find Ptooff! mentioned in those '1001 platters to play before you pop your clogs' books, but it should be.