Serpent's Tail, £14.99 Order for £13.49 (free p&p) from the Independent Bookshop: 08430 600 030
In the Seventies: Adventures in the Counterculture, By Barry Miles
Tuesday 11 October 2011
Ten years have passed since Barry Miles took us back to the 1960s, and that moment, somewhere around the Beatles' first LP, when the dull grey Fifties gave way to an era of Technicolor. In the Sixties ended with Miles "tired, stressed", his groundbreaking Indica Bookshop insolvent, despite the efforts of Paul McCartney, and International Times falling apart. He happily accepted an invitation from Allen Ginsberg to join Cherry Valley, his hippy commune in upstate New York.
Since then there have been books on Frank Zappa and a countercultural history of London, adding to a backlist that includes Burroughs and the Beatles. Miles was an assiduous note-maker and each of his books could be said to employ a version of his friend Burroughs's "cut-up" technique. This volume opens in New York in March 1970, as the explosive activities of the Weathermen brought home "the grim reality" of Nixon's America.
Cherry Valley was a haven of sorts, but electricity was in short supply, which made Miles's task of cataloguing Ginsberg's poetry recordings a challenge. He decided the job was better done from Manhattan, where he decamped to the Chelsea Hotel before heading to San Francisco and Berkeley.
There, "it was as if the Sixties revolution had actually happened!" Staying at Lawrence Ferlinghetti's Big Sur cabin, he was taken to the Esalen Institute but declined to get in the hot tubs after Ferlinghetti told how "Jack freaked out at seeing sperm floating on the water". Back in London, he recalls having no time to brush his teeth between an all-nighter and a morning interview with the Clash.
Such detail is revealing, but much is not. Rather too many "minor characters" wander through the pages of a memoir that ends with Miles writing for the NME, editing Time Out and, finally, working for Music Sales. By then, rock had been commodified: market-place capitalism in its purest form. "I found it hard to imagine a viable musical or social revolution coming from a Chelsea dress shop," Miles writes of Malcolm McLaren's Sex Pistols. What a long, strange trip it must have been.
filmIn Black Seahe is as audiences have never seen him before
MusicThe band accidentally called Londoners the C-word
Film 'I've never been comfortable on-screen', she says
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Exodus Gods and Kings casting controversy: Ridley Scott would never cast 'Mohammad so-and-so from such-and-such' in lead role
- 2 This letter from a reader explains why women can’t play football
- 3 'You should come to my house and eat cheeses with me': 4-year-old sends adorable love letter to girl at school
- 4 Scientists predict green energy revolution after incredible new graphene discoveries
- 5 Michael Buerk wishes he killed Jimmy Savile when he had the chance - by pushing him overboard a cruise ship
I'm A Celebrity 2014: Jungle security stepped up after murder and 'suspicious death' close to camp
Jennifer Lawrence scores first UK top 40 single with Hunger Games track 'The Hanging Tree'
Exodus Gods and Kings casting controversy: Ridley Scott would never cast 'Mohammad so-and-so from such-and-such' in lead role
Marilyn Manson denies involvement in shocking Lana Del Rey rape video
The Fall, series 2, episode 3 – TV review: The Gillian Anderson drama is starting to push the realms of plausibility, but who cares?
Ukip says babies born to immigrants in the UK should be classed as migrants – which would include Nigel Farage’s own children
Obama: The only people with the right to object to immigration are Native Americans
The young are the new poor: Sharp increase in number of under-25s living in poverty, while over-65s are better off than ever
Tamir Rice: 12-year-old boy playing with fake gun dies after being shot by Ohio police
Ukip mocked after mistaking Westminster Cathedral – for a mosque
Sarah Vine criticises lesbian mother Jack Monroe: 'If she was unsure about her sexuality, she should have taken greater precautions'