In 1967, a handful of hipsters made London the epicentre of cool. This weekend, the old family had a reunion. Lucy O'Brien reports
Last night, the ICA played host to the Recurring Technicolor Dream, a celebration of a golden moment of the Sixties. The "Technicolor Dream" free-speech benefit at Alexandra Palace in 1967 was a psychedelic freak- out of astonishing proportions featuring, among many other attractions, an enormous pile of bananas and bands with names like The Utterly Incredible Too Long Ago To Remember Sometimes Shouting At People. This weekend's event at the ICA, according to organiser Malcolm Boyle, aimed to "connect the Sixties underground with Nineties post-rave culture." So, in a year devoted to Swinging London and Sixties nostalgia, what was 1967 really like for those who experienced the underground epicentre? We asked those who were there to compare and contrast.


Former editor of the legendary IT (International Times) and original organiser of the Technicolor Dream.

"1967 was wonderful. What a young lad dreams of: permissive because of the Pill, and obviously you didn't have Aids then. Politically, there were a lot of American draft dodgers around, a diaspora of the wildest young people in the States, which had a big impact culturally.

"IT didn't kiss anybody's arse. There was a lot of international information flowing that didn't get in the regular papers, and a pent-up need for it that revealed itself in the success of IT and OZ.

"What was special then is much more widespread now. There is a conjunction between the first happenings and today's all-night dance scene, as well as the road and tree activists. It's as if we all recognise each other's thing."



Lead singer in John's Children, Marc Bolan's old band.

"Musically, people were- experimenting, to try to convey that transcendental feel. Even the Stones did it, shooting off at an angle that didn't suit them. Our song, "Smashed Blocked", with its spiralling sounds, was seen as the first psychedelic single. Now, a lot of Sixties psychedelia is there in Nineties style and people like David Bowie are into drum 'n' bass. I'm not sure Marc would do that if he were still alive. His was more a boogie-rock thing.

"A lot of people got rich and changed their attitudes. You can see that today in the way young people have become more money orientated. Bands in the Sixties were out there for the fun of it."


Author of Groupie, a provocative rock 'n' roll memoir.

"A lot of us felt it was Us and Them, like we were in an alternative family. In rock 'n' roll, everybody was available in those days. Getting backstage was a doddle. We were outspoken, upfront, we were responsible for the words spliff, speed, fuzz and 19 others that hadn't been in the OED before. I wrote it like I spoke it. Groupie was frank about sex - I'd describe someone's genitals if I thought they were interesting enough.

"It never occurred to us that it was the guys getting the benefit of the Pill. You weren't supposed to feel jealous, you had to go out and sleep with girls as well as bring one home for your bloke. For the many of us who had been brought up by repressed post-war families had to cope with that in our head. In terms of sex and drugs, we got rid of the guilt. Once we pushed at certain doors, the floodgates opened. I don't think the Sixties ever went away."


Author of Days In The Life, he is working on an account of the counterculture and the Sixties.

"One must not confuse Swinging London with the Underground. It's like the difference between the films Blow Up and Performance. The former was incredibly superficial, while the latter was the finest evocation of the Sixties. It had a druggy, weird atmosphere you could taste.

"What happened to it all? I remember going to a party in 1974, after the oil prices went up and derailed the European economies, and I thought, that's it. There was less money around. People got older, bored, straight and tired. But the Sixties were memorable as an incredibly adventurous playground."


Artist and founder of drug information and support service Release.

"I was at the Central School of Art. It was the beginning of Pop Art and I was excited by Bridget Riley paintings - the dramatic change in colour and perception. Pop art was all about looking at and admiring popular culture.

"In terms of sexual politics, although I was in the vanguard of change by starting up Release, I was also subject to the tedious outrage that was directed at that time against women being assertive in their careers. It was painful, we didn't have a language with which to argue for our position in the workplace. The Sixties were a period of male liberation, the double standards were vicious and acute."


Avant garde film-maker, his movies include Tonite Let's All Make Love in London and the Rolling Stones documentary, Charlie Is My Darling.

"Everyone felt we were making a breakthrough. There was exploration of sexual freedom and more drugs around essential to the development of consciousness. I was the first person running round with a portable camera making cinema verite movies. My films are documents of what was going on.

"What happened? The Sixties activated the right wing, politicians dug in and England was incredibly boring for 30 years. Now the seeds sown are quietly germinating in post-rave culture and the reassertion of absolute freedoms."


Opened the first wholefood shop in the UK, and set up the Whole Earth chain.

"I opened the only macrobiotic restaurant on the hippy scene and would give people like Marc Bolan free meals when they were penniless. At that time, the idea that diet affected your health was rejected by the status quo. There was nothing other than white bread, chips and spam.

"Now a greater awareness of nutrition has moved into the headset of the nation. And there was more of a monoculture, with everyone wearing grey suits and ties. Now the world isn't so alien. A lot of people are picking up on the groundwork that we laid."