Author: Barry Miles
Publisher: Rocket 88
Price: £35 or £60 (but see below)
In The Sixties, strictly speaking, is not new but it was out of print. This latest edition has been heavily updated from its initial publication, though. Packed with 250 fascinating illustrations, Miles has also added 3,000 extra words to hit a page count of 384.
Where to start with this man? This is a story of British counterculture with various peeks into American counterculture during the sixties.
It covers art, literature, poetry, music, events and a cast of some of the most talented and strangest people you could hope to meet.
Miles was a friend of poet, Allen Ginsberg, cut-up artist William Burroughs, he co-founded the Indica bookshop, published and wrote for the International Times underground newspaper, was a friend of Paul McCartney, mixed with The other Beatles as well as Pink Floyd, hung out with Frank Zappa, the Rolling Stones and Marianne Faithfull, ran The Beatles’ Zapple record label, interviewed and recorded cult figures like Charles Bukowski, was involved in the creation of the UFO club, the 14-Hour Technicolor Dream ‘happening’ and even lived in America’s infamous Chelsea Hotel for a spell and bumped heads with a host of characters.
Frankly, if ever there was a notable person or event during the height of the underground scene, chances were that Miles was either behind it, involved in it or was there to note it.
And if he wasn’t involved then it probably wasn’t worth talking about.
His knowledge is simply staggering. His experiences are incredible. Which makes this book, frankly, essential reading if you have an interest in the period or any of the people found within.
Also enlightening was the tussle between Miles, his friends/colleagues and, to give them a broad name tag, authority. His tales of opposition, from the level of Lord down to on-the-street Bobbies are something to behold. As are revelations of corruption from the same, a sad reminder of the standards of law and order of the period.Stories abound within In The Sixties. I never realised how, well, naughty Paul McCartney could be until I read the tale of his going back stage at a Cliff Richard concert, like some mischievous, grinning puppy, to meet Cliff. From this story, there’s an intriguing little insight into singer/band relations from Hank Marvin and the boys too. The meeting took place after all of The Beatles had earlier, publicly stated, in print how, “…they hated Cliff and everything he stood for…” You can imagine the atmosphere.
Miles’ notes on Brian Jones are also direct and to the point, “He could be very amusing, friendly and interested. Other times he could pass you in the street and cut you dead. He was narcissistic, aloof and, I thought, vulnerable. He came from a loveless bourgeois family and was, at heart, a hard man and ruthless. He would have made a good criminal.”
If you want to know about the British (and American to some extent) underground then I can think of no better guide than Miles. Supremely connected, his insight is valuable and his ability to place the events into context and fix them into the larger picture helps to bring understanding and comprehension to a time that can and was immensely confusing and convoluted. Not any more.
In The Sixties can be bought as a basic Classic Edition for £17.50 (down from £30 – I’m not sure how long that price will remain). A more elaborate, Signature Edition (£30) has been signed, arrives in a folio case and includes a CD, attached to the inner from cover/board. These are sound recordings of interviews conducted by Miles with Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Pete Townshend in 1967, with Mick Jagger in 1968 and John Lennon in 1969—which was never published. In all this totals approximately five hours of interviews on a data CD.
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