I wasn’t born until 1972, but I grew up experiencing the Sixties through the cultural wake it left behind. Scattered about my house were bell bottoms, classic rock albums, copies of Khalill Gibran’s The Prophet, my parents’ assorted long-haired friends, and a cool-looking scale on the top of the refrigerator that I wasn’t allowed to touch. It’s no wonder that I’ve always been fascinated by Woodstock, The Beatles, The Summer of Love, and all number of hippie-related culture. That’s why I was pretty excited last week to catalog the first three issues of The International Times — the underground newspaper at the center of the London scene.
IT was co-founded by John Hopkins, a noted photographer and activist of the time, and Barry Miles, owner of the influential Indica Bookshop and Gallery, and the man who introduced Paul McCartney to some very special brownies. The biweekly publication, which debuted in October of 1966, focused on politics, art, music, movies, and culture. The first three issues include articles by William Burroughs, Bertrand Russell, experimental composer Morton Feldman, and feature a story on rubber fetishism, by noted film critic Raymond Durgnat, entitled “Rubber with Violence.”
Of note in the first issue IT (which was partially funded by McCartney) is a story about an exhibition at the Indica Gallery by avant-garde artist, Yoko Ono. The show, her first in the U.K., featured paintings, photographs and audience participation. Among the attendees that first day was McCartney’s band mate, John Lennon, who was of course captivated by not only the art, but particularly the artist, marrying her less than three years later. On the result of that union, we will not dwell.
That first issue also contains an advert for an “All-Night Rave” launch party for IT at the Roundhouse. The party would go down as a major cultural event with nearly 2,500 people in attendance. It featured (and I’m not making this up) The Pink Floyd (as they were then called and with Syd Barrett) performing along to one of the earliest accompanying psychedelic light shows; viewings of experimental films, Scorpio Rising and William Burroughs’ Towers Open Fire; a contest for the “shortest and barest costumes” eventually won by Marianne Faithful dressed in a nun’s habit; and a car parked in the center of it all painted with “bright pop stripes and explosions.”
IT went on to do interviews with several of The Beatles, feature writings from Allan Ginsberg, Alexander Trocchi, influential DJ John Peel, and publish the infamous image of Frank Zappa in the bathroom taking care of business. Not surprisingly the IT offices were raided by the police the next year in an attempt to shut them down. The newspaper stopped publication in 1972 but was subsequently revived again and again over the next twenty years under various guises before finally ceasing publication in the early 1990. After its initial run the newspaper was never the same again, but during those first few years its influence on London culture sure was something to behold.