Sunday, October 16, 2016


'You Say You Want A Revolution?' is the book of the exhibition at the V&A, previously flagged up in an earlier post. This oversized extravagantly designed 320pp catalogue captures the spirit of the times with a cascade of stunning photos, graphics, posters, album covers. All that's lacking is a free giveaway tab of acid taped to the cover - but you can use your imagination.

Veterans of the period will have seen many of the classic images clustered here and the '60s have of course spawned a huge library of previous publications but, to their credit, the organisers have broadened the traditional focus and present much that has been rarely seen alongside the old chestnuts. The book, I would imagine, only contains a fraction of the material in the show as a whole. Have spent best part of two days at the kitchen table - the book being too unwieldy for my crowded desk - digesting and taking notes on the book's nine essays plus intro and epilogue, taking notes.

Here are the show's two curators Victoria Broakes and Geoffrey Marsh, fresh from their success with the Bowie show, now touring the world. 

Their Preface claims that the 1,826 days that make up the time period of the exhibition 'shook the foundations of post World War II society and undeniably changed the way we live today.'

The one million babies born in 1947 became teenagers in 1960; in 1967, one in three people in France were under 20. 

[A point I would make, which gives this period a fresher context, is that this period could be seen in retrospect as our Arab Spring. Discuss.]

They point out that 2016 is the 500th anniversary of Thomas More's 'Utopia'. References are made to William Blake and LSD and pride of place is given to the late Martin Sharp's wonderful 1968 Dylan poster 'Mister Tambourine Man'.

It's good to see the cover of the 1962 Port Huron Statement from the Students for a Democratic Society with the stirring quote: '...we seek the establishment of a democracy of individual participation governed  by two central aims: that the individual share in those social decisions determining the quality and direction of his life; that society be organised to encourage in dependence in men and provide the media for their common participation...' What about women you might well ask. The Port Huron Statement is famously referenced in 'The Big Lebowski' and there's a great post on Mental Floss about this.

[Left] Trocchi Photograph by Marvin Lichtner, 1967.

Interesting to see a copy of 'The Moving Times' [new to me] a broadsheet poster publication  
edited by Alexander Trocchi featuring text by William S. Burroughs and Kenneth White. The associate editor was Jeff Nutall, author of the seminal 'Bomb Culture'.

According to this source: "The Moving Times" served as number 1 of the Sigma Portfolio. Self-publishing was a key aspect of Project Sigma and the Sigma Portfolio texts produced by Trocchi were circulated on a subscription basis. Project Sigma, which was the focus of much of Trocchi’s work from 1962-1977, was an attempt by Trocchi to establish an international network of counter cultural activism largely focused socially based institutions perceived as limiting free expression such as the media, universities, and workplaces.'

 Doffing the cap to the curators for their no doubt strenuous efforts to make such a large scale exhibition happen (which by all accounts is wonderful and voluminous) their intro and contributions to the catalogue are the weakest part of the whole production. 

Section 1: You Say You've Got A Real Solution  is an essay entitled 'A Tale of Two Cities': London, San Francisco and the Transatlantic Bridge' by Geoffrey Marsh. This consists of 100 fictional diary entries written by two imaginary journalists. For many readers these are references to events that they will know little if anything about it. It's only when you get to the back of the book that the factual info is listed in detail. The section includes five double page spreads of album covers for each year, seemingly chosen at random, which become more disorganised as the spreads progress. They look colourful but lack meaning.
Jumping ahead, Section 6: You Say Yes is an essay entitled 'You Say You Want A Revolution - Looking at The Beatles' by Victoria Broakes. This is frankly awful and should have been written by Mark Lewisohn, given the centrality of The Beatles to this time period.

Moving swiftly on. Section 2: You Say You Want to Change the World. This essay is 'Revolution Now: The Traumas and Legacies of US Politics in the Late '60s' by Sean Wilentz, author of 'The Rise of American Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln' (2015) and 'Bob Dylan in America'.Now a professor at Princeton, Wilenz grew up in Greenwich Village and is the current historian-in-residence on Dylan's official website.

Source: No More Songs
This is an excellent march through the unfolding American revolution of the period. Great to see a photo and mention of Dylan's dark brother and rival Phil Ochs who, unlike Dylan, stayed political but drowned in his own depression, leading to him taking his own life in 1976. (Worth mentioning that one of the best pictures in the whole book is of Woody Guthrie in the 1940s, with his legendary 'This Machine Kills' guitar, looking like he's coming down from speed.
Above: The creator of the this 1960s magazine ad was
arrested by the FBI for "a crime of inciting with lewd
and indecent materials"
Below: Rare Edition of 'Earth Times' (May 1970),
a short-lived ecology magazine published by
Rolling Stone [The Generalist Archive]

We follow the student riots, the anti-Vietnam movement, the famous Civil Rights 'March Against Fear' in Mississippi at which Stokely Carmichael utters the phrase 'Black Power' that leads in 1966 to the formation of the Black Panther Party by Bobby Seale and Huey P. Newton.

On the 4th April that year Martin Luther King is assassinated and riots break out in cities across America, which Wilentz says is 'the biggest wave of violent unrest since the Civil War. On the 4th June Bobby Kennedy is assassinated. Then comes the brutality of the Democratic Convention in Chicago, the Exorcism of the Pentagon so brilliantly captured in Norman Mailer's 'The Armies of the Night' and the SDS split leading to homegrown terrorist attacks by the Weathermen.

Wilentz then documents the feminist reawakening, the birth of Gay Liberation following the Stonewall riots in New York in 1969 and the first organised national conservation movement in America's modern times leading to the the birth of Earth Day on 22nd April 1970.

The '60s movements linked the personal and the political but, says Wentz, it's too early to say who won or lost. These revolutions continue. In Lincoln's time,  America was 'a house divided against itself'. Wentz concludes:  'So it may prove that the revolutionary '60s produced in America another house divided, one whose fate - as one thing or another - has yet to be decided 50 years later, but that sooner rather than later will face a reckoning.'

For those interested, Wentz recommends three indispensable books: 'A Tale of Two Utopias: The Political Journey of the Generation of 1968' by Paul Berman (1997). 'The Sixties:Years Of Hope Days Of Rage ' by Todd Gitlin (1987) and 'America Divided: The Civil War of the 1960s'                                                                                           by Maurice Issermnan and Michael Kazin (2000)


Section 3: You Say You Want to Change Your Head features 'The Counter-Culture' by Barry Miles, a personal friend and one of the most prolific authors on both the Beat and the Hippy Movements. Miles was in the thick of things with the Indica Bookshop and the early days of International Times, (IT)  the UFO club/Roundhouse etc. For my money his book 'In The Sixties' is a great atmospheric read.

Miles takes as his starting point the birth of CND and the annual Aldermaston marches (1959-1963), the rise of recreational drugs, the Underground, the Movement, the New Left and flips to the US where the counter-culture is a very broad church dominated by many strident males - the feminist movement emerged for good reason.

Miles locates the  true birth of the British counter-culture as being the International Poetry Incarnation at the Albert Hall on 11th June 1965 and the birth of the undeground press to the LA Free Press in 1964 which led to some 100 other papers emerging in the following decade. In the UK, IT was followed by OZ, Friends/Frendz, Ink and more than 100 local and regional papers in the UK.

Miles is right to highlight the fact that the counter-culture transformed graphic design (using analog technology I might add in those B.C. (before computers) world). Music was a transformative force and the Festivals pivotal events. He pays tribute to John 'Hoppy' Hopkins (whose great photos appear on several spreads in this book. See Previous Post on Hoppy's own photo book here) and Mick Farren but saves his biggest praise for Caroline Coon and Rufus Harris of Release, which helped busted freaks from the Beatles on down.

We romp through May'68 Paris, the San Fransisco Diggers, the Yippies and the deaths at Kent State. He concludes: The counter-culture brought a healthy distrust of the Establishment that continues to this day.' He sees the legacy of the underground press in

Section 4: You Say You're Experienced is a knowing and knowledgeable essay by Jon Savage entitled 'All Together Now' that focuses in on the effects of LSD. which the UK governments secret establishment at Porton Down had been experimenting with since 1953. 

Fresh from the production of his last major work - a hefty and detailed examination of the year 1966 [See Generalist review] he writes: 'By the end of 1966, the smart end of pop was defined by the use of LSD'.

Jon highlights the Stones' bust at Keith Richards' house Redlands in Feb 1967 and, a few months later, McCartney admitting on tv that he had taken LSD. A few days after that, The Beatles play 'All You Need Is Love' (25th June) on the first global tv broadcast. Albums sold more than singles for the first time that year and August saw the closing down of pirate radio.

LSD not only changed the music it helped form the idea of alternative culture, communities and communes. Jon describes the Notting Hill Gate and North Kensington area as the epicentre of counter-culture. He highlights the mass squat at 144 Piccadilly in London and the August 1970 Isle of Wight Festival at which 600,000 people gathered and the fences came down, making it free. [I was there, were you?]. For my money, Jon's take on that period is the best in the book, hence the larger type:

'...many late '60s ideas seem not time-locked or nostalgic, but still latent and powerful, waiting to be activated by a new generation'

 1966 poster by Garry Grimshaw

Section 5: You Say Everything Sounds The Same focuses on 'The Fillmore, The Grande and the Sunset Strip: The Evolution of a Musical Revolution' in an essay by Howard Kramer, former curatorial director at the Rock n Roll Hall of fame. 

It's a straight ahead account of what went down. As he makes clear these may be the highest profile 'scenes' of the time but right across America the musical revolution made itself 'manifest in a cellular organic manner'.  

There's some great posters here and good to see photo of the Family Dog crew and Bill Graham, who ran the Fillmore West and East with an astute belligerence. Personally I love the Detroit scene with the MC5 and Iggy - still amongst the greatest bands I've ever seen. 

Kramer concludes: 'The power and identity of youth is defined more by its music than by any other single characteristic.'                      

Section 7: You Say You Want Shorter Skirts features 'British Fashion 1966-70: A State of Anarchy' by Jenny Lister, curator of Fashion and Textiles at the V&A. This is not my bag to critique or illuminate in detail but the whole section seems a bit flat, a bit straight. The key quote for the piece comes from a piece in Nova (Sept 1968) entitled 'Fashion Is Dead, Long Live Clothes' by Brigid Keenan. It reads: 'There is a state of anarchy in fashion - a 'why not?' that has toppled all the unwritten rules that used to inhibit the choice of clothes....The questioning and rejecting is going on in more significant areas than fashion, but it is in dress that it shows most.' Jenny Lister concludes that there is 'less potential than 50 years ago to shock with clothes....Paradoxically, now that fashion is more available, it is less meaningful.' [For my money, the best source book is Paul Gorman's 'The Look: Adventures in Rock & Pop Fashion' (2006)
[Right: Detail from a beautiful  landscape poster from Biba in THE GENERALIST ARCHIVE. It's inscribed on the back: 'In memory of an era. Shoplifted from Biba. August 1975. JC]

Section 8: You Say You Want It Cheaper  contains what is for me the most interesting essay in the book - 'The Chrome-Plated Marshmallow: The 1960s Consumer Revolution and Its Discontents' by Alison J. Clarke, a professor of design history and theory. This seismic shift in the world of 'things' is an equally significant aspect of the late 60s/early 70s and a topic that broadens our understanding of the period. Things we no longer just utilitarian and traditional. A new fast-moving fashion conscious culture embraced the ephemeral and the new. As Clarke points out, in Europe there was 'growing disquiet over the vulgarising effect of an imported Americanised version of consumer capitalism.'

In the 1950s, an interesting exception to this was the views of The Independent Group, a network of artists, designers and architects 'who famously embraced the blossoming of consumer culture and invented the concept of 'pop'.

Clarke references Kubrick's 'Clockwork Orange' in which' 1960s modern art and design operate as signifiers of amoral dysfunction rather than social progressiveness'. In 1968, Jean Baudrillard's 'The System of Objects' talks of the 'dislocated relationship between people and things in the new information-led technological society.'

The roots of CAT lie with the alternative
technology magazine 'Undercurrents' from
which this book-length catalogue was born
in 1976 (Wildwood House)
[The Generalist Archive]
By the end of the 60s, the frothy novelty of consumerism was thrown into sharp relief by Vietnam, riots, assassinations and, writes Clarke, 'the lone voices and marginal groupings of dissent had concretised as a distinct critical body, a popular environmental and ecological movement spawning diverse counter-cultural responses, from the publication of the Whole Earth Catalog in the United States to the establishment of the Centre for Alternative Technology in Britain.' [It's great to see CAT recognised in this manner. Well overdue.]

The focus then shifts to the simultaneous revolutions not only in material culture but also in information culture which, in 1964, Marshall McLuhan characterised as a world 'not of wheels but of circuits, not of fragments but of integral patterns'. Clarke describes a 'confluence of counter-culture initiatives and emerging cybernetic technologies that would arise as a mode of 'digital utopianism...'

'The late 60s and early 70s boom in experiential design and media - with an emphasis on the individual psyche, alternative environmental politics and cyber-networked culture - generated the 'outside the box' creative entrepeneurialism defining present-day Silicon Valley culture.'

The essay then moves on to the writings of Vance Packard. His 'The Hidden Persuaders' was a critique of the advertising industry which was followed by 'The Waste Makers', an attack on the concepts of 'planned obsolescence' and disposable design; consumerism as indicative of a growing alienation within modern life.
'In one of the most prescient passages of 'The Waste Makers', Packard envisages a design culture driven by product designers reinvented as futurologists. The city of tomorrow, dubbed 'Cornucopia City' will ban the repair of any appliance over two years old; its supermarts feature conveniently located receptacles 'where the people can dispose of the old-fashioned products they bought on a previous shopping trip.' Over the next decade, Packard predicts, consumers will be encouraged to 'tingle at the possibility of using voice writers, wall-sized television screens and motorcars that glide along highways under remote control.'
Alison Clarke then moves on to the influential ideas of Victor Papanek who produced a radical critique of consumerism in 'Design for the Real World'. [Clarke is Director of The Papanek Foundation at the University of Applied Arts, Vienna.]  His design ethic was for the greatest number, appealing to social conscience rather than profit. He joined forces with Finnish activists to launch a socially responsible design movement.

It's interesting to see the occupation by protesters at the Milan Triennial, one of the design world most prestigious event, in May 1968. The Situationists were also active with Raoul Vaneigen's 'The Revolution of Everyday Life' (1967) which posited that we are seeing the death of the working class and the rise of the consumer whose only power resides in the act of shopping.

In the US the prestigious 1970 International Design Conference in Aspen, Colorado was also disrupted by what
was called the French Group and a US environmental design group called Ant Farm. The following year the event was handed over to the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) who were radical ultra-progressives. They believed in the social and transformative possibilities of design, interdisciplinary thinking and utopian culture. Tom Wolfe attended that conference

Clarke's long and detailed essay deserves further study. She concludes: that Packard's designer/futurologist prediction 'chimes so poignantly with the anxieties of twenty-first culture. As technologies emerge ever more clearly as extensions of ourselves, our futures precariously intertwined, these designer-futurologist hybrids wield a magnitude of power that would have made 1960s anti-consumerists quake.'

Section 9: You Say You Understand Whole Systems?  consist of an essay entitled 'Computers & America's New Communalism 1965-1973' by Fred Turner, Professor of Communications at Stanford and the author of 'From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, The Whole Earth Network and the Rise of Digital Utopianism.'

THE GENERALIST has two Previous posts on Brand, One is the  interview I did with him in London for a piece in the Sunday Times  in December 1980.  The other is called  Stewart Brand: Reinventing Environmental Thinking, which includes details on Turner's book, the blurb of which reads as follows: 
  '...the previous untold story of a highly influential group of San Francisco Bay entrepeneurs...Between 1968 and 1998, via such familiar venues as the Whole Earth Catalog, the computer-conferencing system WELL, and, ultimately, Wired magazine, Brand and his colleagues brokered a long-running collaboration between San Francisco flower power and the emerging technological hub of Silicon Valley. Thanks to their vision, counterculturalists and technologists alike joined together to reimagine computers as tools for personal liberation, the building of a virtual and decidedly alternative communities, and the exploration of bold new social frontiers. Turner's fascinating book reminds us that the distance between the Grateful Dead and Google, between Ken Kesey and the computer itself, is not as great as we might think.'
A.D. [Architectural Design] was essential reading in the late 60s/early 70s.
Actually got to see Bucky Fuller lecturing at the American Embassy in London thanks to Colin Moorcraft,
another unsung pioneer, who produced a series of  British Whole Earth supplements for Friends magazine
[The Generalist Archive]

Original battered copy of 'Drop City' by Peter
Rabbi (Olympia Press. 1971).
Below; Original 1969 Anchor paperback
[The Generalist Archive.]
Turner essay begins with an account of the infamous Drop City commune, who lived in fairly ranshackle geodesics. He claims that in the early 70s, there were three quarters of a million people in the US living in some 10,000 communes. 

He compares the view of the New Communalists and the New Left, quotes material on Theodore Roszak's book 'The Making of The Counter Culture' [See Previous Post on Roszak here), mentions 'The Greening of America' by Charles Reich and talks about the influence of R. Buckminster Fuller and Norbert Wiener on the thinking behind the 'Whole Earth Catalog'. 

The article is accompanied by a big picture of Doug Engelbart, inventor of the Mouse and pioneer of personal computing. 
[For more on Engelbart and the role of LSD in the early history of computing see my post on 'What the Dormouse Said: How the 60s Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer Industry ‘, a remarkable book by the New York Times science writer John Markoff  which not mentioned by Turner]

He concludes that 'the deepest irony behind the lingering influence of the 1960s communes and their view of technology' is that 'the dream of using information technologies to create a global community of consciousness is in fact being realised - but by the very military-industrial complex so many young Americans once hoped to undermine,'

Finally Michael Sandell's Epilogue 'Where We Go From Here' doesn't actually go anywhere. He just says: 'We live in a time when almost everything can be bought and sold....Today the logic of buying and selling no longer applies to material goods alone but increasingly governs the whole of life. It is time to ask whether we want to live this way.'
I think we knew the answer to that a  long time ago.

The book closes with one final piece: An extraordinary diagrammatic map of Networks of Resistance: A snapshot of  the rapidly evolving groups of Rebels and Revolutionaries in the United States 1966-1070. A great work of scholarship by Elisa Bailey and great design by Yat-Hong Chow.

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