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London Calling: A Countercultural History of London Since 1945 Paperback – 1 Feb 2011

4.5 out of 5 stars 13 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Books; Main edition (1 Feb. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1843546140
  • ISBN-13: 978-1843546146
  • Product Dimensions: 3.2 x 12.7 x 19 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 304,998 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

"'Miles gets closer than anyone to unravelling the enigma of Zappa.' Daily Telegraph 'Excellent and authoritative.' Daily Mail 'Perfect.' Arena" --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From the Publisher

A major and definitive history of countercultural London by our pre-eminent chronicler of the cultural underground.

'Passionate, unashamedly personal, frequently ludicrous, often unbelievable, always fascinating... A rollicking good read.' Time Out

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
A rehash of all the other soho books, for this one is largely centred, for the first few chapters on soho, and the circle of painters and bohemians which were attract to it.
The main problem is the title; misleading to say the least, how can you claim to write a book about 'counterculture' in London and hardly mention The Little Theatre Club, Ronnie Scott's Old Place, the improvised music scene which flourished in the 60s in London. In his introduction Miles uses the disclaimer that he never really was interested in that scene; if so then use a different title for a book. There is little here that readers of Dan Farson, Deakin, Jeff Bernard etc will find new, not enough else to attract others. Nothing either on an artist like Lynton Kwesi Johnson... No mention of Julie Driscoll, nor Mike Garrick, central to the jazz poetry movement. The sixties is covered in a very anecdotal style and dwells too long on the indulgences of Jagger, McCartney et al, without analysing what the 'counterculture' signified in any depth. I would suggest that Barry Miles retitle his book 'My experience of London's Artistic Bohemia' which would at least have the merit of being clear.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a very good book that tracks the emergence of counter culture in the UK, from the end of WW2 through the 50's and 60's and on, the struggles of the creative and imaginative against the stifling forces of a country dominated by stiff upper lip conservatism, censorship and draconian controls. We all live in a world with vastly more freedom and rights as a result of these struggles, the likes of which may seem to many insignificant these days. The true and often highly amusing tales of this struggle for human evolution make for great reading, often hilariously enetertaining. Barry Miles was there for much of this and deeply involved, thus here is also a significant personal perspective.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
A fascinating look into the underside of London's history. Inevitably this is a partial account, focusing as it does on the author's own connections and experiences. Nevertheless, I found it intriguing to see the strands of connection in the history of dissent and the cultural underground from the mid 20th century onwards.
I've knocked off one star, simply because good though this book is, it does rather ignore some of the counter-cultural influences and connections that extend outside the charmed bubble of London. Also there were some surprising omissions from the accounts of the Ladbroke Grove, squatting and free festival scene of the late 60s and early 70s - how can you have an account of London's counter-culture without mentioning bands such as Hawkwind?
That having been said it is a good and entertaining read, and had me listening to all my old punk records.
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Format: Paperback
Barry Miles has written a fascinating and exhaustive history of London's counterculture since the Second World War.
Among the wide range of topics and bohemian characters discussed in these 31 entertaining chapters are Teddy Boys, Angry Young Men, The Colony Room(presided over by the formidable hostess Muriel Belcher), Francis Bacon, The 1965 Albert Hall Reading, Indica Books and Gallery, David Archer's Bookshop in Greek Street, J.G.Ballard, Ralph Rumney(co-founder of the Situationist International), International Times, The OZ Trial, George Melly, Leigh Bowery & Minty, The Arts Lab & The Sex Pistols.
Miles was at the epicentre of Alternative London for several decades and his 'London Calling' paints a vivid portrait of those heady and extraordinarily creative times.
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Format: Hardcover
What a great book! Being an avid Londoner I love learning about this great city and this book does not disappoint. It tells a new story in a very readable way and made me nostalgic for the London that inspired people to take action for the things they believed in. I highly recommend this book and I'm going to look up Barry Miles' other books and check them out too!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a great subject to write about and I'd love to see it done by someone whose writing would do it justice. This book is, disappointingly, plodding rather than thrilling, and marred in parts by the author going off on side rants. For example, I don't think he likes the BBC much, as he wastes no opportunities to castigate it for being dreary, late and for not keeping old footage of early pop programmes - all valid criticisms, but the rants sit oddly in what is otherwise a fairly pedestrian trudge through the history of London's counterculture.

The book lacks pace, the narrative drags in places and characters fail to come alive. What should be the author's unique advantage - that he was there, right in the heart of it, in the early 60s - becomes an irritation as he throws in asides such as the never-returned loan of a tie to a poet that simply get in the way and further slow an already less than snappy narrative. The surely amazingly colourful characters, from George Melly to William Burroughs among many others, are two-dimensional; their presence never excites.

The book is a missed opportunity; a disappointment.
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Format: Hardcover
Many have attempted to describe the ever-changing world of bohemian London -largely as asides in their autobiographies - but this book stands head and shoulders above the rest. Diligently researched, eminently readable and with an absence of the dreary cul-de-sacs of many authors` preoccupations.

If you were a teenage NME reader,art school revolutionary, Ladbroke Grove hippy or just someone who loves London and the huge contribution it`s made to the richness of our culture, this is for you. Highly recommended.
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