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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent cultural history...., 27 Aug. 2006
This review is from: In The Sixties (Paperback)
Having heard Barry Miles on the radio and read his biography of Paul McCartney (Miles has also written biographies of Frank Zappa, William S Burroughs, Richard Brautigan & Charles Bukowski amongst others) and seen this recommended in a book-chain in Cheltenham I knew I had to read this. I finally got round to reading it after reading Joe Boyd's similarly historically located memoir 'white bicycles - making music in the 1960's', which is of course fantastic, as is the tie-in compilation. Boyd and Miles were both there, so this beats the top-ten list style TV show memoir thang...

Miles' memoir works on several levels - the early sections set in Cheltenham, Stroud & other areas of the Cotswolds are a reminder of what this country was like pre-rock-& roll/sexual revolution. The way nostalgia shows work seem to suggest the country wasn't a throwback to the 19th century, which it was, and Miles beatnik-era is interesting as he comes across teddy boys, proto-hippies, boho-types and the like. The bohemian arcadia vibe here really needs to be mimicked more often, though Pete Doherty has tried. I loved details like South African fruit in a bus station, or the type of literature Miles was attracted to (those cheap Penguin classics), or a kind of loose commune existence - Miles' marriage here seems one of convienience, it gets overlooked later on. & a reference to a 'direct' phone line seems confounding to us techno-assisted souls in the present...

The book starts off as a loose memoir of various proto-hippy individuals, by the time the book gets to London, it becomes a who's who of the Swinging Sixties. Miles' co-founded the Indica bookshop, stocking key 60s texts that were hard to find/banned (there are references to several titles - Ballard's 'Why I Want to...Ronald Reagan', 'The Ticket that Exploded', 'Trout Fishing in America' etc) and crossing paths with key figures/icons of the era: Allen Ginsberg, Paul McCartney, Marianne Faithful, Jane Asher, the Pink Floyd/UFO Club, Frank Zappa, and a particularly hilarious encounter with Captain Beefheart. The sections that mention Syd Barrett have more resonance with his recent death - though his appearances here are in line with the up-beat utopian side, before things went wrong. Here he seems very much part of that revolutionary era when things were ch-ch-changin'. The book continues exploring memories of the art/literary scene, including an amusing reference to Yoko Ono's stinginess over paying for a babysitter, and Miles' experiences running the INTERNATIONAL TIMES, and the problems that went with it.

Where Boyd's book found the American coming to the UK and exploring the UK underground, 'In the Sixties' finds Miles eventually doing the reverse as he heads off to New York and America. Both books nod to two key songs you may wish to play as you read this, The Purple Gang's 'Granny Takes a Trip' (the lead singer apparently left to become a warlock!!!) and Tomorrow's 'My White Bicycle.' This is a much, much better book on the era than Dylan's 'Chronicles Vol 1', along with Boyd's book and Mick Farren's book a few years ago it is a definitive auto/biography and cultural history. One to read alongside those key 1960s texts - 'The Ticket that Exploded', 'A Confederate General in Big Sur', the poetry of Ginsberg, 'The Psychedelic Reader', the 'I Ching' , Philip K Dick, 'Tropic of Cancer' etc. The only mistake I found was a reference to Jefferson Airplane's 'Psychedelic Pillow'!! A key book on the era and one of the most enjoyable books I've read in recent years...
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