Prog rock superstars Pink Floyd and Soft Machine played an ‘All Night Rave’ at the Roundhouse in Camden on October 15 1966. The gig marked the launch of International Times – the first British underground newspaper. Created by Barry Miles and John ‘Hoppy’ Hopkins – both key counterculture figures in ‘Swinging London’ – the paper commissioned artists, designers and writers who used vibrant colours, counterculture ideas and championed emerging alternative music.
At its height in 1968, IT, which used a grainy monochrome image of the silent film star Theda Bara as its logo (by accident, they had meant to use Clara Bow), had a circulation of 40,000, commissioned columnists Germaine Greer, Jeff Nuttall and John Peel and received donations from Paul McCartney and Allen Ginsberg. It was shortly followed by titles Oz, Friends (later Frendz), Gandalf’s Garden, Black Dwarf and Ink.
Unruly and controversial, the titles celebrated the counterculture of the times and were continuously raided by police. In response to one raid, Black Dwarf published a floor-by-floor guide of Scotland Yard. As a collective they brought the psychedelic art scene to the attention of thousands and inspired major titles such as NME and Melody Maker.
Now, for the first time, the exhibition ‘The British Underground Press of the Sixties’ at A22 Gallery in Clerkenwell and a new book are bringing together the covers of every British underground paper launched in the 1960s. Marking the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love, the exhibits include iconic covers, comic books, original ads, graphics posters and flyers from the radical publications.
‘The British Underground Press of the Sixties’ is at A22 Gallery, 22 Laystall St, EC1R 4PA from Sep 28 to Nov 4. The book, edited by Barry Miles and James Birch, will be available from Oct 5 only at www.britishundergroundpress.com.
Images: Rocket 88 Books/British Underground Press