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UK Underground --- Books, Films, Records

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  • UK Underground --- Books, Films, Records

    I'm chiefly looking for book recommendations here, but I suppose there might be suitable records and films too.

    I'm after stuff about the UK or parts of the UK that discuss its pleasure-seeking cultures, especially its musical, politically febrile, seedy, semi-criminal and drink-sodden elements. What might once have been called the underground, and was framed as the 'counter-culture' in the sixties.

    Any time period is of interest. The more contemporary the better!

    To give you an idea I've recently bought Bomb Culture by Jeff Nuttall, Sum Total by Ray Gosling, Yes We Have No by Nik Cohn and Playpower by Richard Neville.

    Thanks!
    Spirit Duplicator—collectable, charming, affordable... and also socially networked on FB / Twitter / Instagram.

  • #2
    Days of Our Lives by Jonathan Green is brilliant, an oral history of the era.

    For the early part of it, pre counter culture, Pete Frame's The Restless Generation is absolutely essential.

    There's loads of firsthand account books, but I've found most of them to be a bit shit, really.

    There's a really good biography called Groovy Bob worth tracking down, though, can't remember the author's name.
    http://www.djhistory.com

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    • #3
      Groovy Bob is about Robert Fraser (flaky art dealer who was jailed alongside Jagger and Richard), and is by Harriet Viner. I thoroughly agree about the brilliance of the Jonathon Green book, but it's called Days In The Life. I found Playpower muddled and incomprehensible, but Neville's autobiography Hippie Hippie Shake is fairly interesting. Easily the best way to immerse yourself in 60s London counter-culture, though, is to wallow here:

      http://www.internationaltimes.it/index.php
      Must grade overall visually at least as Good minus!!! (graded STRICTLY to the UK RRPG standards, not overgraded AT ALL!!!)

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      • #4
        Wayne Anthony's 'Class of '88' is fascinating on the early days of acid house culture, pre-crackdown.

        Mick Farren's 'Give the anarchist a cigarette' and Barry Miles' 'In the 60s' are both great, and cover a lot of the same events (UK counterculture of the latter part of the 60's) from different viewpoints.
        We know when a mate buys it for you too.

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        • #5
          I read Bomb Culture years ago and it drove me up the wall - all that "In 1944 such a poem would have been unthinkable; 20 years after Hiroshima it was inevitable" stuff. Still, very interesting once you get over the visionary guff.

          Ambit magazine is one of the best documents of the British avant garde and it's inevitable links with the counter-culture over the last 50 years. I'd love to see some anthologies of the early ones issued (like Viz Comic do).

          Talking of which... "seedy, semi-criminal and drink-sodden elements" - Sid the sexist, Big Vern, Cockney Wanker, the Brown Bottle, Drunken Bakers etc etc etc, as well as avant garde strips such as Tarzan In My Pubes and Mickey's Monkey Spunk Moped
          Vardy.....¡¡¡PELIGRO!!!

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          • #6
            Originally posted by ladyboygrimsby View Post
            For the early part of it, pre counter culture, Pete Frame's The Restless Generation is absolutely essential.
            This is a monster of a book. Does a fantastic job at joining the dots from the post war era thru skiffle to the the gensis of rock'n'roll...

            @glengowla - "Hippie Hippie Shake" - it's kind of a who were my friends and look how great they were in retrospect - does highlight they were rather naive in there motivation and the unexepcted results they happened upon... Still well worth a read


            Not bad are:

            60/70s
            White Bicycles - Joe Boyd
            Black Vinyl, White Powder - Simon Napier-Bell

            - neither have a social context really

            70/80/90s
            The Day the Country Died: A History of Anarcho Punk 1980 to 1984 by Ian Glasper
            Burning Britain: The History of UK Punk 1980-1984 by Ian Glasper
            The North Will Rise Again: Manchester Music City 1976-1996 by John Robb
            Manchester, England by Dave Haslam

            Often the problem (in my humble opinion) is the writer was a scenester (musician, producer, journalist) and has a kind of inside view of things as opposed to a "man/woman" on the street view... the Pete Frame book manages to be the man on the street view with a healthy amount quotes/views from the insiders...
            "It's all just one big plastic hassle..." - Psych-Out

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            • #7
              Great, thanks for these.

              Just gone shopping and bought a fair few of these - all fairly cheap aside for Wayne Anthony's Class of 88, which I'll have to scour charities for.

              Good shout on Viz, I treasure my Why-Eye Spy 'Friday Night Out' book that came free with it a while back.

              Incidentally read a great Graham Greene quote on seediness recently in another book (poss. Retromania?)

              It seems to satisfy, temporarily, the sense of nostalgia for something lost; it seems to represent a stage further back.'
              Any other recommendations very welcome... from the muck of pleasure-seeking into the underground... into used copies of memoirs on Amazon...
              Spirit Duplicator—collectable, charming, affordable... and also socially networked on FB / Twitter / Instagram.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by eine View Post
                Incidentally read a great Graham Greene quote on seediness recently in another book (poss. Retromania?)

                Any other recommendations very welcome... from the muck of pleasure-seeking into the underground... into used copies of memoirs on Amazon...
                We use that quote on the Mounds and Circles blog - but we nicked it from a Simon Reynolds article in 'The Wire'.

                Got several great vintage books on, well, not the underground so much as the underbelly. Len Deighton's London Dossier has good chapters on slang and sex, Unexpurgated London has just about every taboo, Turn Me On, Man is a brilliant and incredibly seamy account of the drugs scene. Worth adding to the list.
                SPIRIT DUPLICATOR Est 2015.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by MPFlapp View Post

                  70/80/90s
                  The Day the Country Died: A History of Anarcho Punk 1980 to 1984 by Ian Glasper
                  Burning Britain: The History of UK Punk 1980-1984 by Ian Glasper
                  The North Will Rise Again: Manchester Music City 1976-1996 by John Robb
                  Manchester, England by Dave Haslam

                  Often the problem (in my humble opinion) is the writer was a scenester (musician, producer, journalist) and has a kind of inside view of things as opposed to a "man/woman" on the street view... the Pete Frame book manages to be the man on the street view with a healthy amount quotes/views from the insiders...
                  To add to this list the obvious but classic "England's Dreaming" by Jon Savage.

                  Thanks to all this who are coming up with suggestions on this topic, I was in dire need of new reading material particularly pre-punk so I can now go mad on Amazon (marketplace).

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by korova View Post
                    To add to this list the obvious but classic "England's Dreaming" by Jon Savage.
                    Agreed it's a winner... couldn't remember that title for the life of me this afternoon

                    "Story of Crass" by George Berger is not bad either...

                    From a fiction point of view "Human Punk" by John King has a fans view of things... events, life journey and personal development with respect to the social period... kind pairs a little or maybe dove-trails as a complement with "Rude Boy" the Clash film...

                    Edit: "Industrial Evolution: Through the 80s with Cabaret Voltaire" by Michael Fish (not the weather bloke) - not bad either...
                    Last edited by MPFlapp; 21-09-2011, 08:49 PM. Reason: Forgot the Fish
                    "It's all just one big plastic hassle..." - Psych-Out

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by ginghamkitchen View Post
                      We use that quote on the Mounds and Circles blog - but we nicked it from a Simon Reynolds article in 'The Wire'.

                      Got several great vintage books on, well, not the underground so much as the underbelly. Len Deighton's London Dossier has good chapters on slang and sex, Unexpurgated London has just about every taboo, Turn Me On, Man is a brilliant and incredibly seamy account of the drugs scene. Worth adding to the list.
                      Must be Simon Reynolds then (possibly absorbed through Mounds and Circles, although I'm more of an Island of Terror man ).

                      But cheers GK, this is exactly what I was looking for. London Unexpurgated and Turn Me On, Man purchased - still cheap paperbacks available on Abebooks for anyone else interested.

                      Originally posted by MPFlapp View Post
                      Edit: "Industrial Evolution: Through the 80s with Cabaret Voltaire" by Michael Fish (not the weather bloke) - not bad either...
                      I CANNOT believe I haven't heard of this book. Duly bought. Thanks MPFlapp.

                      Also ordered a copy of "Spanish Highs: Sex, Drugs & Excess in Ibiza" by Wayne Anthony. Am sure there are other books about Ibiza too, which I kind of lump in with this topic.
                      Spirit Duplicator—collectable, charming, affordable... and also socially networked on FB / Twitter / Instagram.

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                      • #12
                        Oh, you'll need 'The Gilded Gutter Life Of Francis Bacon' for that Soho Boho Criminal Fringe feel.
                        SPIRIT DUPLICATOR Est 2015.

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                        • #13
                          Now we're talking - am a Daniel Farson fan. Sacred Monsters is ace, as is Transplant which I recently picked up. Both very cheap! Bram Stoker's great nephew, isn't he?
                          Spirit Duplicator—collectable, charming, affordable... and also socially networked on FB / Twitter / Instagram.

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                          • #14
                            Was going to mention Farson, but see you're there already!

                            Another really good one (may be looking into an earlier era than you're after?) if Marek Cohn's 'Dope Girls' (I think it's called that - was a while back when I last saw a copy). Covers the scene around drugs and opium use, media scares built around scandals (often tinged with racism - Chinese men, white girls, foreigners and pleasure...) and tracks the changes in attitudes to recreational drug use & the like between c.1880s through the first world war and on into the 20s...really interesting stuff so far as I recall it.

                            Slightly off-track, but interesting, is Robert Irwin: writer on what I can only call a whole variety of odd UK underground/cult-ish byways, mainly fiction, but knows his stuff and has set books among English Surrealists in the 30s, Crowley-like circles in the 60s, orientalists in the 20s and the like. Certainly worth looking up and has done non-fiction as well as novels but mainly on the Arabic/orientalist things (eg: a book on The Alhambra in Grenada). As far as I know, anyway: he seems quite prolific, and isn't widely covered, so I may have missed things. Interesting writer, if that turf is your cuppa.

                            Whoever mentioned Ambit earlier, there's one (excellent) volume (edited by David Brittain) of Eduardo Paolozzi's contributions, Paolozzi at Ambit, that's been put out and should still be available. I understand there are also plans for a follow up gathering Paolozzi's work from Michael Moorcock's 'New Worlds', too, but sure more info on that will appear when/if it happens...
                            Last edited by wayne; 22-09-2011, 02:42 AM.
                            a giant steam-powered turntable in warwickshire plays six foot cement recordings of Prince Albert's speeches to the rejoicing populace

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                            • #15
                              London After Dark by Fabian of the Yard

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