Thursday, April 8, 2010
Barry Miles "London Calling"
London Calling: A Countercultural History of London Since 1945 by Barry Miles
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I'm a long term Barry Miles fan. I guess one can consider him as a cultural historian, but he also witnessed many aspects of his own field of interest. Which is American Beat/British Hippie/pop music cultural life. He was also a close associate of Paul McCartney in the mid to late 1960's, as well as a co-writer on McCartney's interesting memoir.
Miles has written biographies on American Beat Greats, as well as his own memoir of London life during the Sixties. But"London Calling" is sort of his masterpiece, and although not historically perfect (some names are wrong, or the wrong artist with the wrong piece), he captures something more important, and that is the life blood of various countercultural youth movements from post-war London to now.
It may be age or perhaps the current social life of London is not that interesting to Miles, but for sure the past is full of colorful characters and various causes in the U.K. capital. From Teddy Boys to British Beats (and how they mixed in with Burroughs/Ginsberg) to the Mods, to the Hippies, and then to the punks is really five or six books in this one volume.
But each section is really alive with details about life then, and I would think a young reader would want to check out the literature/visuals of the various underground movements that took place in the mid to late 20th Century. Also in detail it explains the importance of London as a location as well as an iconic fantasy land of sorts.
This book is by no means the ultimate history, for that you need to read at least fifty other books on the subject of London's subculture. But this is an excellent introduction to a world with great possibility and sometimes disappointment. But the adventure to go from zero to 10 is a magnificent ride.