The Velvet Underground & Nico at 50: A New York Extravaganza in Paris

It is 50 years since The Velvet Underground & Nico album was recorded. A major new exhibition in Paris tells the story of the group which created it and of the New York scene which produced them. Parisians hold the Velvets in particular esteem and, as Allan Campbell notes, the city itself has often been the scene of key moments in the Velvets’ history, not least a legendary appearance at Le Bataclan.

 

Lou Reed, John Cale and Nico at Le Bataclan, Paris, 1972 | Mick Gold / Redferns / Getty Images

 

It’s a cold January evening in Paris. Outside Le Bataclan an estimated 2,000 disconsolate rock fans are milling around in front of the ornate Chinese-style theatre on the Boulevard Voltaire. They are ticket-less and unable to gain access to a concert which would later be considered the venue’s most famous; a title only lost on Friday 13 November 2015, when dreadful events unfolded at an Eagles of Death Metal show.

For the first time since the demise of the original Velvet Underground, co-conspirators Lou Reed and John Cale with ‘chanteuse’ Nico were to perform a one-off acoustic set at Le Bataclan for the benefit of French TV show Pop 2 and one thousand grateful fans.

It was 1972; Nico was already a veteran of three solo albums; Cale had made his debut with Vintage Violence, remixed a Barbra Streisand album and cut an LP with minimalist composer Terry Riley, while Reed – surprisingly – was yet to release a solo album.

In fact, on the night of the Paris concert he should have been at the Portobello Hotel in London for a ‘listening party’ for his debut LP, Lou Reed, with no less than Lillian Roxon, then the leading rock critic in the US.

Despite what Melody Maker described as “a minor ‘speed-freak riot’ in the foyer”, the Bataclan concert was a languid, beguiling affair but not quite as languid as the ensuing live album, which had been mastered at the wrong speed.

France’s on-off love affair with US culture was nothing new; notably, réalisateurs Jean Luc Godard and Jean Pierre Melville had already expressed it on screen. But with the Velvets, the relationship seemed to become more geographically specific.

In return for the Statue of Liberty, New York had belatedly returned the favour by sending its dark emissaries to the City of Light. And the French, who had after all defined noir, seemed especially appreciative.

 

John Cale and Lou Reed at Cafe Bizarre on West 3rd Street, New York City, 1965 © Adam Ritchie

John Cale, Maureen Tucker and Lou Reed at Cafe Bizarre on West 3rd Street, New York City, 1965 © Adam Ritchie

In 1990, when the Velvets reunited – spontaneously, it seemed – once again it would be in Paris. This time it was at the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain, which had mounted an Andy Warhol multi-media show and invited key members of his Factory crowd to attend.

It was expected that Reed and Cale would play something from their Warhol tribute album, Songs for Drella, but they were soon joined onstage by band mates Sterling Morrison and Mo Tucker.

“We kicked into Heroin, which we hadn’t played in twenty-two years”, said Cale, “And it was just the same as always. After I got off stage … I was on the point of tears”.

As the location for this rapprochement suggests, it seems that Parisians have always viewed the Velvet Underground as a work of art and not just because of their association with Warhol.

Now, with the 50th anniversary of the recording of their debut, The Velvet Underground & Nico, the city has again come good for the Velvets with an extensive celebratory show at the Philharmonie de Paris entitled The Velvet Underground: New York Extravaganza.

 

The Making of an Underground Film, a report about Piero Heliczer’s film Venus In Furs, with the Velvet Underground performing Heroin, was broadcast on December 31, 1965 on the CBS Walter Cronkite Show. © Adam Ritchie

 

Curated by Christian Fevret, founder of Les Inrockuptibles music magazine, with art director and producer Carole Mirabello, the exhibition places the Velvets at the centre of New York’s post war avant garde, probably the only environment which could have produced such a group.

Paris, don’t forget what you taught the rest of us: if you keep an open heart it will beat forever. Goodnight.
John Cale

Music and visuals tell the VU story, taking in Reed and Cale’s first meeting in 1964 to their first show with Nico at the annual dinner of the New York Society for Clinical Psychiatry (Hotel Delmonico, New York, 1966), then their appearances at Warhol’s legendary Exploding Plastic Inevitable multimedia show and then on to the group’s eventual disintegration.

Even after all these years, the music and photographs of the Velvets scintillate.

John Cale returned to Paris to open the exhibition, with full band, string quartet and guests including Pete Doherty, Mark Lanegan and Lou Doillon. Cale, in a nod both to the city’s recent pain and its ability to inspire, reportedly concluded the concert with these words:

“Paris, don’t forget what you taught the rest of us: if you keep an open heart it will beat forever. Goodnight.”

The Velvet Underground: New York Extravaganza is at the Philharmonie de Paris until 21 August, 2016.

Nico and Lou Reed at The Castle, Los Angeles, 1966 © Lisa Law

The Exploding Plastic Inevitable: Photograph on back cover of The Velvet Underground & Nico album

Story behind the album cover [recordart blog]

Left to right: John Cale, Gerard Malanga, Nico, Andy Warhol, New York City, circa 1966 | Photo by Herve Gloaguen / Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

John Cale at Hotel Delmonico, New York, 1966 © Adam Ritchie

The Velvet Underground & Nico with Andy Warhol, Hollywood Hills, 1966 © Gerard Malanga / Courtesy Galerie Caroline Smulders, Paris

John Cale and Lou Reed at Cafe Bizarre on West 3rd Street, New York City, 1965 © Adam Ritchie

The Velvet Underground at Cafe Bizarre on West 3rd Street, New York City, 1965 © Adam Ritchie

Lou Reed at The Castle, Los Angeles, 1966 © Lisa Law

Edie Sedgwick and Gerard Malanga on stage with The Velvet Underground at the New York Society for Clinical Psychiatry annual dinner at the Delmonico Hotel, New York, 13 January 1966 | Photo by Adam Ritchie / Redferns

John Cale at The Castle, Los Angeles, 1966 © Lisa Law

Lou Reed at Hotel Delmonico, New York, 1966 © Adam Ritchie

Nico at Hotel Delmonico, New York, 1966 © Adam Ritchie

The Teddy Boys (Britain’s First Youth Subculture)

Chris Steele-Perkins on why photographing teen subcultures is so much more than style over substance.

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G.B. ENGLAND. Red Deer, Croydon. 1976.
The invention of the ‘teenager’ in the 1950s was a global, almost simultaneous phenomenon. Defined by groups of youths rebelling against the expectations of their parents and wider society in their behaviour, attitudes and clothing, movements sprang up in America, Australia, Japan and beyond. Identifiable by their clothes and the music they’d play, these youths revelled in a post-war freedom not enjoyed by the previous generation.

In the United Kingdom, one facet of this newly emerging youth culture was working class youngsters adopting the formal and flamboyant tailoring of Edwardian dress. Known as the ‘Teds’ (nodding to the Edwardian era their look was borrowed from) their jackets – often sumptuous velvets – had wide notched lapels accessorized with a skinny tie or bootlace, and they wore brothel creeper shoes on their feet. “The Ted swaggered with it all out front, male sexuality overt,” wrote journalist Richard Smith. As well as a way of dress and a style of music, owing to several high-profile incidents, the Teds were also associated with wayward and yobbish behaviour and public fights that led them to being banned from some venues.

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The Castle. Old Kent Road, London, England, Great Britain. 1976. © Chris Steele-Perkins | Magnum photos
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Stan the Man. England, Great Britain. 1976. © Chris Steele-Perkins | Magnum photos
 

Trends die, music moves on and teenagers become adults. More youth culture movements would follow, but with them would come a surprising phenomenon of recycling. In a move that on the surface would seem somewhat at odds with the maverick trailblazer idea of youth in revolt, many youth movements have had subsequent second waves. For example, Brit Pop in the 90s borrowed many of its fashion cues from the music and social movement of Northern Soul in the 70s. Some twenty years after the arrival of the Teds, a second wave of young people, who were often not yet born when the original wave hit, began aping the style, music culture and attitudes of their Ted forebears.

Chris Steele-Perkins, along with writer Richard Smith, were commissioned by the now-long defunct New Society magazine to cover the second wave of the Teds for a story, which grew into a self-motivated study of the British youth movement over several years. Steele-Perkins, who at the time was donning a more relaxed style and long hair, remembers the first wave of Teds when he was a child in the 1950s: “Each town had its own Teds who hung around on street corners smoking and sort of grunting at people. My father would rail against them and threaten to turn me over to them if I didn’t behave myself. Maybe that helped to drive my curiosity when I was older.”

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The Winchester. Elephant & Castle, London, England, Great Britain. 1976. © Chris Steele-Perkins | Magnum photos
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 The Castle. Old Kent Road, London, England, Great Britain. 1976. © Chris Steele-Perkins | Magnum photos

To See and be Seen

“The gear: it’s smart; it’s great stuff; it’s much smarter than flared gear. The hair: it’s tidy; it’s not long and straggly. You walk down the street and you get all the old people – the original people who was there in the fifties – looking at you and saying, ‘Ah, look there’s Teddy Boys’. You get great screws from people. You get people looking at you as if you were really brilliant like, as if you were really great,” said a Ted who spoke to Richard Smith.

Since the Teds put so much effort into crafting their look, they were expectedly keen to be photographed – “Well, they weren’t there to be ignored; that wasn’t their vision of themselves in life,” says Chris Steele-Perkins. However, this presented its own challenges as the photographer had to work around their propensity to peacock in order to capture genuinely candid shots. “You had to then get to the point where they didn’t just pose for you,” he adds.

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Bank holiday. Southend, England, Great Britain. 1976. © Chris Steele-Perkins | Magnum photos

 

“You’re a somebody as opposed to the bricklayer or the butcher’s boy” ( Chris Steele-Perkins)

Subculture Vs. Fashion

What Steele-Perkins’s photography shows, corroborated by Richard Smith’s writing from the time, is that the Teds second wave was more than just a way of dressing but a lifestyle. We see evidence of the characteristic Teds attitude filtering through to the way youths behave, socialize, interact with and even romance each other in his photographs. Chris Steele-Perkins muses on what separates a subcultural youth movement from a fashion trend:

“It’s the roundedness of it, it has a slang, a code, a dress code, a sort of knowledge of certain areas, esoteric areas that might be rockabilly music, for example. With (1970s UK music and culture movement) Northern Soul, it was obscure songwriters, for example. It could include a dance style, or a way to dress – all those little cultural tick boxes. It becomes part of their identity. You’re a somebody as opposed to the bricklayer or the butcher’s boy; you’re this guy that people think look fancy and they might be frightened of you just because of the clothing you’re wearing.”

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 Adam and Eve pub in Hackney. London, England, Great Britain. 1976. © Chris Steele-Perkins | Magnum photos
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 The Flying Saucers. England, Great Britain. 1976. © Chris Steele-Perkins | Magnum photos
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Southend, England, Great Britain. 1976. © Chris Steele-Perkins | Magnum photos

The Importance of Documenting Youth Culture

One critique often lobbed at the study of fashion and teen culture is that it is frivolous, but, as Steele-Perkins explains, it, like an anthropological study of the teen species, reveals a significant amount about the society from which it emerges. “What I tried to do was to document a subculture, and quite a major one in British society,” says Steele-Perkins. “I went into their homes and documented them in all kinds of contexts, and the clothes, in the end, become relatively peripheral to the whole thing. I’m not interested in them per se, they’re part of the package. And it’s like most things, leather jackets, you know, it all fades away. It’s much more about identity and who we are.”

This attitude is emblematic of Steele-Perkin’s lifelong photographic approach; it’s what draws him to photograph the subjects he does: families, sports, cultural gatherings, microcosms. “That’s why I photograph England, in particular,” he says. “All my working life I’ve been drawn to these small worlds which have the whole world in them. It could be the Teds, it could be Holkham estate (a private aristocratic estate in North Norfolk); it’s pretty similar in terms of it being a world within a world with its own rules and its own codes.”

A new edition of Chris Steele-Perkins’s book ‘Teds’, featuring written vignettes by Richard Smith is out now, published by Dewi Lewis Publishing. Images from the book, plus several not published before are on display at the Magnum Print Room in London until October 28.

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GB. ENGLAND. ‘Sunglasses’ Ron Staples, self-aclaimed King of the Teds. London .1975.
Chris Steele-Perkins ‘Sunglasses’ Ron Staples, self-aclaimed King of the Teds. London, England, Great Britain. 1975. © Chris Steele-Perkins | Magnum photos
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G.B. ENGLAND. London. Barry Ransome in The Castle, Old Kent Road 1976.
Chris Steele-Perkins Barry Ransome in The Castle. Old Kent Road, London, England, Great Britain. 1976.© Chris Steele-Perkins | Magnum photos
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Chris Steele-Perkins Lyceum Ballroom. London, England, Great Britain. 1976. © Chris Steele-Perkins | Magnum photos

John Hopkins Guardian Obituary 15/02/2015

This obituary is so good with so many interesting links that I have decided to repost it here. The complete movie of “Tonight Let’s All Make Love in London” is stunning!

John 'Hoppy' Hopkins in 2000.

John ‘Hoppy’ Hopkins in 2000. Photograph: Sarah Lee

John “Hoppy” Hopkins, who has died aged 77, was one of the best-known counterculture figures of London in the 1960s, not just as a photographer and journalist, but as a political activist. He was the co-founder of at least three underground projects: International Times magazine; a fabled but short-lived music venue called the UFO Club; and the London Free school, a community-based adult education initiative. During the couple of years up to June 1967, when Hoppy was jailed for cannabis possession, Britain’s fertile and diverse counterculture took much of its inspiration from him, and he was the closest thing the movement ever had to a leader.

Son of Victor and Evelyn Hopkins, John was born in Slough, Berkshire; his father was a naval engineer. After attending Felsted school, Essex, he took a general science degree at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, receiving his MA in 1958. As Hoppy put it, he discovered sex, drugs and jazz at Cambridge and pursued all three with great diligence. After graduation, he worked as a lab technician for the Atomic Energy Authority at Harwell, but lost his security clearance following a jaunt to Moscow for a communist youth festival.

In 1960, he moved to London and became a photographer. I first encountered him backstage at the 1964 Blues and Gospel Caravan, photographing Muddy Waters and Sister Rosetta Tharpe for Melody Maker. His photographs are among the most evocative of the era, including brilliantly insightful shots of Beatles and Stones, John Lee Hooker and Thelonious Monk, as well as an early 60s underbelly of tattoo parlours, bikers, fetishists and derelict architecture. They are gathered together in the book From the Hip (2008).

The Rolling Stones performing at the All Night Rave in 1967.

The Rolling Stones performing at the All Night Rave in 1967. Photograph: John ‘Hoppy’ Hopkins/Redferns

In the summer of 1965, Hoppy joined Barry Miles (future biographer of Allen Ginsberg and William Burroughs) and the poet Michael Horovitz to organise the first of the events that went on to be known as the Poetry Olympics at the Royal Albert Hall, London. It featured Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Christopher Logue and many others; that night, the standing-room-only audience recognised themselves for the first time as a counterculture.

Two months later, Hoppy started the first of a lifelong series of projects to democratise communication and information. The London Free school, based in Notting Hill, achieved few of these goals, but its cash-raising events gave Pink Floyd its start and Hoppy’s inspired collaboration with the local West Indian community helped bring about the first annual Notting Hill Carnival.

In October 1966, he and Miles published the first edition of International Times, Europe’s first underground paper. The IT launch party at the Roundhouse – with music by Pink Floyd and Soft Machine – inspired Hoppy and me to open the UFO Club in a West End dance hall. Every Friday, Hoppy would sit atop a scaffold at the back of the club, playing records, making gnomic announcements, showing films, and projecting light shows; he imbued those nights of music, theatre and dance with an unforgettable atmosphere.

In response to a police raid in March 1967 on the IT offices, Hoppy mounted the 14 Hour Technicolor Dream, a fundraising concert at Alexandra Palace; Peter Whitehead’s film of the event, Tonite Let’s All Make Love in London (1967), shows a dazed John Lennon wandering in the huge crowd, transfixed by Yoko Ono cutting a paper dress off a girl as Pink Floyd greet the north London sunrise.

Allen Ginsberg at the Albert Hall in 1965.

Allen Ginsberg at the Albert Hall in 1965. Photograph: John ‘Hoppy’ Hopkins

 

Revolutions are, almost by definition, factional, but during those golden years, the working-class anarchists, vaguely aristocratic bohemians, musicians, crusaders, poets and dropouts were united in their respect and affection for Hoppy. That he was seen as leader of this amorphous movement espousing recreational drug-taking, political protest, sexual liberation and “obscene” literature led to his downfall. Hoppy’s flat was raided and a small amount of hashish found.

At his trial, he attacked the prohibition on drugs and, having been branded a “menace to society” by the judge, was handed a nine-month term in Wormwood Scrubs. Outrage at the sentence inspired ubiquitous Free Hoppy graffiti as well as a full-page celebrity protest in the Times, paid for by Paul McCartney. Without him, UFO lost its way and closed by October; the scene he had inspired was reduced in his absence by internal bickering, police harassment and better-funded competition.

Though prison drained his energy for leadership, the following decades saw Hoppy persevere with his ideals. Inspired by the Paris events of May 1968, he and Miles converted IT into a workers’ co-operative. He started Bit, an information service, and continued to review and give advice on drugs in IT, under the pseudonym Bradley Martin.

Tonite Let’s All Make Love in London, 1967, by Peter Whitehead

With his partner, Sue Hall, in 1969 he formed Fantasy Factory, a facility that revolutionised lowtech video editing, bringing it within reach of community activists and independent directors. Unesco funded Fantasy Factory’s educational package and distributed it widely in the developing world. A chance meeting in 1990 led to Hoppy designing and constructing a greenhouse for horticultural research at the University of Westminster.

Diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2007, he never lost his curiosity or his charm. In his final months, though his speech and movement were severely hindered, he was still able to open wide his brightest eye and say “wow.”

A marriage to Susan Zeiger (aka Suzy Creamcheese) in 1968 ended in divorce. Hoppy is survived by his sister, Marilyn.
Joe Boyd

John Hopkins Invented the 1960s

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This interview was first published in VICE March 2nd 2010

British photographer and political activist John “Hoppy” Hopkins spent the 1960s documenting jazz, poetry, The Rolling Stones, Nelson Mandela, the sexual revolution – basically everything that defined the decade. When he wasn’t working, he was launching the legendary UFO club at The Roundhouse in London, with Pink Floyd as its resident band. Also, in 1966 Hoppy and friends founded the anarchist newspaper IT (International Times). Today he’s an activist for peace and for the circulation of information, and at 73 he’s still the best dressed guy in London.

Vice: Hello Hoppy. What motivated you to start IT?
In the early 60s there was a lot of experimenting going on, in all sorts of art forms, politics, sex and lifestyles. There was a lot of stimulus toward different ways of thinking, and I got to thinking about the politics of information. I saw it as a level of political activity that wasn’t to do with political parties, and wasn’t necessarily to do with the left or the right, but rather to do with freeing up information and seeing what happened. I, along with many other people at the time, felt that information should be free where possible, because the withholding of information is the withholding of power. This idea led to the beginning of the underground press, and the beginning of IT.

What information was IT providing people with that they couldn’t get elsewhere?
All sorts of stuff – from the price of drugs, to where the new experimental theatre was, to different ways to fuck and have a good time. Basically, all the peripheral things that straight society didn’t want to know about.

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Did you get loads of hassle from the police?
Oh yeah, our offices were always under police raid. Underground papers were constantly being busted for obscenity, for printing pictures of naked people, people fucking, stuff like that. It broke the censorship laws of the time and the power holders in straight society didn’t like what was going on. They felt threatened. It’s like in today’s word, the establishment is threatened by the idea of terrorism, so anyone who looks like a terrorist is beaten up, thrown in jail or just generally fucked over. It was the same syndrome. The way society is controlled is largely through fear, as far as I can make out. That isn’t a very good way to organise society.

Is it correct to call IT an anarchist newspaper?
Well, the word “anarchist” tends to have two slightly different meanings. But yeah, I guess you could call it that.

Are you an anarchist?
Yeah, with a small “a”.

How did UFO come about?
In 1966, I was working as the secretary for the London Free School. To keep it afloat, I organised a benefit at the local church hall to generate some money, and these people called The Pink Floyd turned up and played. It was really interesting, so we decided to do it again the next week, and so on. Soon there were queues round the block. It became pretty clear that something interesting was happening, so my friend [music producer] Joe Boyd and I found a place in the West End to continue the club, and launched UFO. We opened with the Floyd.

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In 1967, you organised The 14-Hour Technicolor Dream, with acts like Pink Floyd, John Lennon and The Soft Machine playing. Pretty much every kid born from then on wishes they were at that gig. What did you love about promoting events?
It’s interesting when people come together for social purposes, because it creates interaction and ideas get exchanged. I particularly enjoyed putting on the sort of event which is called a “happening”, where some things are planned, but some aren’t, so you never know quite what’s going to happen. The 14-Hour Technicolor Dream was supposed to be a benefit to pay for the legal costs of IT, after it got busted for obscenity. It turned out to be unexpectedly rich festival – a happening. Yoko Ono did a lot of happenings in the 60s. On the whole though, hers were really boring.

Dissed. Is it true that at the launch of IT at UFO there was a tower of acid sugar cubes?
I remember at the entrance there was someone with a big bowl of sugar cubes wrapped in tin foil. Whether there was anything in them, I just don’t know. Although the first acid trip I ever had was from a sugar cube wrapped up in silver foil.

Was it good?
Yeah, it was spectacular. The world was never the same after that. It altered the whole course of my life. You can’t go back after you’ve taken acid, you can only go forward.

What did you get out of it?
The ability to reconstruct my world view. Ha, that sounds a bit pompous. But when you trip, your frame of reference crumbles, and you become free of the constraints of your constructed identity for a few hours. And if you’re ready for it, when you come back down you can integrate any new realisations you’ve had back into your old life, which then changes it.

What was it like living through the summer of love? Did everyone fuck as much as they say?
I hope so. I was in jail for the summer of love. There wasn’t much love in jail, or sex for that matter.

Lame! You got put in jail for six months over a tiny bit of hash, right? It’s speculated that the harsh sentencing had something to do with your rising political power.
That’s one version of events. I did stick my head up above the parapet, politically. It was exciting times when IT and UFO started. There was a lot of stuff going on, and the establishment felt like they had to do something about it. I’m not claiming that putting me in jail was the answer to their problems – far from it. Plus, I was pretty careless leaving a block of hash by my bedside and getting busted.

In your opinion, was the political movement that started in the 60s a failure or a success?
That’s hard. To define success you have to start off with an objective. I don’t think everybody involved in the movement had the same objectives. In the 60s a lot of us were quite optimistic. We thought we could see society changing fast into what could be a better state. Looking back it didn’t change nearly as fast as we all thought. Change is really quite slow, and most of what happens gets lost in the memory of society. But there were changes made. People often say to me, “It was great in the 60s, wasn’t it? Where’s the underground now?” And my answer to that is: We are the underground! We may not call it the underground anymore, and there’s an awful lot of us now, but we are joined together because we are all people who want to be free of a corrupt government and a society run by greedy hooligans.

John Hopkins died in 2015. This is a link to an obituary by his friend and collaberator Joe Boyd: John “Hoppy” Hopkins.

Here is the text:

John “Hoppy” Hopkins

John “Hoppy” Hopkins died at the end of January. Some of you may have read the obituary I wrote for the Guardian or heard my contribution to “Last Word” on BBC Radio 4.
The Guardian stayed reasonably true to my original text, but added more facts and removed some of the quirkier passages. Originally, (and within their word-count restraints) it read like this:
Wow!! was John “Hoppy” Hopkins’ response to any number of things: an idea, a record, a film, a poster, a joke, a poem, a drug, a girl…. And his “Wow!” did not simply echo the ubiquitous “far out” of San Francisco hippies; his delight in the world was genuine, committed, astute and infectious.
Hoppy, who has died, aged 77, was co-founder of International Times, the UFO Club and the London Free School. During the intense two-year heyday of London’s fertile and diverse counterculture, he was the only true leader the movement ever had.
John Hopkins was born in 1937 in Slough; his father was a naval engineer, who designed turbines for large vessels. After attending Felsted School, he took a General Science degree at Cambridge, receiving his MA in 1958. His degree was undistinguished; as Hoppy put it, he discovered sex, drugs and jazz at Cambridge and pursued all three with great diligence. After graduation he worked as a lab technician for the Atomic Energy Authority at Harwell, but lost his security clearance after a jaunt to Moscow for a Communist youth festival.
In 1960, he moved to London and became a photographer. I first encountered him backstage at the 1964 ‘Blues and Gospel Caravan’ photographing Muddy Waters and Sister Rosetta Tharpe for Melody Maker. His seldom-shown work is among the most evocative of the era, including brilliantly insightful shots of Beatles and Stones, John Lee Hooker and Thelonious Monk as well as a colourful early-‘60s underbelly of tattoo parlours, bikers, fetishists and derelict architecture. (There is a book of them: “From the Hip”, Damiani Press 2008 – http://hoppyx.com/)
In the summer of 1965, Hoppy joined with Barry Miles (future biographer of Ginsberg and Burroughs) and poet Michael Horovitz to organize the Albert Hall Poetry Olympics, featuring the American trio Ginsberg, Ferlinghetti and Corso, as well as Brits Adrian Mitchell, Alexander Trocchi, Christopher Logue and Horovitz; that night, the standing-room-only audience recognized themselves as a counter-culture for the first time. Two months later, Hoppy started the first of a life-long series of projects to democratize communication and information. The Notting-Hill-based London Free School achieved few of these goals, but its money-raising events gave Pink Floyd their start and his inspired collaboration with the local West Indian community brought about the first annual Notting Hill Carnival.
In October of 1966, he and Barry Miles published the first issue of International Times, Europe’s first underground paper. (By the end of 1967, there would be almost 100 of them.) The IT launch party at the Roundhouse – with music by Pink Floyd and Soft Machine – inspired Hoppy and me to open the UFO Club in a West End dance hall. Every Friday, Hoppy would mount a scaffolding at the back of the club, play records, make gnomic announcements, show films, project light shows and imbue those nights of music, theatre and dance with an unforgettable atmosphere. Pink Floyd, Soft Machine, Arthur Brown, Procul Harum, Tomorrow, Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band and Fairport Convention are among the many bands for whom a UFO appearance helped launch a successful career.
In response to a March police raid on the IT offices, Hoppy mounted a “14-Hour Technicolor Dream” at Alexandra Palace; Peter Whitehead’s film “Let’s All Make Love In London” shows a dazed John Lennon wandering in the huge crowd, transfixed by Yoko Ono cutting a paper dress off a girl as Pink Floyd greeted the North London sunrise.
Revolutions are, almost by definition, factional, but during those two golden years from June ’65 to June ‘67, the working-class anarchists, vaguely aristocratic bohemians, musicians, crusaders, poets, dropouts and psychotropic adventurers were united in their respect and affection for Hoppy. Seemingly irreconcilable differences were bridged again and again by our ever-positive leader. He had a scientist’s suspicion of waffle or cant, forcing us to confront the flaws and contradictions in our ideas and actions, but always in the most positive and supportive manner. All craved the reward of a “Wow” from Hoppy.
That he was seen as leader of this amorphous movement espousing recreational drug-taking, political protest, sexual liberation and “obscene” literature inevitably led to his downfall. Hoppy’s flat was raided and a small amount of hashish found. At his trial, he attacked the prohibition on drugs and, having been branded a “menace to society” by the judge, was handed a nine-month sentence. Outrage at the sentence inspired ubiquitous Free Hoppy graffiti as well as a full-page celebrity protest in The Times, paid for by Paul McCartneyWithout Hoppy, UFO lost its way and closed by October; the scene he had inspired was reduced in his absence by internal bickering, police harassment and better-funded competition.
Though prison robbed him of his energy for leadership, the following decades saw Hoppy persevere with his ideals. Inspired by the Paris events of May ’68, he and Miles converted IT into a workers cooperative. With his partner, Sue Hall, he formed Fantasy Factory, an offline editing facility that revolutionized affordable low-tech video editing, bringing it within reach of community activists and independent directors. UNESCO funded Fantasy Factory’s educational package and distributed it widely in the developing world. For Hoppy, culture was always seen in the context of politics and vice-versa.
Always eager for scientific challenges, a chance meeting in 1990 led to Hoppy designing and constructing a greenhouse for horticultural research at the University of Westminster. Diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2007, he never lost his curiosity or his charm, meeting a new partner for his final years at a gathering of Parkinson’s sufferers. In his final months, his speech and movement severely hindered by disease, he was still able to open wide his brightest eye and say ‘Wow!
John “Hoppy” Hopkins, born 15 August, 1937, died 30 January, 2015.
With you, loyal mailing list readers, I can be less restrained. I have no idea what my life might have been like had Hoppy not turned up that afternoon at Fairfield Halls Croydon to snap those pix for Melody Maker. I liked him immediately and asked if he was coming to the show that night. He had other plans, but eagerly accepted a pair of comps for the Hammersmith Odeon (now the Apollo) show the following week.
Afterwards, he gave me his phone number and address and, as I recall, we shared a joint in the alley outside the stage door. When I returned to London at the end of the Blues and Gospel Caravan tour (for which I was tour manager), a folk club organizer offered me a slab of hashish at a bargain price. It was far too large for my modest level of consumption, so I rang Hoppy. He jumped in a cab and the three of us rode round a Soho block while Hoppy sniffed and pinched and bargained until the deal was done. I went back to his flat to sample the bounty and a friendship was forged. (Curious to recall our shared assumption that a London cabbie in 1964 wouldn’t have the faintest idea what we were up to…)
From late April until the beginning of August, I rented cheap rooms, or slept on floors and sofas waiting to go back on jazz promoter George Wein’s payroll in Paris on August 1. I made three friends during those first weeks in London: Roy Guest, who was the Caravan’s liaison for the British promoter; Nigel Waymouth, a blues fan who came backstage at that same Hammersmith Odeon concert; and Hoppy. My entire life in London since then can be traced to the headwaters of those three encounters: Roy introduced me to the folk scene and all of his musical friends, Nigel turned out to be brilliant artist and designer who started Granny Takes A Trip and designed the UFO posters and Hoppy turned out to be… well, Hoppy.
That summer, he was living in a large flat on Westbourne Terrace; Paddington was unfashionable then and the rent was nothing. For a month or so, I slept on his sofa, watched, followed and learned: back-doubles around London, the best curries, the best fry-ups, how to develop and print black and white film, how to talk to girls, how to listen to the Ayler Brothers, how to roll a British joint. Hoppy was always up for it, always full of energy, always positive, always searching, questioning. And it was no free-ride; I was expected to run errands, drop off film, make excuses to stood-up girls… When I ran out of money, he loaned me £10, a large sum in those days.
My first attempt at pay-back came in September when I got him a press pass to the Berlin Jazz Festival. He took fantastic photos (many still for sale, or viewable in From The Hip) of Miles, Roland Kirk, Sonny Stitt, Kenny Clarke… I got him another pass to the Newport Jazz Festival in July ’65, where he told me about the big poetry reading at the Albert Hall he’d helped organize a few weeks earlier. I didn’t grasp its significance until I moved back to London in November. I rang Hoppy as soon as I arrived and he invited me to a meeting of the London Free School the following night. Everything seemed to have changed; Hoppy was no longer taking pictures, he was organizing. Leaflets were printed, a hall was rented, West London locals – Trinidadians, Irish, Ukrainians, students on the dole – were targeted as beneficiaries. The idea was to share our privileged knowledge with the disenfranchised – a theme that would run throughout Hoppy’s life.
The next two years are a vivid blur: Pink Floyd gigs to raise money, the IT launch at the Roundhouse, the UFO Club every Friday in an Irish dance hall in Tottenham Court Rd, the Technicolor Dream, borrowing a 16mm projector every Friday from Yoko Ono and returning it through a door left open to the street each Saturday dawn, police busting people in the queue, getting advice from Michael X about how to confront authority…. I’m not sure how I discovered that Hoppy was a terrific blues pianist, but he performed expertly when I hired him for Incredible String Band and Purple Gang recording sessions. (The Mad Hatter’s Song and Bootleg Whiskey, respectively.)
When Hoppy went down in June, the air went out of everything. We were already under siege – what had been a colourful psychedelic sidebar to “Swinging London” in the autumn of ‘66, had become a threat to the stability of society by the spring of ‘67, as the Beatles told of taking acid and then released LSD’s slickest advert, Sgt Pepper; the police colluded with the News of the World to bust the Stones. By the time Hoppy was released in January, our world had changed out of all recognition. I was busy in the studio and the “underground” was completely fragmented. Hoppy went into what he later confessed was his ‘Maoist’ period, sometimes even provoking factionalism rather than healing it. The warmth never went from our encounters, but throughout the 70s and 80s, they were sparse.
In the ‘90s and ‘00ies, I saw more of him; I found there were things I could do for him – help him move a couple of times, for example. He ended up in a great 3-room ‘sheltered accommodation’ in Islington, with a garden at the back. I would sometimes explain to American friends why I can’t imagine living in the US; would someone like Hoppy, who had been so central to the culture but who never profited from his efforts, have been taken care of that way in America? (Will Britain still be like that if the Tories win in May…?)
As his health deteriorated, I saw more and more of him. In the hospital a few days before he died, though his mouth was unable to form words, his good eye was wide and alert as I talked of how he’d changed my life and changed the life of this country. He moved his head up and down; for all his gentle humility, Hoppy knew who he was and what he’d accomplished.

PORTRAIT: JAMIE TAETE

 

The Velvet Underground & Nico Album Cover

Great post about the Velvet’s first album cover!

recordart

The album “The Velvet Underground & Nico” is remarkable for many reasons–not least the music. a. It is one of only two albums that I know of that names the cover designer rather than the band or the record’s title on the front (the other being Swedish band bob hund‘s 1996 LP “Omslag: Martin Kann“.) b. The cover provoked two lawsuits (more on those later). c. Gatefold covers had generally only been used for double albums. Elvis Presley’s “Elvis Is Back!” from 1956 is said to be the first gatefold cover for a single LP and “Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” was not released until two months after the Velvets’ album.

In 1965 Andy Warhol became The Velvet Underground‘s manager and he booked them into New York’s Scepter Studios in April 1966 to record the group’s first album which was de…

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John Lennon’s Records and Compact Discs with Andy Warhol Art

recordart

john Lennon’s 1986 album “Menlove Ave” is probably the best known of his recordings that use Andy Warhol’s art. But there are some others and one, in particular, that has not previously been recognized.

John and Yoko Lennon and Andy Warhol were friends. I’m sure they basked in each others’ glory. Andy Warhol took Polaroid photos of John and two of these were recently auctioned at Christies (https://onlineonly.christies.com/s/pop-culture/john-lennon-97/3106/).

Andy Warhol's Polaroid pictures of John Lennon. Circa 1969. Andy Warhol’s Polaroid pictures of John Lennon. Circa 1969.

The photo on the left bears a striking resemblance to the cover photo on Lennon’s album “Imagine”, released on 5th September, 1971. Only the position of the cloud is different.

John Lennon's "Imagine" LP cover. John Lennon’s “Imagine” LP cover.

There may be an explanation for this, however. Photographer Iain Macmillan was a good friend of the Lennons. He had been introduced to John by Yoko at her 1966 exhibition at the Indica Gallery in London, where she…

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BBC – 50s Britannia – Trad Jazz Britannia 2013 – Video Dailymotion

Documentary telling the story of Britain’s postwar infatuation with old New Orleans jazz. With rare 78rpm imports as their only guide, a generation of amateur jazz enthusiasts including Humphrey Lyttelton and Chris Barber created a traditional jazz scene that strove to recreate the essence and freedom of 1920s New Orleans in 1950s Britain. While British youth jived in smoky dives, the music itself was beset by arguments of authenticity. Begging to differ with the source material, Ken Colyer embarked on a pilgrimage to New Orleans in search of the real deal while a larger ideological war raged between mouldy figs and dirty boppers- traditional and modern jazz fans. As its popularity grew, commercial forces descended and a ‘trad’ boom sent the purists running for cover at the turn of the decade – the first and last time New Orleans jazz became British pop. Featuring Acker Bilk, Chris Barber and previously unseen interviews with the late Humphrey Lyttelton and George Melly.

THE HOLY BARBARIANS by Lawrence Lipton

The Holy Barbarians was a book published in 1959 detailing the lives of the Beats living on Venice Beach in Los Angeles by poet Lawrence Lipton. It was very influential and was like a How to Do book for us in the mid 1960s in Leicester. Following is a quote from the book about the difference and similarities of Beats and Juvenile Delinquents! Much was written and talked about Juvenile Delinquents in this period. It was seen as a big problem. I remember my Grandmother was very bothered that I might have become one! I assured her I hadn’t but, then again, I did have my moments!

Of course, the Beat writers were in awe of criminal hipsters like Herbert Huncke and Neal Cassady but they weren’t seen as just delinquents, they had a kind of holy destiny. They were viewed almost as divine figures on a spiritual quest and, certainly, Cassady probably saw himself that way as well.

Later on in the 60s Venice Beach was the place that keyboardist Ray Manzarek first met singer and poet Jim Morrison and they formed the Doors.

“Everyone has to go to jail some time in his life,” remarked a fifteen year-old girl I met at Angel’s pad one afternoon. She was playing hooky from high school for the day and had just come back from visiting her boy friend in the County Jail. He had been busted for pot and they were also trying to hang a car-stealing rap on him. “They” were the heat and this was the bond that this chick felt with beatland. The beards puzzled her, and the poetry was so much baby talk to her. She had enough of that at school. One book was the same as any other to her. Pot was baby stuff, too. She had been on horse since she was thirteen.

What drew her to the beatniks was the way they understood her attitude toward her family and elders in general and the fact that they didn’t think she was a bad girl. The fuss that parents and older people made about sex seemed silly to her. Virginity? She and her girl friends at high school had a word for it. “Big issue about a little tissue.”

As a juvenile delinquent Myra Flores belonged to the cool cats who could be seen coming out of Venice High after school hours and piling into a car – integration was no problem here – white, Negro, Mexican. They didn’t hang around street corners; they drove fast cars in car pools that were also clubs of a sort. The Mexican girls were popular with these boys. Sometimes the blond girls dyed their hair to look like Mexican chicks. Their cars were not souped-up hot rods, that was for squares. Their clothes were sharp. Every penny they could beg, borrow or steal went into clothes. They drank wine and smoked marijuana. They didn’t talk much. They were physical in their relations, fondled each other a lot and watched television by the hour. Looking older than their years was very important to them. It meant that they could pass for twenty-one without an I.D. card in the taverns.

Rarely can a girl like Myra Flores make the beat scene except as a place of refuge or a drop-in lay, but a J.D. like Willie Frank can make it for quite a while on nothing but an ability to say little, listen much and play it close to his vest, which passes for cool as long as he doesn’t make any false moves. Willie fell into Venice West from a town in New Jersey where things had gotten too hot for him. He had smoked pot since he was fourteen, graduated to horse not long afterward, and served a term in jail back east.

The beat and the juvenile delinquent are only kissin’ cousins. They have the same enemies, which is the slender thread that sometimes unites them in temporary alliance. Both are outlaws, speak a private language and put down the squares, but in beat circles the J.D. is regarded as a square, a hip square in some things, but still a square.

He is a square because his values are the conventional American values: success, the worship of things, the obsession with speed and devil-take-the-hindmost attitudes in everything They are “sharpies” always looking for angles. They believe everything they read in the ads. The “kick” they are looking for when they “borrow” a car for a night is the kick of making “a majestic entrance” in front of a chick’s house. The juvenile delinquent wants a Ford in his future, but he wants his future right now. He can’t buy it so he steals it. “My old man waited,” one of them remarked to me, “and what did it get him? He’s fifty and he’s still driving a ’49 Chevy.”

The names they give their gangs are indicative of their hunger for social status. In Venice West it’s The Doges. Some of them pronounce it “dogs” but they know it means something like The Man of Distinction. (Wasn’t “putting on the dog” once a slang synonym for distinctive?) If one gang names itself The Counts, the gang in the next block goes it one better with The Dukes. Such pretensions are abhorrent to the beatnik.

Their “social protest,” which is a common theme in liberal magazines trying to “understand” the J.D., is so much double talk in the beatnik’s opinion. They are not victims of the society, they are its fruit and flower. The J.D. in a stolen car, dressed up in his sharp clothes, seated beside his chick and smoking the cigarette that is the choice of men who demand the best, is the ironic triumph of the adman’s dream. They are not likely to yield to the lures of communism. In fact, many of the J.D.’s of past generations are now among the society’s most successful businessmen.

The vandalism of the juvenile delinquent is directed against symbols of authority, like the school. If he finds school too confining or oppressive, or too boring, the beatnik finds ways of “beating the system.” He cuts classes as often as he can but he keeps his scholastic average high enough to stay out of trouble. He doesn’t go back after school hours and wreck the classroom or waylay a teacher and slug him for giving him low marks. Any show of violence among the beat generation, when it does occur, is rare enough – and significant enough – to become legendary. Such a legend is the one you hear frequently about Carl Solomon. “It was at Brooklyn College,” says Allen Ginsberg. “Some square lecturer was giving a lecture on Dadaism, and Carl pelted him with potato salad.” Which is exactly what any Dadaist would have done. That Carl was expelled for it is only further proof that the lecturer was a square.

The violence of the delinquent is usually directed against older people. The beatnik would not commit such acts of violence. He would write a poem about it.

Only a newspaperman with his feet stuck in a slot at the rewrite desk could possibly mistake a J.D. for a beatnik. The newspaper stereo-typed vandal is a composite of “teenager,” “juvenile delinquent” and “beatnik,” a convenient composite since it simplifies headline writing and makes every youth crime story a rewrite of the familiar dope fiend, sex fiend, youth-on-the-rampage yarn. All the reporter has to do is change a few names and places. The J.D. doesn’t mind the publicity. It gives him status. The only thing Willie Frank objected to in the news stories about him and his gang when they were busted for drugs was that the papers misspelled his name and even mixed up names under the pictures. “DOPE RING SMASHED” was a little too grandiose a headline, Willie thought, for a twenty-dollar haul of pot, but it gave him a glow just the same.”