1 Adrift in Notting Hill and A Blues for Shindig
2 Alex Trocchi’s Invisible Insurrection
3 Longhair Times: Hoppy and Miles
4 Rolling Stones on the Portobello Road
5 Michael X on the Black Beat in the Ghetto
6 Ladbroke Grove Roots

Alex Trocchi’s Invisible Insurrection

The Situationist beat writer Alex Trocchi, known as the Scottish William Burroughs, was a mainstay of the Parisian existentialist scene with Samuel Beckett and Jean-Paul Sartre. In the States he’s said to have inspired the Doors’ Jim Morrison, and Leonard Cohen put him up in Canada as he evaded heroin dealing charges. In London Trocchi became another archetypal Notting Hill hero/villain. His second novel Cain’s Book was unsuccessfully defended by the future North Kensington Labour MP Bruce Douglas-Mann against charges of advocating drug use. Along with his enthusiasm for heroin, Trocchi brought with him to Notting Hill his equally controversial proto-hippy take on Situationist theory – the revolutionary philosophy then coming out of Paris.

From a combination of being a Situationist and his beat notoriety, Trocchi was a major influence on both the hippy and punk movements. When he launched his Project Sigma ‘counter-culture exchange’ in 1964, from 7 Princes Square off Hereford Road, Trocchi was excluded from the Situationist International over his use of psychedelic politics rather than hard drugs. Later that year his Sigma 5 portfolio of radical theories came out of 6 St Stephen’s Gardens. As this former Rachman property, acquired for Trocchi by Michael de Freitas, became a hotbed of proto-hippy activity it was described by the acid guru Timothy Leary as ‘Alex’s London nerve-pulse heart chamber.’

The Albert Hall beat poetry happening: Tonite Let’s All Make Love in London
In 1965, after an international beat poets meeting at 6 St Stephen’s Gardens, Trocchi (on heroin) compered the Albert Hall ‘Wholly Communion’ beat poetry happening that launched the British counter-culture; featuring Allen Ginsberg, Michael Horovitz, Harry Fainlight on speed, Adrian Mitchell doing ‘Tell Me Lies about Vietnam’, Ferlinghetti, Corso, etc. The proceedings were filmed by Peter Whitehead for his Wholly Communion documentary and he used Ginsberg’s line Tonite Let’s All Make Love in London for the follow up. Trocchi was also a Portobello market trader with a bookstall in the Red Lion antiques market, and resided till his death in 1984 in Observatory Gardens off Campden Hill Road as the hippy Ford Madox Ford. The film of his first novel Young Adam came out in 2002, and Trocchi and Michael X recently starred in Stewart Home’s novel Tainted Love about his beatnik mother’s factional life in Notting Hill.

Hedgegate Court
After Trocchi, Michael’s other main beat/hippy cohorts were John Michell and John Hopkins. He first met the former cult author and landlord as he was selling a Rachman house on Colville Terrace. Michael was impressed by Michell’s appearance on a fascist march with two black girls, and Michell still defends Michael to this day. John Michell and Robert Jacobs acquired most of Powis Terrace in the post-Rachman sell off, including the legendary jazz record shop on the corner of Westbourne Park Road. The original Notting Hill cult record store run by David Langley specialised in the avant-garde jazz label Impulse, Gil Evans, John Coltrane, Charlie Mingus, Raahsan Roland Kirk and Miles Davis.

Powis Terrace/Hedgegate Court was further renowned for a Performance-influence Great Train Robber hideout, David Hockney’s studio featured in A Bigger Splash, a residence of the hippy fashion designer Ossie Clark, an association with the occult bluesman Graham Bond, Crazy Charlie’s hells angels’ chapter, heroin dealers, the first local Rastafarians and the London Free School. John Michell was also involved with Michael’s West Side Story film cash-in fashion show. Moving on from his property X-files, Michell became the underground press expert on leylines, Stonehenge, the holy grail and UFOs. He has since published numerous books including The View over Atlantis and The Flying Saucer Vision. John Hopkins described him as the archetypal esoteric Notting Hill writer. Ian Bone of Class War recalls going to an ‘Anarcho-United-Mystics’ meeting in 1964 in Finch’s on Portobello, which sounds John Michell related.

Read on - part 3: Longhair Times: Hoppy and Miles




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