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

Longhair Times: Hoppy and Miles

As Roger Mayne’s Southam Street Project concluded in the early 60s, the next local photographer hero, John Hopkins arrived on the scene. Having dropped out of a career in nuclear physics, Hoppy became the leading light of the hippy underground movement, primarily as a photo-journalist but also as a publisher, promoter, pot polemicist and Powis Square resident. As he founded Love Books to publish The Longhair Times beat poetry mag with Barry Miles, Hoppy’s next pad on Westbourne Terrace became the hub of the hippy/Rasta crossover scene. In answer to my inquiries about the drug culture of the time, he stressed that “it was a fairly benign scene Marijuana in those days, and it was largely associated with West Indians in Notting Hill. I used to hang out with some of the local Rastafarian contingent... I don’t know if they were the first, they were the first ones I’d met.”

I can see for Miles
The leading British beat Barry Miles (known as just Miles) published Ginsberg material in his beat poetry mag Tree in 1960, and ran the Better Books beat shop at 94 Charing Cross Road that specialised in Grove Press and City Lights publications. After putting on the Albert Hall beat happening in 1965 and founding International Times with Hoppy and the Indica shop/gallery, Miles interviewed the beat Beatle Paul McCartney and went on to be a longstanding NME writer. He has since written definitive Burroughs and Ginsberg biographies. On meeting the naked Allen Ginsberg, John Lennon told Miles, “You don’t do that in front of the birds.”

Days in the Life
In ‘Notting Hill: The White Nigger Syndrome’ section of Jonathon Green’s Days in the Life: Voices from the English Underground, the black underground press writer Courtney Tulloch cites Norman Mailer’s ‘white negro’ theory of disaffected white identification with the black freedom myth and the influence of the “first hair rebel” Rastas on the hippies, largely through Hoppy: “The Rastafarians were the first group in the western world to actually drop out of white society, saying ‘This is Babylon, we don’t want anything to do with it.’ There was a grouping of Rastafarians in Ladbroke Grove and people like Hoppy met them in their early days around Notting Hill.” Miles recalled his first sighting of dreadlocks on the 1959 CND march, and Hoppy taking a Rasta publicity picture featuring the Egg Marketing Board lion.

This positive new development in local race relations, following the conflict and scams of the Teddy boys and hustlers, seems to have largely revolved around drug dealing. Days in the Life reminiscences of Miles, his wife Sue, Mick Farren, Sam Hutt, Graham Keen and David May feature the routine of scoring ten bob deals of ‘tea’ wrapped in newspaper off West Indians in Notting Hill. Graham Keen remembered nervously going into basements at night accompanied by middle-aged black men, who had “a vague Rasta connection” but no dreadlocks. Dick Pountain recalled the blues party music in the early hippy days as “a mix of ska, soul and organ jazz, Jimmy Smith and so on.”

According to Miles, the classic ‘I bought it from a black man in Notting Hill’ excuse was accepted by magistrates, as it was widely considered to be impossible to recognise the same black man again. Hustlers like Michael de Freitas and Lucky Gordon were welcomed on the white scene but by all accounts there wasn’t much social interaction. The Electric manager Peter Brown and Peter Shertser talked of a black – grass, white – hash apartheid system.

The Friends reporter David May remembered Notting Hill as “the pits, it really was sleazebag”, and the Rio café at 127 Westbourne Park Road as “the centre for scoring hash – It was a very dodgy scene; white boy goes down there into black man’s territory...” Mick Farren found the Rio Ray Charles shades generally hostile, but Sam Hutt (who became the Electric Cinema hippy doctor and then the alternative country and western singer Hank Wangford) had fonder memories of going to score at the Rio and the Number 9 club on Westbourne Park Road. To Courtney Tulloch and Horace Ove, on the inside of the black underworld and the white underground, the Rio was a place to score and hang out but wasn’t just about dope; to some it was a radical talking shop, to others a Caribbean reminiscence society.

The Great Western Road Beat Hotel
Hoppy recalls the London ‘Beat Hotel’ (named after the Paris headquarters of William Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg) on our answer to Rue Git-le-Couer Great Western Road as a Bohemian Colin MacInnes hangout, “really run-down, rather dingy inside, with naked lightbulbs and torn wallpaper, rattly doors and interesting people living there.”

In Mick Farren’s Notting Hill memoirs, the IT editor and Deviants singer recalls existential life in his first Interzone slum bedsit, ‘the house of the Chinese landlord’ on Westbourne Gardens, and the late-night Automat on Westbourne Grove. Farren felt accepted as a character in the ‘James Bond island fantasy’ of Johnny Millington’s Safari Tent store at 207 Westbourne Park Road (which also hosted the ‘Jack the Stripper’ Jazz Club), where he scored off a Mingus-lookalike rudeboy in a porkpie hat, and his discovery of the jazz record shop made him feel that his beatnik gang were not alone. After joining Alex Trocchi’s Project Sigma and working with Michael de Freitas on International Times, he remained sympathetic to both their respective lost causes. Mick Farren’s welcome on the Irish scene became strained after he performed an early punk rock gig at the Artesian Irish folk pub (now the Bonaparte bar) on Chepstow Road in 1964 – before hippy had properly started.

read on - part 4: Rolling Stones on the Portobello Road




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