I was born in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, February 21, 1943, and educated at Cirencester Grammar School. I did four years at Gloucestershire College of Art from 1959 until 1963: two years in Stroud and two in Cheltenham, something I’ve covered in my In The Sixties. In Stroud I lived with three other artists in a classic ‘beatnik pad’, in fact more of a prototype hippie commune. I graduated with an NDD and followed college with a year at the University of London Institute of Education at Senate House (1963-4) learning to be an art teacher. I received my ATD but never taught. Instead I walked down the Charing Cross Road and got a job in Joseph Poole’s bookshop. A few months later, I moved two doors up the street and got a job as manager of the paperback section of Better Books organising readings, film-shows, etc. and importing all manner of mimeographed poetry magazines from the States and Europe. Allen Ginsberg stayed with me in 1965 and the Royal Albert Hall Poetry Festival was initially thought of and organised from Better Books.
That year John Hopkins (Hoppy) and I started Lovebooks Ltd to publish poetry and radical literature. I edited an anthology called Darazt, which featured a piece by William Burroughs, collages by me, photographs of Gala Mitchell by Hoppy and a long poem by Lee Harwood. Next came Long Hair magazine, named by Allen Ginsberg and featuring a long section from his Ankor Wat journal. Later in 1965 I joined Peter Asher and John Dunbar to form a company called MAD, Miles Asher and Dunbar, and opened Indica Books and Gallery. I did the books, John Dunbar did the art. Paul McCartney was living in Peter’s family house and was quickly roped in to help: he put up shelves, painted walls and designed the wrapping paper. It was at Indica Gallery that John Lennon first met Yoko One while we were hanging her first show in Europe.
In October 1966 Hoppy and I + many others including Sue Miles, Jack Henry Moore, Jim Haynes and editor Tom McGrath, started International Times (IT), Europe’s first underground newspaper. IT ran for 174 issues in its first series, from 1966 until 1974, and I wrote or was involved with them all. I also sometimes wrote for Oz magazine at the same time. I made my first visit to New York in 1967 to check out the underground scene there. In 1968 John Lennon and Paul McCartney asked me to start an experimental label called Zapple to compliment Apple Records, which released the Beatles’ work. I recorded albums by Charles Olson, in Gloucester Mass; Ken Weaver, in New York; Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Michael McClure and Richard Brautigan in San Francisco, and Charles Bukowski in Los Angeles. When Zapple closed I managed to get most of them released elsewhere. I next produced Allen Ginsberg singing his versions of William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience. (MGM, 1969). I catalogued Ginsberg’s tape archives 1970-71, living at the Hotel Chelsea in New York during the winter and on Ginsberg’s hippie commune in upstate New York in the summer, in 1971 we moved to a commune in Berkeley.
Back in Blighty I became a free-lance contributor to New Musical Express thanks to my old friend Mickey Farren and wrote several hundred record reviews, concert reports, and interviews for them from 1975-8 including their first concert review and first interview with the Clash. In 1978-9 I edited Time Out, the London listings magazine, with Peace Marchbank: he designed it and handled the words. After a spell as a free-lance editor for Omnibus Press I became a writer. I had done a lot of rock ‘n’ roll ‘quickies’ but my Allen Ginsberg biography was my first proper book. I began it in 1984.
I have travelled a lot, spending years in New York and in France, also visiting Australia, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Moscow, Cuba and travelling extensively in the States & Canada. Last year I made my first visit to Brazil.
I have been a member of the College of ‘pataphysics since 1965. I am a visiting fellow at Liverpool John Moore’s University. My archives are in Columbia University and the British Library, with a few bits in Stanford and New York Public Library. I have been with my partner Rosemary Bailey – also a writer – since 1978 and we have a son, Theo, born in 1990. I live in London.