Barry Miles and International Times: ‘The invisible insurrection of a million minds’

The Wired Jester

Posted on April 23, 2007

International Times

Last week I went to a panel discussion on magazines; although I took notes on all three speakers, I ended up with loads from the talk by Barry Miles, co-founder of 60s underground paper International Times (Wikipedia). He talked at length about I.T.’s genesis, launch party and development, which I found fascinating. Here are my full notes. Bear in mind these notes were scribbled at pace, so apologies for any errors/omissions.

On the genesis of I.T.:

“We put on a poetry reading at the Albert Hall in 1965. It cost £400 to hire, then another £100 an hour. And bear I mind, I earned £10 a week at this time, and we had only 9 days to publicise it. But we sold the tickets and it went ahead, and we saw that we, youth culture, were a real constituency. It’s very, very difficult now to imagine how straight England was, even in the mid 60s. It was a very black and white world then.”

On I.T. being totally counter to Fleet street and established media:

“The idea of anyone from our community writing for the Guardian or the Times was inconceivable. None of the papers had any popular music coverage in those days. Our group of people needed somewhere to express themselves, so in early 1966, Hoppy (John Hopkins) and I started to put it together. We got the guy who’d been editor of Peace Times for CND, to help, too. He’d gotten freaked out and left London and gone to live in the countryside, but we got him to come back.”

On I.T.’s launch:

“We had the launch party at the Roundhouse in Camden. It had been used for storing gin, and had been abandoned for seventeen years. It was just a big space with a balcony that was apparently unsafe. But it was ideal for IT. Soft Machine and The Pink Floyd played. I remember paying them – Pink Floyd got £15 because they had a light show, and Soft Machine got £12. Although they had a motorcycle on stage, so maybe that was a bit unfair.”

On how I.T. was written and distributed:

“I.T. wasn’t properly edited. It depended a lot on people bringing stuff in. It was the same with distribution – anyone could come in a grab 50 copies, and we just trusted them to bring the money back, and then they could get some more copies. By 1969, I.T.’s height, we were printing about 44,000 copies, and it was going out every two weeks or so, unless we’d been busted or something.”

How I.T. got into advertising and staved off financial collapse:

“The first few issues had a lot of serious articles by William Burroughs about the overthrow of the state. He used it as his platform to work out his ideas. And there was Ginsberg too. All the usual suspects. When we were running out of money, I was talking to Paul McCartney about it, and he said, ‘Well, you should interview me, then you’ll get ads from the record companies.’ And I thought, ‘hey, he might be on to something.’ So I interviewed him, and then George Harrison, and then the next week Mick Jagger called up, demanding to be interviewed too. And Paul was right, we got ads from the record companies.”

On I.T. and the community:

“We’d have these happenings on Tottenham Court Road. Lots of people would come down – The Beatles, Pete Townshend. He’d pay £20 or something on the door, becuase he knew it was going to I.T. It was a community paper, our community’s paper, so people put into it. I.T. was outside normal society in every respect.”