Thursday, March 5, 2009

Hippie by Barry Miles (29/81)

Category: Retro – 1960s, Beats, Hippies and Counterculture

At first I thought it might be a bit of cheat including this book in a reading challenge as this book does mainly consist of photographs. However it turned out that there was still a substantial amount of text amongst the wonderful images, so it has earned a place in my list.

“Hippie” covers the counterculture movement from 1965 to 1971, spending a lot of time in San Francisco where the hippies dominated, but also visiting the equivalent scenes in Los Angeles, New York and London. The book is very much about the culture of the period in terms of music, fashion and lifestyle choices, with the political aspects not being covered as in depth here as elsewhere.

The author is in a good position to write about this era as his background includes being chairman of the Youth Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, co-founder of Indica Books and Gallery and International Times (IT) and head of Zapple, the Beatles' spoken word label. He actually pops up in the book once or twice, where he refers to himself in the third person, which seemed a bit odd. Despite his connections, this book is far being a rose-tinted trip down memory lane with a description of the later Haight-Ashbury scene being particularly disturbing. He is also very realistic about the limitations of the hippie ideals, how short-lived its heyday was and about its long-term impact.

“Hippie” is very much an overview of the movement and at times I would have liked more detail, but it provides a good introduction to the subject. It is also a book that can be dipped into and returned to again on account of the great pictures.

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