Big Books

Big Books


by Barry Miles

Sterling Books, 384 pp., $24.95

What first appears to be a glossy coffeetable valentine to the youthful counterculture movement of the late Sixties, Hippie is truly an impressively detailed and lavishly illustrated effort. Barry Miles' impeccable credentials as a mover and shaker in London's mid-Sixties ultra-hip circles give him a unique and unexpectedly erudite point of view into political and social changes that marked the era. Then, Miles was friends with Allen Ginsberg and Paul McCartney, ran the Indica Gallery, and had co-founded London's first underground newspaper. Miles' gift is not only his provenance but also the international eye with which he sees the events. By positing the exploding inevitable of the London hippie culture into the balance, he gives more weight to its American development in places such as Haight-Ashbury and the East Village. In focusing on the years 1965-1971, he is able to pinpoint the revolution as it occurred year by year in its various locations and permutations. Here are names remembered: the Black Panthers, Timothy Leary, the Diggers, Andy Warhol, the Hog Farm, Ken Kesey, the Chicago riots. Here's the visual soundtrack with the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, the 13th Floor Elevators, the Fugs, and the Velvet Underground. The sometimes ponderous and plodding text nonetheless gives an accurate and informed narrative that's pure pleasure. Still, the namesake Hippie was a colorful character, and the book goes all out to illustrate that with eye-popping photographs. Some are familiar images to those who lived through the times; others are rarely seen snapshots of the moment. In the coffeetable book format, the photos have the effect of an old Life magazine layout, and Hippie becomes a kind of National Geographic for the Love Generation. At no other time in recent history were politics, fashion, music, and social mores so inextricably changing and entwined. In Hippie, every picture tells a story.

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