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The Vintage Guide To London | May 26, 2017

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Book review: London Calling - A Countercultural History of London since 1945

Book review: London Calling – A Countercultural History of London since 1945

Writer Barry Miles, once the head of the Beatles’ spoken word label Zapple and co-founder of the Indica Books and Gallery where John first met Yoko, has compiled a fascinating history of London’s underground and countercultural movements in the decades following the Second World War.

Starting out in the seedy bars of Forties Soho, we meet bohemian thinkers and rebellious artists like Lucien Freud and Dylan Thomas. Miles chronologically guides us through the Teddy Boy scene and jazz bars populated with Angry Young Men in the Fifties, the giddy heydays of the Sixties when anything and everything felt possible for a few fleeting months, to the Punk movement and the New Romantics of the Eighties, while finishing off with a brief chapter on the – according to Miles – commercial nature of the last two decades.

Although Miles somewhat fails to explain what he actually means with counterculture, particularly his chapters on the Sixties are a deeply fascinating insight into the Soho scene Miles was part of himself. His anecdotes and character descriptions not only bring back to life a bygone era but also evoke the fascination London has held and still holds for creatives, thinkers and political activists from around the world.

London Calling: A Countercultural History of London since 1945
By Barry Miles
ATLANTIC, £25