Book Review of:
SEX, DRUGS, ROCK ‘N’ ROLL
& VIOLENCE IN THE
by DAVID HUXLEY
(Headpress / Critical Vision - £13.95 / $19.95 -
What’s so funny ‘bout Peace Love and Understanding? Well, nothing. Except that TV-clips of Hippies in silly hats, idiot-dancing, and human-daisy-chains in the park, are in danger of eclipsing the significance of what really went on in those down-dirty late-sixties. ‘Be Sure To Wear Some Flowers In Your Hair’– of course, but chances are that Charles Manson will also show up at the Love-In. For every Woodstock there’s an Altamont. For every Flower-Child, a Street-Fighting Man.
David Huxley’s valuable research into one particularly neglected cranny of the era, magicked into life by the lavish visual explosions provided by Headpress lay-out – vividly visceral, explicit, disturbing… and fun, goes some way towards redressing that (sub)cultural imbalance. Comics – or ‘Comix’ are his thing. The strips that ran in the ‘underground’ periodicals, and their more specialised comic-book spin-offery. More specific yet, their British manifestations. Artists such as Hunt Emerson. Tracing his lines, which form garish detonations of ludicrous invention, fluid – but angular. Faces, shapes, and figures in dynamic melt-down, vibrating with psychedelic energies. Elaborate spirals and coils of brain-matter, goggle-eyes veiny and drifting free from their sockets like loose balloon moons…
Comic-strips and animation have always been something of a cultural oddity. Their exaggerations are implicitly surreal. Think ‘Desperate Dan’ – no, really think about it. What the hell is that about? Think about the open-ended repetitive non-story structure of ‘Wylie C. Coyote & the Roadrunner’. Existential ‘Theatre of Cruelty’ or what? And it’s always been slightly subversive too. As far back as you can go Political Cartoons have been a weapon of ridicule against the corrupt pomposity of the ruling class. The sixties-cum-early-seventies had no monopoly on any of this. What it did do was reignite it all through new mix-and-max outrage combinations. Through a generation of new artists, Robert Crumb among them, illuminating the youthquake happening all around them. And by their being independently published through the new global phenomenon of disreputable titles calling itself the ‘underground press’, made possible by the proliferating cheap accessibility of offset print-technology. It also benefited from good timing.
Initially the visual dimension of the UK titles – ‘It’, ‘Friends’, ‘Oz’, ‘Styng’ and the rest, was characterised by an over-reliance on American reprints (Crumb’s ‘My First LSD Trip’, Gilbert Sheldon’s ‘Wonder Wart-Hog’). But the early local contingent soon includes Jeff Nuttall’s free-form cut-up ‘Physiodelics’, Mick Farren’s scripts for Edward Barker, the ‘Largactilites’, Chris Welch – creator of the odd SF-saga ‘Ogoth’ who doubled by reviewing Pop singles for ‘Melody Maker’, Hunt Emerson’s debut in Birmingham Arts Lab’s ‘Large Cow Comix no.1’ through to his ‘Thunderdogs’ mayhem in 1980 and ‘Firkin The Cat’ for ‘Fiesta’, Brian Bolland’s ‘Little Nympho In Slumberland’ in ‘Graphixus no.3’, Mal Burns, Bryan Talbot, and much more.
Michael Moorcock’s innovative SF-fantasia ‘Jerry Cornelius’ was serialised through issues of ‘Frendz’. As regards self-contained titles, ‘Cyclops’ – at just 15p from the ‘Innocence & Experience Press’, cover-proclaims itself ‘The first English Adult Comic Paper’ in July 1970, followed by Felix Dennis’ ‘COZmic Comics’ – no.3 of which consists entirely of British artist Mike Weller’s work. Then the spectrum of titles runs from Alchemy Publications’ ‘Brainstorm Comix’ with a no.1 print-run of 3,500, to Joe Hirst’s modest Bamforth-derived spirit-duplicated naughtiness via Filey-based Fiasco Press. From ‘Napalm Kiss’ to Robert Crumb’s celebrated orgy-spread highlighting ‘Nasty Tales no.1’.
‘DREAMBERRY WINE (Jan-Feb)’ (UK – Jan 2004)
‘SONGBOOK no.2’ (UK – Feb 2004)
‘MONOMYTH no.14’ (UK – May 2004)