"I wrote a classic "Variety" headline which got me my job at "Rolling Stone". It was when the Allen Klein thing was happening and I wrote the headline: 'Lennon Bites Apple and Finds Worm'. The story was picked up in Random Notes in "Rolling Stone". I got a phone call from Wenner asking if I wanted to do some freelance. He came over when the Jagger-owned "Rolling Stone" collapsed. Suddenly there's this institutional magazine called "Rolling Stone" that has no staff. And here was this naive creature who'd been working at "Variety". I'd never read "Rolling Stone", but I met this man called Jan Wenner who I found terribly exciting because he was becoming a bit of a legendary figure and stayed in expensive hotels and so on. I was most impressed. Everybody I knew crashed out on someone's floor: he came over and stayed at the Dorchester and had a limo. Then he said did I want the job of running the English edition, which would mean a bit of writing, a bit of editing, looking after the business side and generally setting up an office. It was like manna from heaven, just a gift. Also it had better pulling power than "Variety". Like most people I was obsessed with the number of girls I could meet and saying 'I'm from "Rolling Stone"' had a cachet that 'Hello, I'm from "Variety" didn't really have with the kind of groovy girls I wanted to get to know. Bob Greenfield worked there; Jan Hodenfeld worked with me for a while until he went back to the States, Chris Hodenfeld his brother, Charles Alverson who wrote one of the Monty Python films, Charlie Nicholls who wrote "The Fruit Palace" later and had just won the Sunday Times junior journalist award, Dick Lawson, Jonathon Green and assorted mad people.
I used to go to "Friends" on Portobello Road on Saturdays, it was the highlight of my week to go up there and score off Little Tony. "Friends" was unbelievable. It was so exciting. They had these little IBM typewriters that they were actually making magazines on. People doing artwork in front of you on tables... nothing had prepared me for this: we had posh printers who did all this. There was "Friends", ripping off every image they could find, doing it all on IBM golfballs and actually making a far more vibrant product than the supposedly professional techniques we used at Rolling Stone managed. The north end of Portobello Road on a Saturday morning to me was absolutely magic. I loved it. The wonderful thing was seeing Alan Marcuson and knowing him a bit then, and then many years later him moving in across the road from me in Muswell Hill and he had two children and I had three.
I was slightly in awe of the underground heavies like Richard Neville and Germaine Greer. You'd meet them, you'd be in the same room at parties, but they were stars. The underground had a star system exactly as did pop music and films and everything else and you can only have a few stars at any one time and then there were a lot of hangers on. The stars knew what they were doing: they were as fundamentally insincere as everybody else. They knew what people wanted them to be, to look like, and to say and they very dutifully went ahead and performed that task for the pleasure of television and the rest of the media.
The underground was always incredibly entrepreneurial. When you think about what they managed to do with their limited resources - they didn't have merchant banks coming round and throwing money at them - was pretty amazing that people could actually produce these things and I think they gave a lot of hope to other entrepreneurs. Branson was around, but he was only a tourist. He always was a Tory and an exploiter of the trends. He didn't bother with the hardcore underground, but he was very good at the fringes. He would have been found out, disparaged and vilified if he had tried to join in properly."
The interview texts are from
"Days in the Life: Voices from the London Underground 1961-71" by Jonathon Green,
used here with permission. Any reproduction is prohibited without permission from the author.
Days in the Life excerpts © Jonathon Green
contact: Phil Franks (freax AT arrakis.es)
Freax/Friends website produced by Malcolm Humes