What was the International Times?
The International Times, or IT as it became known, was Britain’s – and Europe’s – first underground newspaper, a radical weekly publication which covered art, literature, politics and news of alternative lifestyles. The paper was launched in October 1966 with a huge gig at the Roundhouse; with Pink Floyd and Soft Machine playing, this was a seminal event which signalled the burgeoning of the new counter-culture in Britain. The first issue of IT was heavily arts orientated, with an obituary of Andre Breton, a review of Yoko Ono’s show at Indica Gallery, a report on Nikki de Saint Phalle’s ‘She’ sculpture in Stockholm and reviews of the Rolling Stones at the Albert Hall. As the British counter-culture grew, IT covered many alternative topics including articles on ley lines, Eastern mysticism, vegetarianism, communal living and, of course, drugs; the paper provoked controversy by including the street prices of LSD and marijuana. Unsurprisingly, IT fell foul of the establishment and was subject to a number of police raids.
What was the Underground Press?
The term ‘underground press’ refers to magazines and newspapers which came out of the youth-led counter-culture of the 1960s. It wasn’t hidden as its name suggests – its publications were sold openly. The underground press gave a voice to a new post-war generation of young people who were not catered for by Fleet Street newspapers – the generation that grew up with rock 'n’ roll and the advent of teenage fashions. The new youth market was catered for to an extent by the weekly music press and weeklies aimed at teenage girls. But there were still many subjects that concerned young people that were not covered, including the anti-nuclear weapons movement, sexual liberation, avant garde art, and drugs. This kind of information could only be found in the underground or alternative press.
Underground papers and magazines were usually non-commercial, staff were mainly unpaid and production was low tech. Distribution of IT, like many off-beat publications, was via alternative booksellers, theatres and galleries – or street sellers – as conventional outlets such as W H Smith refused to stock it. IT was soon joined by OZ magazine, which started in London in 1967, and subsequently many other publications from the counter-culture emerged, such as Friends (later Friendz), and feminist magazines Shrew and Spare Rib. Following partial legislation of homosexuality in 1967, Gay news followed. All of these publications provided an alternative to the establishment commercial press and a vital platform for the voices of the counter-culture.
- Article by:
- Barry Miles
- Art, music and popular culture
Barry Miles charts the rise of the underground press in the late 1950s and 1960s, which covered art, leftwing politics and alternative lifestyles ignored by the established media.