Don't Start Me Talking
Subculture, Situationism and the Sixties
In his seminal socio-history of Punk, "England's Dreaming", Jon Savage makes the bald assertion that "Charles Radcliffe laid the foundation for the next twenty years of sub-cultural theory", referring in particular to his 1966 piece "the Seeds of Social Destruction" that appeared in the first of two issues of Radcliffe's co -authored, insurrectionary street-zine, 'Heatwave'.
Teddy Boys, Ton Up Kids, Mods and Rockers, Beats, Ban the Bombers, The Ravers (jazz heads) : Radcliffe argued that the bank holiday bust ups, the demos, the riots, the sex drugs n rock n' roll, these were all part of a "youth revolt... (that ) has left a permanent mark on this society, has challenged assumptions and status, and been prepared to vomit its disgust in the streets. The youth revolt has not always been comfortable, valid, to the point or helpful. It has however made its first stumbling political gestures with an immediacy that revolutionaries should not deny, but envy."
Radcliffe joined the International Situationists within a year of Heatwave #1, alongside (English Situationists co-founder) Chris Gray, but by the time 1968 had ended, and youthful revolt had fed into wide pockets of political turmoil globally, Radcliffe had started to drift towards other poles of late 60s counterculture; he ended the decade in long hair and loon pants, banged up in a Belgian prison on hash smuggling charges.
This epic (900 + pages) book follows Radcliffes’ trials and tribulations from early 1950's upbringing with a remote, infantry officer father, through a series of averagely brutal public schools, before a teenage flowering of self discovery lead him to Oscar Wilde's (Peter Kropotkin inspired) 'The Soul of Man under Socialism' (1895). The avant garde / leftist poetry of Frederico Llorca followed, onto William Blake, Camus, and study wall posters of Jimmy Dean and Brando overlooking a bust of Marx (this is starting to sound like an Aztec Camera song), before leaving school and landing in the job market as a cub reporter on a local Teeside paper of the early 60's.
Charlie Radcliffe, 1963 (?)
What was to become a lifelong immersion in Blues, ("discovering Muddy waters in someone's mum’s flat in Ealing") Jazz and the Beats flourished alongside what was to be a more sporadic, but no less long term association with political direct action. Involvement in the (CND precursor ) Committee of 100 and his first arrest, solidified interest in strains of anarchism, with politics and counterculture entwining in a uniquely 60's way as "our anarchism ran in harness with Beat sympathies".
Initial contact with the Chicago-based IWW-Wobblies in 1965 lead to a piece on the decline of the British radical peace movement published in the IWW's influential Rebel Worker. Reflections on everything from the revolutionary significance of Bugs Bunny's surreal delinquency to explorations of Marx's 1844 "Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts" followed, and in mid 1966 the first of two issues of Radcliffe's own Heatwave appeared, as "direct descendants of Rebel Worker", co edited by Christopher Gray.
Enthusiastic depositions on the Dutch Provo's, free education, Dada, addiction, and unitary urbanism appeared alongside the influential "Seeds of Destruction" piece, and Heatwave was enthusiastically embraced in the burgeoning alternative interzones between radical politics, music, art and subculture.
Issue #3 was in motion by early 67', before Radcliffe and Gray both joined the International Situationists. But Radcliffe also took his first acid trip with Gray in 67', and... things changed...
"Acid was a great antidote, not only to the bomb, providing a way of seeing the Absolute Reality beyond assumed reality, a step outside samsara, dissolving barriers, turning the world around, but also of understanding it, in ways deeper and more complete than could be achieved by thought alone... I had spent the early sixties waiting to die in a nuclear holocaust. I was determined to spend the rest of the decade trying to live to the full."
And so it was into the late 60's underground, via spells writing for I.T, and the Mr Nice style large scale hash smuggling years (his friend, Howard Marks, pops up throughout the second half of the book), on to a 5 year prison stretch, divorce, remarriage and beyond.
'Don't Start Me Talking' offers up important first hand perspectives on 60's / 70's counterculture, and an intimate portrait of a man who seemed to face the slings and arrows that fortune threw at him with a never ending supply of equanimity. And high grade hash.
Charlie Radcliffe & Chris Gray , mid 90's ?