Phil Green & the lost world of London’s beatnik hipsters

It has long been a cliché to say that history is written by the victors, but in terms of the London counterculture it would be far more accurate to state that to date accounts of this scene have largely been composed by the squares; individuals who failed to penetrate the truly hip inner circles because they are too straight to know about them.  Since I started researching my mother’s life, I have come across a massive amount of material that was missing from histories of the period. The most amazing oversight is without doubt the Victor James Kapur acid manufacturing bust (my mother’s friend Detta Whybrow persuaded the chemist to make the LSD, and organised its distribution in London); fortunately after I turned Andy Roberts onto newspaper accounts of the court case, he did further research and included it in his book Albion Dreaming (2008).

Many beatnik faces are still overlooked in histories of the sixties because publishers and television producers think all anyone wants to hear about is the rather less sophisticated hippie scene. Likewise, the real hipsters were rather less interested in publicising their activities than interlopers like Steve Abrams. In this blog I’m going to look briefly at 1960s west London beatnik face Phil Green, who – in tandem with Alex Trocchi – made an early stab at translating French Situationist texts into English. That said, while Trocchi’s French contacts liked to drink wine and smoke a bit of weed, these London hipsters were more into smack; and this is as true of Phil Green as anyone else.

On 12 March 1962 The Times carried the headline ‘Drug Charges After Raid On Café’ above an article that mentioned Green among others, then on 26 March 1962 the same paper followed this up with ‘C.N.D. Supporters Given Drugs’, concluding on 26 April with a news story entirely devoted to Phil Green entitled ‘Youth’s Beard A Part Of Façade’. Philip John Green then aged twenty was one of ten men and women arrested for their involvement with a ‘drug ring’ centred on The Peace Café in Fulham Road, Chelsea. At the time Green worked at this establishment as a chef. He pleaded guilty to possession of Indian hemp and twenty grains of opium, as well as ‘hubble bubble pipes’ used for opium smoking.

Green’s defence lawyer said that there was no question of him being ‘a conduit pipe for this stuff or a distributor of it’. The Magistrate assented it did rather look as though everyone was experimenting together. Green was told he’d been caught in possession of a substantial amount of opium, and it was a serious matter, requiring a full medical report. He had his hair cut and trimmed his beard, and upon his return to court for sentencing was given two years probation. The beak told Green: “You have got to get a regular job. Set your sights a little higher than the kitchen and try to trim your appearance to the job. I think you are capable of doing it, having been to a public school.”

Despite assuring the law he’d mend his ways, Green had no intention of doing so. He just wanted to stay free. Jamie Wadhawan caught him on camera at Alex Trocchi’s Arts Lab event of 13 April 1969 in the documentary Cain’s Film; and one of the women present at the event told me recently that Green promised he’d come off junk if she’d sleep with him, but she politely declined the offer. I’m also told, by other sources who likewise wish to remain anonymous, that during this period Green specialised in doing over chemists to support his drug habit. However, after coming out from a spell in Pentonville Prison he met and married a millionairess who hoped to reform him; and moved to Amsterdam with her.

That said, Green kept up his more important London contacts after he left the city. Nina Trott who squatted in the flat above my mother and her common-law husband Bruno de Galzain in Tottenham Court Road in 1975/6 told me: “An old junkie friend of Julie and Bruno called Phil Green came over from Amsterdam and stayed for a while.” While another squatter from a few doors down added: “I remember meeting Phil Green at Julie’s flat, with Bruno, sometime in 1976.  Phil was a photographer and a smackhead.”

Since my mother Julia Callan-Thompson died in 1979, I haven’t attempted to follow Green’s evolution from that point on. However, I’ve been led to believe he is now dead. Further anecdotes about Green, particularly if they relate to his involvements with my mother and/or Trocchi, are of course very welcome in the comments below.

Jeff Nuttall in Bomb Culture (Paladin, London 1970, page 181) mentions Phil(ip) Green by name and provides a sketch of the scene he belonged to. After mentioning the appearance by William Burroughs and Alex Trocchi at the Edinburgh International Writers conference and dating this as 1963, Nuttal continues:  “Together he (Burroughs) and Trocchi moved down to London. In London they became the pivot round which a number of people revolved – Charles Hatcher, Tom Telfer, McGrath, Philip Green, myself. They were not, however, the beginning of the Underground in England. Towards the end of the great days of Aldermaston certain of the whackier and younger CND followers had gathered in the Peace Cafe in Fulham Road, eventually closed through notoriety for drugs, and formed a cultural nucleus that looked mainly towards America and the Beats for its model. Prominent figures to emerge from this group were Dave Gunliffe, Lee Harwood, Ian Vine, Neil Oram, Spike Hawkins, Miles and, most important, Mike Horovitz and Pete Brown…”

And while you’re at it don’t forget to check – www.stewarthomesociety.org – you know it makes (no) sense!

About mistertrippy

Stewart Home was born in south London in 1962. His mother Julia Callan-Thompson was a showgirl and club hostess. He has never held down a regular job for more than a few months at a time. On those rare occasions when he's been forced to work, Home has taken employment as a factory labourer, agricultural labourer, shop assistant, office clerk and art class model. Deciding he didn't like working in factories as a teenager, Home pursued cultural and political interests, writing many books and participating in even more gallery exhibitions.
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16 thoughts on “Phil Green & the lost world of London’s beatnik hipsters

  1. K Mail says:

    Am i really feeling groovy or is it just the drugzzzzzzzz?????

  2. Phil Green says:

    Ha! I was only playing dead! Fooled you all! It’s easy when you’re stoned outta your mind.

  3. Call yourself men, you lot have shot up so much junk that you wouldn’t get it up if I deployed my special jaw action against your flaccid members!

  4. K Mail says:

    I don’t know why but it is time to re-alert your readers to Operation Prole-Wipe, the initiative put in place by the Heath government to reverse the postwar population explosion by putting the British public off sex. While America and Europe bathed in a fountain of hardcore filth, some of which, by virtue of it’s sheer gynaecological explicitness, could be seen as vaguely instructional, plebeian Britain was subjected to an endless and debilitating stream of softcore “comedies”, designed to make sexual activity of any kind seem off-puttingly ridiculous, undignified and ugly. While the ruling classes continued to yank their planks to yellow-sleeved volumes or erotica with Aubrey Beardsley illustrations, the proletariat were suddenly exposed to the sight of Robin Askwith’s heaving bum working away like an oil derrick amid the soap-spew of a malfunctioning washing machine, Liz Fraser as a character called Miss Slenderpants, and graphic shots of the face of Bill Maynard, a gifted comic whose “distinctive” appearance radiates anti-orgone, the sex-destroying energy, causing him to spend his life within a force field of celibacy, a walking bubble of not-getting-any.

    Britain’s acting establishment threw themselves into the proud task of sterilising the nation’s manhood, and renowned thespians such as John LeMesurier, James Robertson Justice, Irene Handl and future prime minister Tony Blair’s father-in-law Tony Booth, rushed to wallow in the steaming tide of buttock-thrusting pantomime. While low-grade pornographers like Derek Ford found themselves elevated to near-mainstream status, with actual budgets and actors to contend with, respected filmmakers like Val Guest enthusiastically mutilated their own reputations with tosh like CONFESSIONS OF A WINDOW CLEANER and AU PAIR GIRLS, films whose existence can only be accounted for by their makers’ fierce dedication to the production of widespread erectile dysfunction.

    BTW: The first K Mail comment on this blog was by a clone. Accept no substitutes Michael K is the original and best for all your three in a bed romps and other sexual requirements…..

  5. I’d have slept with Phil Green and he wouldn’t have even needed to give up skag, just share it around a little. He’s one cool cat wearing sunglasses after dark!

  6. Julia says:

    married millionairess and moved to Amsterdam with her, sweet… I wish he’d taken me with him

  7. jim seventies says:

    but au pair girls has got gabrielle drake in it, completely full frontal!

  8. Exactly, anyone doing a proper job like me or Val Guest is criticised but you never seen people threating to hang social worker from lamp posts!

  9. Lee Petty says:

    Real hipsters ride to town in a coffin…..

  10. Evel Knievel says:

    Real hipsters know how to beat on the brat with a baseball bat.

  11. K Mail says:

    Has anyone got a £5 bag they wanna sell me?

  12. Are you drunk? they always say you shouldn’t advertise when you are leaving town in case someone robs you, but my good pal is in town writing for some tv show, and she needs a place to crash so there’s no chance of anything getting stolen. Unless she steals it from me.

    There’s nothing like a girl staying over for you to realize what a shit hole your apartment has turned into. i’m trying to clean my apartment. Also, gonna try to read WAR AND PEACE while i’m on vacation. Seriously. once i took UNDERWORLD (Delillo) on vacation to read. it sucked. but i think tolstoy will be amazing. i finished DR. ZHIVAGO when i was in Paris for a long vacation. I love the russians. When i come back, hopefully i will have great stories to tell about my surfing prowess.

  13. Gekko: Well, I appreciate the opportunity you’re giving me, Mr. Cromwell, as the single largest shareholder in Teldar Paper, to speak.

    Well, ladies and gentlemen, we’re not here to indulge in fantasy, but in political and economic reality. America, America has become a second-rate power. Its trade deficit and its fiscal deficit are at nightmare proportions. Now, in the days of the free market, when our country was a top industrial power, there was accountability to the stockholder. The Carnegies, the Mellons, the men that built this great industrial empire, made sure of it because it was their money at stake. Today, management has no stake in the company!

    All together, these men sitting up here [Teldar management] own less than 3 percent of the company. And where does Mr. Cromwell put his million-dollar salary? Not in Teldar stock; he owns less than 1 percent. You own the company. That’s right — you, the stockholder.

    And you are all being royally screwed over by these, these bureaucrats, with their steak lunches, their hunting and fishing trips, their corporate jets and golden parachutes.

    Cromwell: This is an outrage! You’re out of line, Gekko!

    Gekko: Teldar Paper, Mr. Cromwell, Teldar Paper has 33 different vice presidents, each earning over 200 thousand dollars a year. Now, I have spent the last two months analyzing what all these guys do, and I still can’t figure it out. One thing I do know is that our paper company lost 110 million dollars last year, and I’ll bet that half of that was spent in all the paperwork going back and forth between all these vice presidents.

    The new law of evolution in corporate America seems to be survival of the unfittest. Well, in my book you either do it right or you get eliminated. In the last seven deals that I’ve been involved with, there were 2.5 million stockholders who have made a pretax profit of 12 billion dollars. Thank you.

    I am not a destroyer of companies. I am a liberator of them! The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed — for lack of a better word — is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms — greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge — has marked the upward surge of mankind. And greed — you mark my words — will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the UK.

    Thank you very much.

  14. Hey quoting from Gordon Gekko when you couldn’t possibly have realised that most of this speech features heavily in Michael K’s imminently-exhibiting legendary 1989 movie ‘Madi$on Avenue’ is, like, a transtemporal National Geographic grooooove sensation!

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