Friday, July 21, 2017

ROBIN & BINA WILLIAMSON - Half Moon, Putney. 19.7.17
Watching Robin Williamson perform with his wife Bina last night at the Half Moon in Putney was a deeply moving and thought-provoking experience. The Half Moon, once a proud bastion of British folk, has long since succumbed to the deadly virus of tribute bands. A character like Williamson is definitely a throwback in terms of the pub's promotions. Nevertheless, having taken the punters money, it seems not unreasonable to expect that the venue will provide a properly functioning PA system and a competent sound engineer to operate it. Sadly, this was not the case. 
So I looked at Robin Williamson playing the Scottish harp to a small crowd of folk music lovers. This man, 73 years old, who has been a professional musician for over 50 years, with a discography and bibliography so large it makes the Incredible String Band (for which he is most famous) seem like a minor diversion sometime early in his career. I watched him play and I listened to the melodies, some of them hundreds of years old. I noticed how he played none of his old songs (he has literally hundreds), relying instead on the Celtic Bardic tradition that he loves (and that loves him) and on terrible jokes and marvellous old stories (tonight we were treated to a parable on youth and death from the book of the High Deeds of Finn McCool), I marvelled at the casual brilliance of his musicianship - he plays guitar, violin, Scottish harp, mandolin - and I wept, ladies and gentlemen. Of course I did. 
Interesting to compare and contrast with his old ISB partner Mike Heron, whom I saw in Scotland last Autumn. Heron relied almost exclusively on old ISB material, even including one of Williamson's songs. Heron sang them with joy and not a trace of nostalgia. It was clear that the songs were still very much part of him. Williamson, on the other hand, makes no nod to his own past at all. His music, rooted as it is in ancient tradition, is entirely in the present. You can easily see how, with the best will in the world, these two approaches are no longer compatible and that the commercial fact that Heron and Williamson could play bigger venues and command much bigger fees together than they can apart is just completely irrelevant to Williamson. He turns up in his car and humps his own gear. His wife Bina sings in a strange and compelling Indian style - all the more so as it is applied to British folk. She plays the psaltery and the saz and the autoharp. Her rhythm is beautifully stately, Williamson in his eagerness sometimes has to wait for her, and the rapport between the two of them is a joy to watch. 
But Robin Williamson... He is so much the real deal it hurts. This is where the Celtic Bard fits, or doesn't fit, in London 2017. Go and see him if you can, if you care. Because when he's gone, when it's gone, that's it. 
Having said that, he looks healthy and happy and I have confidence he will be carrying on his vital work for a good few years yet. A part of the legend of Finn McCool has it that if a day goes by when Finn McCool's name is not mentioned, then the world will come to an end. Maybe the same is true of Robin Williamson.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Memories of Hoppy: An Interview with Graham Keen

Interview of Graham Keen conducted by Adam Blake, 20th July 2015
A.B: So, when did you first meet Hoppy?
G.K: Right. I can't remember the actual day but it was in August of 1960. I'd come out of the Air Force - I'd been doing my National Service - I'd come out at a bit of a loss as what to do. I'd had an Art School education in Cheltenham - they didn't give you a degree, they gave you a diploma, you did four years. If you wanted to go on with that, and use it in some way, the most likely was that you took a post-graduate teaching training course for a year. And I'd had one marked up but it wasn't for another year so I was - I suppose it was gap year, really.  
I'd re-connected with the Art School in Cheltenham which was my hometown, and some of the students there I knew from before and some I'd met for the first time. And among this core of students, there were two card-carrying Communist party members. They suggested we got up a trip to Moscow, see what it was like behind the Iron Curtain. We got hold of a hearse, a 1937 Austin with a V-8 engine, we painted it yellow, I think we paid £25 for it. Anyway, we pooled money and we worked on this machine to get it fit for a 2000 mile trip. At the time I was working as a bus conductor, round Cheltenham, and we worked towards the idea of getting to Moscow. To make it economically viable there had to be about 11 or 12 people. So we put it around Cheltenham and the local network and we didn't really get enough people. With our old school friends, old college friends, we had contacts in Oxford and Cambridge so we got notices put up there. Anybody wanted to join us the cost would be, I think it was about £50 to cover petrol, food, whatever. And there were a couple, I think three, maybe four people decided they'd like to come, and one of them was Hoppy.  
When I first caught sight of him we were driving with almost everybody else in the van through Deptford to the Dover Road - remember, no motorways then - and there was Hoppy waiting for us at New Cross. He had a worn Trilby, he had shoes that had a bar of leather stitched across them because they were standard issue at Winfrith Heath in Dorset, the Atomic Energy Establishment where he was working. So he obviously cared very little about his appearance. I was struck, probably in the same way that you were; he had some undefinable attraction. We got talking about cameras. I had a camera and I was very interested in photography. And we talked cameras. I had some grass, a little packet, that I'd been determined to take to Moscow and we shared it. I didn't tell anybody else because they would have been too worried, but I assumed Hoppy would smoke - I don't know why, just a hunch, and I was right and we shared it.
A.B: Wasn't that very hard to find in those days?
G.K: There wasn’t any available in Cheltenham. I got it from people in Oxford. It used to be made up in five bob or ten bob deals. Somebody had obviously scored an ounce, which was beyond most people’s finances. And they'd cut it and divide it and there was a sort of special way of folding the paper so you got a little packet. I won't tell you who I got it from because he is now a respected writer and it really, really irritates the hell out of him. I was very struck by Hoppy. We got held up in Germany and while we were there for a few days - have you seen that photograph I've taken of him? In a cellar looking place with his legs tucked up underneath him?
A.B: Yes, yes, you sent it to me.
G.K: Right. That was in Germany. Halfway to Moscow.
A.B: He looks like an absolute Bohemian.
G.K: He does, yes. We went to a dance in this place in Germany. And they all thought he was a Gypsy (laughs). But there was something - and you've probably noticed this - about Hoppy that he was sui generis. That you couldn't imagine him having parents or brothers and sisters. He was something strange from another planet.
A.B: He was a unique person, undoubtedly.
G.K: When I saw those photographs of him as a young boy in the funeral programme, it's almost unbelievable, you know… that he had had a normal childhood - had a bucket and spade and a tricycle - went rowing with his sister. I can't imagine him having a sister. From what he told me she obviously thought he was from another planet too. 
So, we got friendly. When we got to Moscow, it wasn't very nice weather and I remember one rainy afternoon he met some very dubious characters and they went down under a bridge on the Moskva river and he revealed that the holdall that he'd brought with him didn't contain anything but nylon stockings. He sold them to these guys (laughs).
A.B: Such a hustler.
G.K: Yeah! Travelling across Europe we'd gone through customs post after customs post, the van had been searched.
A.B: You'd smoked all the grass by this point?
G.K: No, I don't think so. It was in my pocket. People weren't really aware of grass at that time. It wasn’t until the sixties that it really became a public issue. So customs weren’t aware that it was around but I did wonder why hadn't they looked in Hoppy’s holdall? 
There was one lovely scene. We arrived at dawn on the Polish/Russian border, the sun was coming up across miles and miles of birch trees and the customs post was a dacha, the guys, the officers in charge had jodhpurs on. We all went in. They'd been playing chess, it was one of those kind of magical moments; they were so friendly and welcoming, probably we were such an anomaly in their dull routines – they were delighted. I'm glad I didn't know about the nylons, it could have endangered us all actually. I just didn’t consider that I might be doing the same thing with my pot. 
On the other hand we weren't used to military units turning round and snapping their gun at us because we made too quick a move, which happened occasionally in East Germany. I was filling in a form at one border or another and I was sitting on the bonnet of a car and I jumped down only to find that there was this great big loaded machine gun aiming at me. Quite tense! I think it was a year later? that the wall went up? So it was very, very tense. Europe. More tense than we realised. 
The next thing was I found Hoppy had left. Flown up to St Petersburg, which I found absolutely amazing. I thought, what confidence, what nerve. But he had all these roubles that he got from selling the nylons, and what's more, he took the girlfriend of - there was a bloke from Oxford came with his girlfriend - and he'd gone off with her. Taken her with him. Seduced her so to speak. My jaw dropped. He never said anything to us about going. I think he said something to the nominal leader of our little group, but I felt he'd deserted the ship, you know, and I was quite upset actually. I had got quite close but then I realised that Hoppy wouldn't be tied by anybody else's expectations of him, he was totally self contained – it was quite a shock.  
When we all got back I heard from Hoppy, I'm not quite sure how, but he was living in London by then. He had a scooter for transport. He'd left Winfrith Heath - the Atomic Energy Authority - and was working for a commercial photographer in Pimlico. There must be something in the archives about Hoppy in Leningrad, St Petersburg, because it was in the Daily Mirror – he’d been approached by both the Russian and British secret services wanted to talk to him.
A.B: Well, it's a matter of record that when he came back he was more or less kidnapped by MI5.
G.K: Yes. After all he had been working for a very sensitive Government organisation
A.B: And de-briefed at great length at some secret location in Victoria. Because they thought he fitted the profile perfectly. They thought he was a spy and, what the hell was he doing? But they didn't find anything suspicious and more or less offered him a job as a spy and he said absolutely no way. And it was after that that he became involved with CND.
G.K: I think we were all pretty naive.
A.B: Well you would have been 22, 23?
G.K: Yeah, he's six months younger than me. He was born September '37. I was born Dec '36. Eight months. Anyway, next time we met up he was working for a photographer in Victoria, learning the ropes of commercial photography. And occasionally he'd get a cover photograph on the Radio Times which was a big deal.
A.B: Were you taking photographs at the time?
G.K: Now let me see, what I was doing, '60 to '61 I was doing my Art teachers diploma. I then got a job in a primary school in Elstree, Boreham Wood and I took - I was inspired by Hoppy - I took lots and lots of photographs of the kids at work and play. I used to meet up with him quite often.
A.B: You also shared a love of jazz?
G.K: Yes, yes! that too. Then there was... I taught in this primary school for a year and then there was a break. I found myself living in Notting Hill Gate in a little square behind the Gate. Hoppy had established himself in Westbourne Terrace by that time. He'd set up a dark room, he'd gone freelance, he'd got a retainer from the Sunday Times and was quite the... He had enormous kind of, either confidence or courage.
AB: He also had bags of charm.
G.K: Yes! I saw him in Moscow doing things that really sent shivers down my back. The one occasion that stands out was that we were in a street and up the street was coming a very high brass army officer with a cap and some other officers. Suddenly there was Hoppy stepping out in front of them with his camera and going click click click. I thought, Christ! Hoppy! We're all going to end up in the gulag! If you keep on confronting people like this, but no, no, nothing happened. But I thought: That's the way to be a photographer. Or a press photographer anyway. So there were a number of things I learned about the attitude of being a photographer. 
In his flat in Westbourne Terrace there used to be a big bowl of grass on the table as you went in. It was so cool you wouldn’t believe. Hoppy seemed to have the knack of being able to get up from the table, go in to his room, and go to sleep. We'd be playing jazz, smoking, talking... He had the ability to just, I wish I had it, to just turn off and go to sleep.
A.B: Were you living in Westbourne Terrace at that time?
G.K: No, I wasn't. I'd met a girl and we were living together in her flat in Notting Hill Gate, just round the corner, so Hoppy was in the neighbourhood. He was living with a guy called Alan Beckett who was a copywriter. There was Hoppy, there was a drummer whose name I forget - I think there was just the three of them at that time. That's right, there were three bedrooms and a little room up a short flight of stairs that Hoppy used as a darkroom.
He showed me briefly how to develop film, but he'd just give you the basics: what you do is you put it in and then you read the instructions. So when he wasn't busy I'd ask him if I could use the darkroom. I paid for paper and, just the basics, Hoppy wasn't into making money out of it. Then I think a year passed and I was teaching again at a secondary school, this time in Harrow, and it was while I was at that school that I started to earn more from taking photographs than I was at teaching. Hoppy had guided me to magazines that would be likely to take the kind of photos I was taking - the Times Educational Supplement, there were a couple of other magazines, The Teacher, this kind of thing - and so I was selling them photographs of kids playing in the playground, kids in the classroom, that kind of thing. The primary school I loved, the secondary school I hated. The headmaster still caned boys publicly, you know, it was that kind of place. That must have been about '63 and I thought I can't take this anymore, I'll go freelance as a photographer. My girlfriend was working at LSE for the Medical Research Council – a good steady job, so I thought, I'll risk it.
I never looked back. I lived off photography up until 1968. Hoppy would often ring me up and say, look, I can't do this job to go and photograph George Brown, the Labour deputy, will you go and do it instead? I would take photographs of anything for money – even weddings. You could ring up the BBC and ITV and get to go their rehearsals of things like 'Ready Steady Go' and the BBC one – 'Top of the Pops', so that's where a lot of those photographs of pop stars and jazz musicians come from. The TV lighting was superb. And of course you were jostling with all the groups - Small Faces, The Stones, Wilson Pickett, and James Brown, you could actually talk to them, it was very heady. Very exciting. I often try and catch broadcasts of 'Ready Steady Go' in the 60s and 'Top Of The Pops' on television now to see if I might have actually been there at the rehearsal. 
I saw quite a lot of Hoppy at the time. But then suddenly he wasn't interested in taking photographs anymore. He'd gone to America and he'd come back full of the American Free Press. He'd met a lot of avant-garde jazz people, Paul Bley, Carla Bley, he may have met Ornette Coleman. Certainly Ornette Coleman came to stay with him later on. He wanted to start an information service that he called Bit. It was very prescient in a sense in that now we've got it with the World Wide Web. That kind of freedom of information.
AB: Joe Boyd said at the funeral that Hoppy’s goal was always the same in that he was primarily interested in the democratisation of information and I think that’s probably pretty spot-on as far as I can see, and that was really what he was after in more or less everything that he did, as well as having a good time.
GK: He treated most of his girlfriends very badly. They were appendages, and I know he did have regrets about Gala Mitchell.
AB: No-one seems to know what happened to her.
GK: She wasn’t very stable mentally. She came from the Mitchell and Butler’s beer family. Oh, let me go back. The group of us working on the idea of getting to Moscow, one of the group was Barry Miles. Now Barry wanted to come to Moscow but he was seventeen and his father wouldn’t let him have a passport. Big tragedy. His parents were very country people except that his father had had adventures in China as an ambulance driver in the late thirties. Anyway, Barry couldn’t come with us. But when Hoppy got established in a flat, first thing I did was to take Barry Miles round to meet him.
AB: Oh I see, you introduced Miles to Hoppy?
GK: Yes I thought, I must introduce him to my friends. I introduced him to about three or four people from Cheltenham. Barry was still at Art School in Cheltenham, up until about ’63 or ’64, then he did the same as I did, he did a teacher training course but he did it at London University and then he went to teach Art in a school in Paddington probably about as dreadful as the school I was at in Harrow. Anyway he left after a year and got a job at Better Books in Charing Cross Road. But that’s his story to tell. 
AB: Well you’re leaping forward a little bit. When Hoppy got back from America and you say his head was full of the free press and that was the germ for IT. And Miles was working for Better Books, did they not publish IT out of the basement at Better Books?
GK: No, by that time Barry and Peter Asher and John Dunbar had established Indica Bookshop and Gallery.  I can’t remember because I wasn’t in on all this. I did some work for them, occasionally they’d get me to take photographs, now where are we? We must be at about ’66. Did he start UFO after he came out of prison or before?
AB: No before. UFO as far as I know was started to raise funds for IT and it was also to do with the fact that the gigs he was putting on of Pink Floyd at All Saints Hall in Powis Square were becoming so popular that he and Joe Boyd decided to start this club to accommodate all of these people who seemed to be springing up...
GK: Oh wait a minute, I know what went on in between, London Free School.
AB: Did you have much to do with that?
GK: Well my girlfriend and I got involved along with Peter Jenner (he and Hoppy became the Floyd’s first managers) - Michael X was intermittently in and out.
AB: Michael de Freitas?
GK: Yes, Joe Boyd got involved. My girlfriend at that time, Jean McNeil - she’s a painter now, she’s got her own website, she lives partly in Essex, in Wivenhoe, but she connects in other ways, on the fringe. So there was a Free School. I never really believed in it and had an awkward feeling about it. I didn’t actually form the phrase ‘middle class wankers’ but in the end that’s what I came to think of it as. It was a good idea in some ways, but it was patronising, basically, to go opening our arms to the dispossessed of Notting Hill, and saying ‘we’re going to help you or instruct you’.  But Hoppy’s energy and determination were very strong and he just pulled us with him.
AB: They were bound to fall?
GK: Yes I’m surprised, looking back, that Hoppy hadn’t thought of that, but there was a certain level on which Hoppy thought everybody could operate. And that wasn’t true. There were different levels of intelligence or understanding, the ‘Gestalt’ if you like, of living in London poor, working class.
AB: Living in very cramped conditions and having no access to facilities. You know Hoppy always assumed that people were as smart as he was, and he used to get a bit pissed off when they weren’t!
GK: That is an Oxbridge failing.
AB: Yes, I think so. He never patronised me, I was just a kid and he always expected me to keep my end up, and used to get a bit impatient with me sometimes.
GK: I don’t think he was patronising in a person-to-person way, but he had some ideas that he thought people would or should respond to, when their situations just weren’t compatible. Obviously people who were so poor, I mean they weren’t going to go for an idealised free education thing, and what we had to offer. So that was a Free School. It came before International Times. Meanwhile Miles had got involved with his two partners, John Dunbar and Peter Asher, and opened up the Indica bookshop and art gallery and he would ring me up and say: "We’ve got these artists coming", and I’d come down and do a photo shoot. One of them was Yoko who nobody had heard of – ‘Mrs Cox’, she was pottering around putting up things with her husband, and the photographs I took there are now unique bits of history and appear everywhere. At the moment there’s an exhibition in Musee d’Art de Lyon and they want them for their catalogue, but at the time nobody was interested.
AB: Yes that’s what happened with Hoppy’s archive: he found himself in the enjoyable but faintly ludicrous situation of being paid very handsomely for work that he’d done fifty years before.
GK: Well I am too! Peter Jenner rang me up one day and said: “The Pink Floyd are going to be playing a gig at All Saints Hall, their first gig, could you come round and photograph it?” and for some reason I went round and photographed it in colour. They’re the ones that are spread across books everywhere. And the thing that I finally came to relax about was that it didn’t matter if the photographs weren’t very good artistically - it was the historical impact. I was there.
AB: Absolutely, this is what I tried to convince Hoppy of, because he was only interested in whether or not it was a good photograph. What the photograph was of, was entirely secondary. And I would say, Hoppy, it has historical value because of what it is. And he sort of grudgingly came to accept that that was the case. But if you look at the book, which is his version of his work, it’s all about the photograph.
GK: That was the aspect that was important to me too, from my Art School training. The aesthetics were most what we were interested in
AB: You’re right, it is about the photographs, but the fact is you were there photographing it and nobody else was.
GK: In his dotage Hoppy tried to take some landscape photographs.
AB: He did, yes. He was very pleased with those.
GK: Was he? They looked so mundane. It is not easy to take landscape pictures.
AB: Well he liked the format, you see. He liked the stretch camera, he really dug that.
GK: He’d got a stretch camera, had he?
AB: Yeah, he liked that. Well I don’t know whatever happened to those, they’ve disappeared, those pictures. They’re not in his archives, they’ve disappeared, I don’t know where they are.
GK: Hoppy moved from Westbourne Terrace to Queensway, so he was still a neighbour of mine. And I saw a bit less of him then. And that’s when his flat was raided by the police, and he went to prison. He was in Amsterdam, you probably know all those details.
AB: I think they raided him at the end of ’66, and he quixotically elected to be tried by jury.
GK: That’s right, and he gave them a piece of his mind.
AB: And he stood up in the dock and tried to convince them they should change the law, and of course we all know what happened. He could have got away with a fine, but he wanted to give a speech, and it cost him very dearly.
GK: Joe Boyd thinks that his experience in prison really fucked him over.
AB: I think so. Obviously I didn’t know him before, but from what you’ve said and from what so many people have said, it took the wind out of his sails. It would. It was hard time. It wasn’t a holiday camp. Also he told me that he smuggled in some LSD, up his arse. And it infiltrated his bloodstream as he was being inducted into the jail, he was coming up on quite a strong acid trip. Even if you’re quite an experienced tripper that’s still going to be...not much fun.
GK: I took a dose in Tunbridge at Mike Lesser’s place with Mike Lesser, Bob Tasher and a girl from IT. I came to work at IT because Miles asked me if I could manage to do the layouts. By that time I’d got quite interested in magazine layout. I’d been doing bits, occasionally for Peace News. They would say: Would you like to arrange your photographs on the page. I worked a lot for Peace News and CND. Hoppy was in jail, I’d just come back from Cambodia and I realised that I was quite sick of pointing my camera at napalm victims. I felt that it was intrusive, it wasn’t something I wanted to go on with. I was at this point that Miles took me to lunch somewhere in Covent Garden and said... because Miles was a director, along with Hoppy and Jim Haynes... and I looked at this stuff and said “Yeah, I think it would take me a week”. It was a fortnightly paper, and the bloke they had at the time doing it was an American, who was so strung out on acid it was taking him three weeks to get it laid out. They gave him a ticket to Amsterdam knowing that he wouldn’t be allowed back into the country. Also, at that time, Bill Levy was editing the paper. He was a bit mashugana, obsessed with Ezra Pound. 
AB: Hoppy never took credit for editing it. On the old editorial credit boards, he would always credit himself with 'explosions' or 'happenings' or something.
GK: I was talking to Hoppy one day and they were looking for a new editor and I said: “Why don’t you try Tom McGrath?”. He was features editor at Peace News. And they took him on, it was inspired. He was a very good editor, but he was a heroin addict and that was destroying him, and finally he gave it all up and escaped back to Scotland. But he did take me, from Peace News, he did take me round to see Ronnie (R.D) Laing. I think my photographs of Ronnie Laing are lost too.
AB: So this was when Hoppy was inside I presume?
GK: No, sorry, I’m darting about a bit. They had some kind of crisis, I think they’d only been running a few issues when the police came and busted them.
AB: There was a concerted effort to close it wasn’t there? They took all the address books and the advertising...
GK: Yes, at that time they were in Southampton Row underneath Miles’s bookshop ‘cause he’d moved from Piccadilly. So that was bust number one. I was involved with bust number two which came at the end of ’69. Anyway I took the job on.
AB: Of doing layout?
GK: Yes. “Art Editor". Grand title. I was feeling my way, I’d had a little experience but not very much. But we all got our hands on Letraset and it was fun to make these headlines and everything. It only took me a week to do the layout. And at the same time we had a new editor called Peter Stansill but there was a crisis in IT, a money crisis, they couldn’t pay the bills, I think they went bankrupt, and Peter Stansill, myself and the business editor, Dave Hall, set up a new company. We borrowed money, I think about two hundred quid off John Lennon, and started up International Times again under a new company. So the three of us became directors. And Peter Stansill was a good editor, he’d trained as a journalist, he’d come out top of his journalism school somewhere in Yorkshire, he’d travelled, he’d been working in radio in Cyprus, and he was really good, efficient in what he was doing. The circulation rose enormously, I think we were selling about fifty thousand copies a fortnight, it came out on time and...
AB: Can I just ask, who knew John Lennon to ask him for money? Was that Barry Miles?
GK: No I’m not sure...oh I know, Peter Stansill was friendly with an American who was friendly with John Lennon. How, I’m not quite sure.
AB: But it’s McCartney who gets the credit for helping out with the Underground.
GK: Yes a bit, because he financed Miles’s bookshop.
AB: And he also paid for the Times advert for the legalisation of cannabis.
GK: Yes there’s a photograph, you’ve probably seen it, that I took in the basement of Indica when they were starting up, and Paul had come round to help to put up shelves and there was Marianne Faithful who was married to John Dunbar. Where are we? Oh I’m at IT, working away, we’ve got a new office, the Hare Krishnas hit town so we offered them the basement of our old office. Felix Dennis was a gofer for Bill Butler, an American poet who was also running a bookshop something like Indica only in Brighton, running an underground distribution company there as well. So there are three of us, the editor, myself and the business man making a good living.
AB: Fifty thousand copies, that’s pretty good.
GK: Yeah, and that went on for pretty much two years. There was a bit of a mess at the very beginning when I started because the editor Bill Levy was obsessed with Ezra Pound. And he was definitely a bit mashugana. The guy I got on with best was Dave Robins, who unfortunately died an early death, who was one of our feature writers, and a great guy.
AB: Any good anecdotes about Mr Hopkins. You’ve already given me several, but any more off the top of your head?
GK. Oh there were all sorts of things. We got busted towards the end of my two year period at International Times, we got busted for our homosexual small ads, and it was to do with the age of consent. Basically, the age of consent they decided after the 1967 repeal of the homosexual law was 21.
AB: As opposed to 18?
GK: Yeah, and we were taken to Wells Street Magistrates Court and charged. And the waiting room was full of gay guys who’d been summoned, The police had taken away all of our files. The editor, the business editor and myself were found guilty. We spent ten days in the Old Bailey. It was two years in jail and two thousand quid fine, the jail sentence was suspended.
AB: That’s very punitive. Barbaric times.
GK: But we were all very amused to learn that the detective that had led the case was imprisoned for taking bribes from Soho pornographers a couple of years later.
AB: The guy that did so many of the famous sixties drug busts was eventually drummed out of the police force for corruption. I think his name was Pilger. He did all the pop star busts. And was notorious for planting.
GK: We also had a drug bust at International Times office, because, well, more than one person was dealing drugs, but in this case there were two kilos of hashish in a file, and the police came in arrested Dave Hall’s assistant but missed the gear.
AB: Difficult to conceal?
GK: Yeah. They missed it. They didn’t find it. Dave Hall took it away and sold it towards the guy’s defence.
AB: That’s a real counterculture story. Any more Hoppy anecdotes. When you first met your wife through a lonely heart club column?
GK: Yes, that’s right, I started to work for Time Out, very happy to do so because I’d been freelancing for a decade or more and...
AB: You were offered a staff job?
GK: Yes, and I stayed there for twenty years until I retired, so I must have been forty five when I started in 1981. Let’s get back to Hoppy. By that time I was living just up off the Theobalds Road in a place called Old Gloucester Street, and I found out that Hoppy was just around the corner. I hadn’t seen him for years. I knew about the Fantasy Factory but it was somewhere in Camden Road originally. After the International Times bust, I had a nervous breakdown, but I was offered a job at Exeter University, so I went down there, they didn’t know I was a felon, convicted felon. It was to work on a mathematics project that a friend of mine was running and he wanted me for layout skills, photography and all sorts of things, so I was away from the London scene for nearly three years. By the time I came home, Hoppy and Fantasy Factory were going. I think I went round to look at what he was doing once, it was a vague memory, and I wasn’t terribly interested, it was as though I’d moved on from Hoppy, as one would from a lover almost. I think you probably know what I mean?
AB: Yes I do.
GK: And then we bumped into each other and found that he was around the corner in Theobalds Road, so we did see more of him. I used to go over and score from his girlfriend – she was a drug and acid dealer around the time of UFO, and Hoppy obviously offered her something concrete to work on, the TV thing.
AB: Yes, the Centre for Advanced TV studies was what he called it.
GK: Occasionally Hoppy would ring up and come down and stay for a weekend, I remember he came down just to get away from Sue. He came with all these “I’m Alright You’re Alright” by the transactional analysis man, “The Games People Play”... He was trying to find out how best he could adapt himself so that Sue would accept him. And I thought, I can’t believe this is Hoppy.
AB: Well the fact is, he really loved her. He also loved Isabel, did you meet Isabel?
GK: No I didn’t, the South American girl?
AB: Yeah, the Brazillian lady, he met her at a Parkinson’s therapy class and they just hit it off. So it was sort of typical of Hoppy that even in his dotage having been diagnosed with this awful terminal illness, he still manages to pull a bird.
GK: And what’s more, fly over to South America to to see her.
AB: That was beautiful. So you had to chuckle, he never lost his ability to charm the ladies. He had this absolutely beautiful African carer at one point who fell in love with him. She would giggle every time he said anything and she bought him a beautiful Valentine and he was just sitting there chuckling and he was funny, it really was funny to see. His carers absolutely loved him. I kept in touch with them. And they were utterly bereft when he died.
GK: I know he did go down to Queens Square to the Hospital for Nervous Diseases to see if he could be of any use in experiments or whatever, I mean he was always that kind of a person.
AB: He was a remarkable man, he was a I said to you before I started the interview, I got the impression that he was definitely the leader of the gang in the mid-sixties. The British counterculture, for want of a better word, was largely his brainchild. And that is something that he never would have accepted. And he would bridle when people said things like that, but I think just judging from the atmosphere at the funeral, and at the wake, that that was just generally accepted to be the case. I don’t know if you have any other thoughts...
GK: We moved down here to Hastings, Alison and I, when we got married which was in ’86 and so I didn’t see so much of Hoppy because I commuted. We had a flat in Paddington that had been a nurse’s flat - my wife was a nurse, she ended up as a Senior Lecturer at Brighton University, teaching nursing practice, which was interesting because when I went into hospital with cancer, a number of the nurses that were attending me had been taught by my wife. So I only saw Hoppy intermittently then.
AB: And he’d come down to visit you?
GK: That was later. That was when they’d moved to Clerkenwell and things were getting really bad. I’d go up early, have tea with Hoppy, we’d have a chat about things, he’d tell me what he was doing.
AB: When he was living in the flat downstairs?
GK: Yes. And then she bought the whole building. You probably know much more about him at that time because I was then the occasional visitor from the country.
AB: How about Suzy Creamcheese? When Suzy came over, I’m sure you know the story better than I, you’ll probably remember her...
GK: No
AB: She came over from America and she was being pursued by the FBI or something wacky like that.
GK: Her parents were trying to put her under some sort of legal restraint?
AB: Yeah, they put her in a loony bin and Hoppy rescued her from a loony bin and married her, they had this sort of whirlwind romance, he married her, apart from everything else, to help her stay in the country.
GK: Oh I got so stoned that day at the wedding at Camden Town Hall I think. Hoppy was dressed so flamboyantly in a loose shirt and a coloured trilby – he looked so handsome . ....
AB: What, at the wedding?
GK: Yeah there was some grass going around from Panama and we all got so stoned. I can remember wandering down Kingsway to go to the bank and I had to write a cheque to get some money out and thinking they will know I am out of my head, surely someone will notice – but they never did.
AB: And there were no ATMs in those days so if you didn’t get to the bank by half past three, that was it.
GK: That was it. There is another anecdote, because I remember it was probably my first or second day at International Times sorting out what needed to be done, where the cardboard was, where the glue was and everything, and the old editor, the mashugana, and one or two other people, and Hoppy arrived, and he was acting as though he was still nominally in charge, which he was really. There was Hoppy, there was Miles and Jim Haynes.
GK: They were the three directors. Hoppy arrived and said “This is what we’re going to do to International Times. We’re going to take each page as a spread so that when you turn over the page...
AB: It continued?
GK: No, you had to lift the middle and it went straight across, each page. He’d read Marshall Macluhan’s ‘Medium Is The Message’ in prison, and that was another of Hoppy’s kind of elite ideas, which of course nobody understood. When that issue of International Times came out, everybody was totally confused. “What the fuck’s happening, this is unreadable.” Anyway the day as I remember it, it was about February or March 1968. I’ve got the first hundred copies of International Times up in the attic, together with every Oz magazine that was published, ‘cause Richard Neville was a neighbour when I was at Notting Hill Gate, and I used to go down and listen to the woes of his girlfriend. But I can remember so vividly Hoppy with... impassioned as he could be. “This is what’s going on, this is going to blow minds” and of course it was an intellectual...., it was a bit like the London Free School, he was assuming people would cotton on immediately and have their minds blown by this new format. In fact there were people like Peter Wollen, the film critic, who were saying “Hoppy’s gone off his mind, what the fuck are they doing?” You know, it was a mess. And the next issue we went back to the norm. And Hoppy didn’t say anything, he was gone, on to something else.
AB: It was an experiment that he wanted to try. He liked to experiment. I remember, he used to give me little jobs, and I remember being a sort of video tape-op for Fantasy Factory at times, and going on shoots with him.
GK: Was this when they were based at Kentish Town?
AB: No, Theobalds Road, I met him in May 1978 and he was living in Theobalds Road, and they lived there for, I don’t know, about ten, twelve years. I think he moved around 2000. I don’t know, I lose track, but there was always a spirit of adventure, no matter what he was doing, there was always a spirit of adventure, how “we’re always going to do something that’s never been done before”. Even if it was about going to a shoot at the Marquee, having to roll joints in the toilet, even something as banal as that was a bit of an adventure.
GK: Oh I can remember coming back from a party at Cambridge with Hoppy and rolling a joint in the car as we drove back to London and me thinking “This isn’t really a good idea”. Hoppy was kind of puffing and driving... it was thrilling – very exciting – he created that kind of excitement around him, he had that capacity.
AB: Yeah, he used to like to lay a number on you, I mean he’d say things like, I remember him coming round to pick me up when I was still living with my parents and he said: “Right, come with me, I’ve got something for you.” And I went, oh, okay...he turned up on the doorstep, you know, unexpectedly and picked me up, and he took me in the car and put on a tape of my music that I’d given him, very loud, and I was thinking, wow, this is cool, and Hoppy said “I just thought you might like to hear what your music sounds like in a car.” And it was so cool, it was such a cool thing to do. It was the first time I’d ever had that experience.
GK: I think there was a part of Hoppy that wasn’t gay but into a kind of Platonic Greek type of relationship with other blokes.
AB: Well I think he’d had a homosexual phase when he was a teenager.
GK: Didn’t we all?
AB: No I think his was possibly a bit more pronounced.
GK: It might have been, because he had such an adventurous spirit he wanted to probably carry it further. I mean I can remember being obsessed by a guy in my class when I first went to the grammar school, you know, when I was twelve, thinking...
AB: Hoppy’s view was that sex is the glue that holds us all together, and then once that’s gone we basically fall apart.
GK: When the semen’s dried and cracked(?)
AB: He was very sexually oriented, very much so. And he used to give me very good advice about women, which I didn’t always take, but he was always there, he was very much like a cosmic dad to me, and I miss him, I miss him very much.
GK: I envy you that, because we were the same age and I wasn’t going to get that. I needed it because my father was a rather faded figure, didn’t have much input, and I had other father figures that I drew strength from. But not Hoppy.
AB: No, Hoppy was very much like that for me, and I think he knew that, and he took that role quite seriously. Only a couple of years, no, maybe four or five years before he died he asked me if I wanted to be his next of kin, and I said, OK, what does it mean, and he said “Nothing really, but just that your name will be on any documents.” Okay...but it was then I realised that he did take that seriously, he did take the relationship seriously.
GK: Were you at his seventieth birthday?
AB: Yeah, I played the sitar. Were you there?
GK: Yeah. I remember Sue Miles asking me whether Hoppy was really well and I said no, he’s got Parkinsons.
AB: Not well at all.
GK: And yet she died before he did
AB: Did she really? I didn’t know that. I’m sorry to hear it. She was a nice lady. I didn’t know her but I met her...
GK: I knew her when she was seventeen on the Aldermaston marches. Which is where she met Miles.
AB: I asked Barry Miles at the funeral if he was planning to write a book about Hoppy and he said an unequivocal "No", so there you go. At the seventieth birthday party I think we were all a bit worried about him because he looked so frail, but he’d only recently been diagnosed at that point. And I think (a) he was a bit shell-shocked by the diagnosis, and (b) he was not at all well and then they gave him the el-dopa, you know el-dopa will effectively reduce the symptoms of Parkinsons but its a reductio ad absurdum thing, eventually you have to take so much, and it becomes ineffective. But to begin with he had about two or three years where he was effectively back to normal, and then it started to wear off, and eventually it got him. He had seven years.
GK: I think it’s interesting that you and I never collided, and I think that was Hoppy too, he didn’t seem to...I mean he threw a party, but he’d never say “Why don’t you come over and meet so and so? And another friend of mine, you’d be interested to meet..” And he never seemed to do that.
AB: No, possibly because you weren’t London based. You know, I used to meet his more London based pals from time to time. I remember a very enjoyable evening with Beckett and John Howe where they were spinning yarns, that was great.
GK: And Beckett died young.
AB: I know, that was sad, I’m not sure about John, I need to get in touch with him and see if he’s up for doing this. Because he of course knew Hoppy back in the day. And he’s one of the people who are still friends with Sue.
GK: I don’t think he takes any shit from her. And she probably....
AB: Doesn’t give him any! (laughs). 

Memories of Hoppy: An interview with Adam Ritchie

Interview with Adam Ritchie conducted by Adam Blake, June 2nd 2015

A.B: So, when did you first meet Hoppy?

A.R: I'm not quite sure, but my memory thinks it was through Nicole Letski. I went to school with her at the French Lycee in 56-58, and then I went to University in the states in 1958-60, and when I came back from the States, I believe Nicole was going out with Hoppy and she said: "we're going to a party in Oxford at Mike Horovitz's". I went along and there was Hoppy. Mike Horovitz and I seemed to get on with both of them and loads of other people. Horovitz's place was quite famous I think, it was a sort of cottage place. 

A. B: Was Hoppy a student at the time?

A.R: No idea. But I got on with Hoppy and a bit later I got a room in his flat in Westbourne Terrace, next to Paddington Station. I moved into Hoppy's front room. There was John Howe and James Brow and Alan Beckett. Hoppy was in the middle room with Gala. Alan Beckett lived behind a double door, glass doors, french window type doors, in the other front room. He worked for Ernest Dichter, who was a motivational research guru who told companies how they should project and things like that. Alan was one of the people who did interviews for him to find out things. He was a basically really evil man, Dichter, and Alan Beckett was quite a lovely man and he would come home, wiped out and exhausted from working for Dichter. He would come in, open the doors, and throw himself on his mattress that was right in front of the doors inside. The room was indescribably messy and, one day, the other people in the flat thought - God, we need to help him out a little bit, and bring back some of the coffee cups and tea cups. So they moved his bed to the side and they moved this, that and the other and they tidied the room just a little bit, not much, you know, just a little bit, and Alan came in and threw himself where his bed had been and landed on the floor with this explosion of noise, practically knocked himself unconscious. It was so funny! 

A.B; Was Hoppy taking pictures by this point?

A.R: Yes, he was a photographer. He was already beginning to be too involved with other things, so he didn't have enough time, but he was taking pictures for money, that's how he earned his living. The rent was quite low. We shared stuff. It was quite a generous place. It was low gain and none of us had much money. There was a bedstead. There was a stair going up half a level and a stair going down half a level in the flat to the kitchen/bathroom and to a bedroom at the back. John Howe lived there. There was a mattress frame just hanging in the alcove and beyond it there was a piano and a piece of boarding that was left resting on a trestle bed and then there some sofas round this thing and then the two lots of doors to the two front rooms and light coming through because the doors were glass. We used to sit there from probably 8 till 2 every night. We were smoking a bit of dope quite frequently and laughing and listening to jazz. Alan had a friend who was a pilot who was a modern jazz fanatic and also had friends in the record business in America and he used to bring these new releases of Davis and Coltrane and Sonny Rollins and Monk and Mingus and we used to get them before anybody else in the whole country, before release, and it was just fabulous. We used to play them so there was fabulous music going on all the time.

A.B: You were all jazz buffs?

A.R: Yeah.

A.B: Was that the common bond, do you think?

A.R: I think it probably was. We all liked it very much. I don't know how Hoppy found the other people. I wasn't the first one there, I came in my time. I think probably Miles moved in after me. I was working at Better Books and cycling to work in Charing Cross Road. 

A.B: Was that before Miles was working at Better Books?

A.R: Yeah. Better Books was existing from probably '61, '60. When I came back from college in America in 1960, I worked first in bookshops. I worked at Bumpus Bookshop and Tony Godwin was the manager, became the manager, and he asked would I like a job at his own bookshop which was Better Books, and so I went there and there was a very nice man there whose name I can't remember who went later to Dillon's, took over managing Dillon's. Tons of interesting people came in all the time to Better Books, it was a wonderful place to work. 

A.B: Did you also sell jazz records?

A.R: No. It was just avant-garde books basically. I worked in the basement, so they might have had some other stuff upstairs. 

A.B: Getting back to Hoppy. At the flat, it was HIS flat, his domain?

A.R: Oh yes, seriously. He'd got the flat. We used to sometimes sit and read. Beckett read 'Murphy' out loud, read Flann O'Brian out loud, to howls of laughter, because we all thought they were very funny. 'Watt' was... Actually I read it again just a little while ago and it wasn't so funny as I remembered, but anyway, maybe it's because I'm old and jaded!

A.B: Possibly not quite as stoned as you were when you were younger. 

A.R: I think this could well be the case. After I left, I wrote to Hoppy at the flat and he said that they'd had a letter from the landlord complaining of the noise of laughter late at night, which was absolutely the truth of it but it's a wonderful sort of complaint to get from a landlord. I think they were kicked out for putting a 'Vote Labour' placard on the balcony. We had a first floor balcony overlooking the entrance.

A.B: What was Bayswater like in those days?

A.R: Fabulous. It was a wonderful place to live. You were right in the middle. Easy access to anything. It was a nice big flat. With two balconies. Really nice Edwardian building. And we lived on carrots and potatoes and stew. 

A.B: So you all contributed to the housekeeping?

A.R: Yeah. 

A.B: Did you take turns to cook?

A.R: I think so.

A.B: Somebody told me that Hoppy was one of the first British people to cook curries and that he served them with yoghurt in the Indian style which was unheard of at that time. 

A.R: Very possible, yes. I don't remember food very much except that it was a bit samey. None of the people knew how to cook properly or, in those days, cared all that much.

A.B: Had Hoppy had his adventures in Moscow at this point?

A.R: Yes. He became a photographer after he left Harwell so that must have happened a few months before I moved in. 

A.B: Was there a political atmosphere?

A.R: Yes, we were plotting how we were going to take over the world. All the time. ALL the time! 

A.B: With some degree of seriousness?

A.R: Oh yeah, yeah, no question at all, that's what we wanted to do. We found the world really intolerable, apart from all the things we were enjoying (laughs), and thinking that we'd change it. Psychologically, and politically and everything. It was quite political, though not completely stated. I don't know, I was really pleased to read Hoppy's quotes in the IT archive website. They talked to him and he did an interview and they recorded it. The IT website must have these things. 

A.B: All the issues of IT are up online. Which I believe was Mike Lesser's doing.

A.R: Extraordinary. 

A.R: But I think I knew that Hoppy was as political as: "People often say to me 'oh, it was great in the 60s, wasn't it? Where's the Underground now?' My answer to that is: We are the Underground. We may not call it the Underground anymore but there's an awful lot of us now and we're joined together because we're all people who want to be free of corrupt government and a society run by greedy hooligans." Fantastic! There are lots of quotes on the website. Just wonderful. 

A.B: My question to you is could you imagine Hoppy saying something like that in those days? Along similar lines? Had he been politicised in that way?

A.R: I don't think he said things in a way that was trying to convince you of something, because we were all convinced. We didn't need any convincing of anything. And it was: how do we do this? What's their soft area? 

A.B: Were his political attitudes very obvious in those days, or was it something that was just understood, that didn't need to be stated?

A.R: (pause) I think he was just an independent free person, and the rest of us were just not quite so free and independent. He always knew that liberty was very, very important and he understood that more politically than the rest of us, I think. Because a lot of the energy came from him. 

You asked me about that story I told you. There was a fabulous poster, produced by the Poster Workshop, I think. It was a giant sized A0 poster on very thin paper that I used to have until a few years ago. It depicted a scarecrow figure on the left saying: "I feel like a nobody and I want to be somebody", and then it showed Carnaby Street, and then the next image was a thing with frills and things of Carnaby Street type clothing and it said: "NOW who are you?" (laughs) And it was just a scarecrow dressed in fancy clothes. So we went to Carnaby Street in Hoppy's car - mini, that he had with a license plate GLX - with a crate of paper cups and Ribena poured into wine bottles, looking like wine, the same colour as wine. We went to the street just round the corner and parked somewhere and then we put up these posters. The street was completely crowded, you could scarcely walk along it. We would sidle along and paste these huge posters on the front of shop windows. The people inside wouldn't know whether we were real or not real, whether we had been hired by the owner to do it or not, and we did it to about five or six of the shops going along on both sides of the road. Then we went to Lord John's, the one with the painted front and back, and we said we had a poster. It was just a handmade thing and it said: "FREE FOOD, DRINK AND CLOTHES. COME INSIDE."  And they didn't know either, whether or not we were just a publicity stunt, and so they did nothing, and we shouted at everyone: "Come In! Come In!", and they all rushed in and we handed them glasses of pretend wine and they started taking the clothes off the rails and trying them on because they didn't know it was not real and (laughs)... And then the police noise came at the far end of the street and so we packed everything up quickly and hid it somewhere and went downstairs into the basement of a pub, if that's possible. We walked up towards Marlborough Street, the more busy end of Carnaby Street. The police had been to Lord John, where we had just been, so we just nipped down the pub and left the bottles of Ribena there in the basement of the pub and we didn't have anything incriminating of any sort on us and we left the bottles of paste and a few brushes and then back to his car and off. 

A.B: That's what you might call a prank, I suppose.

A.R: Yeah, but it was a political prank. 

A.B: Can you recall any others like that? Of a similar nature?

A.R: I can only recall pranks that I did. Absolutely inspired by Hoppy. 

A.B: You kept in touch through the years, didn't you?

A.R: Oh yes. Hoppy was a very good friend. 

A.B: But I mean he always was, there was never a period you weren't in touch.

A.R: No. I think we drifted a bit apart when he started doing video because it didn't interest me very much. I couldn't quite see where it was going. Anyway, this thing was absolutely inspired by Hoppy. There was a building in Ledbury Road, just round the corner from where I lived, that had scaffolding up to stop it falling down into the street. It had an empty antique shop on the ground floor or something like that. Upstairs might have been empty, I don't know. Anyway, the council put this scaffolding up to stop it falling into the street because it was in a dangerous condition. So friends of mine and I were talking about it and saying: "it's a really substantial artwork, that." So we got a big plywood board about eight foot long and I painted it with eight coats of white gloss, and I had a friend who'd got a letter from the Arts Council, so I photographed it and then we projected the slide of the Arts Council letterheading on this board and traced out all the letters. It was just beautifully done, we got signwriting brushes and did it really properly, and this was a poster, a wooden poster thing that we put on the front of the scaffolding so it looked like the title of the piece and we called it: "Dead Shore - A Cityscape Sculpture by Art Stiles (laughs), Arthur Stiles RA". It was a pun on art styles and Dead Sure safety scaffolding. And we put it up there and people went past it, because it was a really proper, professional standard poster board and I wrote a one page press release with the basic information about who this person was and what he'd done and I said that this was a commission and that he was a member of the RA, that his previous work, the thing for which he's most known, is his work in the Maibashio district of Tokyo where he... (laughs) it went on and on. I just made up the name Maibashio and it's quite Japanese. Turns out to be real, but not in Tokyo. And I sent it off to the local newspaper with a photograph of the whole thing and they published the picture and discussed it, you know, really? And then someone wrote to the local newspaper and said he wasn't a member of the RA and so I wrote back as Art Stiles saying: "Everybody knows that RA means Rotten Artist." (laughs) And I also said that we would be very interested in letters of support, whether you really think this is a positive addition to the neighbourhood, or not. And so we wrote lots of letters from, apparently, passers-by and stuck them to the thing, or sent them to the newspaper as well. It went on for months. 

A.B: What did the council do?

A.R: They tried to come and take it down but some kids screamed at them so loudly. I don't know why, but some people in a council van came and looked at it and these two kids had really given them a hard time and they left. I don't know whether they were under orders to take it down. That seems unlikely. Maybe they just came to look at it. And they went away, and it stayed up for quite a long time. I took it down in the end. In the end I used it as a garden table. I saw a tiny piece once a lot later in The Guardian which said it was thought to be a prank by Heathcote Williams. We never corrected them. And another time, also in Ledbury Road, there was a telephone box that was always broken, always, always broken, and every couple of months the Post Office would send someone to repair it and the next day it would be broken again. So they finally repaired it a little bit more properly, and we went and we washed the whole thing, made it all clean and tidy and put a little carpet inside and a little stool and put postcards in the windows all the way round. Postcards of other places, you know, "Having a lovely time. Wish you were here." And stuff like that. Anyway, I put this all down to Hoppy. 

A.B: Yes, he inspired acts of civil disobedience. I remember where he lived in Holborn, next to the library - it was just a small thing but it made me laugh so much - there was this kind of metal frame which didn't seem to serve any purpose at all that had been plonked there by the council. And then one day I walked past it and there was "WHAT'S THIS?" painted over it in Hoppy's handwriting. And it was just such a genuine question, and I saw Hoppy and I said: "you did that, didn't you?" and he just chuckled but it was so obviously him. It was just so perfect, I wish I'd taken a photograph of it. 

A.R: When I was at the flat, Hoppy took photographs of graffiti all over London. They were fabulous.

A.B: I wonder what happened to those. They weren't in the archives. Not that I saw. There's a lot of stuff that didn't end up in the archives, that's just been lost. Somebody told me that when Hoppy went to jail a lot of his negatives got lost. And all those jazz records you mentioned, they disappeared.

A.R: Another story Hoppy told me was that he said that they'd done the I-Ching, I don't know who or where, THEY had done the I-Ching, and they had asked the I-Ching: What shall we do when the fuzz come? And they said the answer was: The Emperor shall welcome the guest. Something like that, and the police came, did a raid, and it was pouring with rain, absolutely drenching rain and the flatmates quickly took a large bag of dope from under a floorboard - I don't know how quickly you can do these things - and threw it out of the kitchen window where it went down two or three floors and landed in a puddle in the small area that was at the back of the building; and as it landed a boot came through, a policeman came right through the area door and trod on the bag and didn't see it. And they welcomed the police into the flat. The flat was clean (laughs) and they welcomed them and were very polite and friendly to them and not paranoid and they were welcomed as guests - would you like a cup of tea, Sgt? And it all went off OK. But not the other time...

He told me that, slightly later... I had these photographs that I had taken of The Pink Floyd and The Velvet Underground  - well first The Velvet Underground in New York, at one of their, well, several of their first performances, and certainly the first performances with Andy Warhol's involvement. Then I came back to London and immediately went to see Hoppy and see what he was doing and it was UFO. So I went down and photographed Pink Floyd at UFO and I never thought the pictures had a commercial value, never was interested in pushing them. They were in a carrier bag, and all the rest of my pictures were at a lab which went bankrupt when I was away. I went to see them just before they closed down and they said: "We haven't got your pictures", and I shrugged and said: "Well, that proves I'm not a photographer anymore", instead of doing my nut in and forcing them to look on their shelves. So I don't know whether they had them or they didn't have them, but I'd been using the lab for ten years.

A.B: Were there many photographs?

A.R: Yeah, ten or twelve years of my work. I'd been building houses for a couple of years, I went to Wales to build houses to start with and they had moved their premises. They were called Sky Processing. They'd moved three times since I'd known them, I think. Anyway this was the last time, to where the Photographer's Gallery is now. This sort of 18 year old boy said: "Oh, we don't have anything by you". So I don't know what had happened and I just turned round and walked out. I didn't ask any questions. I just walked out. The only pictures I had were Pink Floyd and Velvet Underground. I've made quite a lot of money out of it ever since. So there these pictures were, in an envelope, or a paper carrier bag. Upstairs somewhere. And Hoppy was asked by somebody if he had any pictures of UFO and he sent her to me. And I said: "Well I've got these pictures". She was called Stephanie Roberts and she was working for Nick Mason who was writing this book and she said: "They're just what we want". I hadn't realised until then that they were wanted by anybody at all, and she said: "Let me catalogue them". And she catalogued 200 pictures in slides and put them in folders and gave them back to me a week later and I think, in his book, "Inside Out", Nick Mason published, I dunno, ten or twelve of the pictures and paid me for them and I told Hoppy about this and he said: "This is what Adam Blake did for me".

A.B: Oh, that's nice! I never knew that. 

A.R: He said that you'd seen his photographs and were very interested and said: "Do something with them!"

A.B: It took me years. Hoppy asked me to catalogue his negatives for him in 1988 as an act of kindness because I needed a job, I was very broke at the time and he gave me a job. He used to do this from time to time. He gave me this job cataloguing his negatives as best I could because they were in, pretty much, complete disarray. He hadn't really looked at them since the 60s. So it was more than twenty years later and I went through them. He showed me how to hold them up to the light so that I could get a positive view of the neg and he said: "Anybody that you can identify, just make a note". And I started to do this and I realised that I was looking at unpublished photographs of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Dusty Springfield, Marianne Faithfull - what Hoppy used to describe as: "People dressed up as the 60s". 

A.R: (laughs)

A.B: As well as all the other stuff, the politics, the jazz and blues, the social history etc. And I said: "My God, Hoppy, you realise what you've got here?" And he was just twinkling at me and he said: "No, you tell me". I said: "Well, you've got all these unpublished photographs of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones in their heyday. These are worth LOTS OF MONEY!" And he was very dismissive. And I said: "No. They are. Really they are". And this went on for years, when I used to go and visit him and he'd be talking about how hard things were with Fantasy Factory, how they were doing this and how they needed that and I would say: "Hoppy, do something with the photographs, man". And he wouldn't. And in the end I said to him - maybe this is what he was talking about - it must have been four or five years later, I said to him: "Let me take a couple of contact sheets round to some galleries on your behalf".

A.R: That's exactly what he said, yeah. 

A.B: And that's what happened. It was one of those delicious moments in life when you go somewhere and you know you've got something they want but they don't know it yet. I'd made an appointment at a very posh photographer's gallery in Notting Hill Gate and they kept me waiting, they weren't rude, but they kept me waiting. And the guy finally has a look and he gets his magnifying glass, and he did the classic kind of, I could see him trying to be cool (laughs), and I was just chuckling and he said: "You say these photographs have never been published?" I say: "Nope". "When can we meet this Mr Hopkins?" (laughs) And that was lovely, and we phoned Hoppy up there and then. It was a lovely moment. And then he came and met them and they were suitably deferential, and that was how he got his first show. And then he went on from there to do, as you know, lots and lots of shows. But he always said that it was a very thin thing because it looked very good at the front but there was nothing behind, basically because so many of his photographs had been lost and I think he felt, maybe slightly, he regretted that he hadn't taken more. Because he had made that decision to stop doing it. 

A.R: Didn't have time. 

A.B: He didn't have time. I said to him, not long before he died: "If you'd known how much interest there was going to be in your photographs, would you have had a different attitude towards them at the time?" He said: "Yeah!" (laughs) He told me how he was invited to photograph a Bob Dylan press conference and he had had something else to do so he depped it out.

A.R: Same thing happened to me lots of times. The 24 Hour Technicolour Dream thing. I couldn't be arsed. (laughs) 

Denise O'Reilly (A.R's wife): On his 50th birthday, Adam had a big party, when we lived in Portobello Road, inviting all the people he'd ever known. And Patrick (her son) was mid-teens and he was there with a couple of friends and they got fed up, they were serving at the bar and a couple of their teachers came in and said: "Hello boys!" and they quickly left the bar and vanished into Patrick's bedroom. They sat there and waited for this entire house full of people to go away. They sat there quite contentedly and then Patrick got up to go to the loo and as he went out he said: "Don't let any old hippies into my bedroom", to his friends. And when he came back there was the king of the hippies sitting on his bed smoking a joint! That was Hoppy. (laughs) They loved him. He sat up there. He was at home with these teenage kids and they liked him.

A.B: Well I was only 17 when I met Hoppy. And he took me under his wing. He let me befriend him. Because I fell in love. There's no other way of describing it. It was love at first sight. I just wanted him to be my cosmic dad. No disrespect to my real dad but I just thought, you know... (laughs) And he let me befriend him and take me under his wing and he was very, very helpful to me in many ways, like just giving me jobs when I was broke, giving me advice on women. He was very helpful to me. Always respectful. Never patronising. Never ever patronising. Sometimes he'd get cross with me but he would never patronise me. 

A.R: That's pretty unusual not to be patronising. 

A.B: To young people. Not a hint of it. 

A.R: I'm not sure that he ever put his foot wrong. I don't ever remember him doing anything that wasn't the right thing to do.

A.B: That's possibly because you're male, Adam. (laughs)

A.R: Was he horrible to women?

A.B: No he wasn't but he certainly got around. The thing is, I think, as a lady friend of mine who met Hoppy and is of the same age said: "He is the kind of guy that women love. He loves women and women love him". He was one of those guys and there aren't that many of them. 

A.R: I asked Nikki, who I went to school with, who went out with Hoppy in, I guess 1960. I said, what was it like? In the sense of, did it end horribly? Or what happened? She said: "No, it was always really, really fine but I think I was more interested in him than he was in me". She said it very calmly. So she had no bad feeling about him at all. 

A.B: Well, I mean it's like Kate (Archard) said: a lady who got involved with Hoppy understood that he liked ladies and that ladies liked him and that if you got involved with him you had to accept that. And that that was fair enough. 

A.R: I don't know whatever happened to Gala Mitchell?

A.B: Nobody does. Nobody knows what happened to her. Not as far as I know anyway. Someone else was mentioning her and saying: where did she go? Was she Spanish?

A.R: I thought she was from the Caribbean. White Caribbean. 

A.B: Maybe she went back there. 

A.R: I think he said that. But I don't know. One time I was photographing Derek Boshier, pop artist, very good pop artist. He phoned me about where it should be photographed and he'd borrowed somebody's house in West London somewhere, big house, big garden, and on the way I met Gala, who I knew, with a couple of Afghan hounds, and it turned out we were going to the same place. He'd asked her to bring two Afghan hounds to be photographed with. The whole thing was a set-up from beginning to the end (laughs) but what was really lovely was that it was Gala, who was taking the borrowed Afghan hounds and it was so nice. It was a complete set-up from beginning to the end. We all had a very lovely time. That was one thing about Gala, they seemed to be very involved with each other, that was all the time I was living at Westbourne Terrace, I didn't know about afterwards because I went to America again. 

A.B: Is that why you left? Because you went off to New York?

A.R: Yes. I sold everything like my bicycle and all the books I had and got enough money to go to America with a Green Card and got a job there as an economist, as one does. 

A.B: How did you get a Green Card?

A.R: The rule then was that you had to have £400 and I had £200 in the bank so I took every penny out of the bank, I got a letter from the bank saying I had £200 and then I took it all out so I had one penny in the bank or some silly amount and £200, and I changed the £200 into dollars and went to the Embassy and said: "Can I have a Green Card?" and they said: "Well you have to have £400". So I said: 'Well, here's a bank statement and here's £200 in dollars", and they said: "OK, you've got a Green Card". I'd sold everything. So I went to America, to New York and after awhile Hoppy said he was coming to visit New York and he arrived in the late evening, I think he slept on the sofa or something. He said he was interested in the Newport Jazz Festival. So that evening I picked up the phone and I called the Newport Jazz Festival press office and I said: "I'm Adam Ritchie and this is John Hopkins and we need two press passes please", and they said: "Fine, your names will be on the door. Just come". And I phoned up the train company and got train tickets that night - this is at 9pm - and Hoppy was just open-mouthed that you could do anything, quick communication like that. It was American style and he was knocked out by that. 

A.B: Had he ever been to America before? 

A.R: No. Don't think so. We both went up to Newport, and some of his pictures are from Newport, in fact Flip showed me a picture of me that Hoppy took, I scarcely recognise the person! Anyway, I think that made a big impression on Hoppy, just that bang bang, you can just decide you want to do something and do it and the infrastructure was possible. 

A.B: Very different from here.

A.R: Completely different, yes. I found it hateful coming back to England in '66, to all these magazines that would only deal with people who were trendy friends of friends. It was just sickening.There was nothing about looking at your pictures, making any decision based on what your pictures were, but then the whole thing about that perception is so weird. I used to dress in black and white clothes going to art directors in America, and they'd say: "Hey! Harry, hey Pete, hey Joe have a look at this guy's black and white photos, they're fantastic!" And I'd go in the brightest clothes I could possibly find, another time, and they'd say" "Hey! Hey Harry, hey Joe! Look at this guy's colour slides! It's fantastic!" And you just wonder what, if they're like wine tasters, if they see whatever they want to see.

A.B: So when you went to New York that time, was it just because you fancied it?

A.R: No. I'd lived there when I was a kid, for three years after the war my father worked in New York and we lived there, so it was a place of some interest because it was quite extraordinary when I was a kid. And then I went to university there because I couldn't get in to English universities quickly in '58. I had a pretty miserable time during that university couple of years and came back to England and I thought I hadn't had any sort of positive experience at college, I'd had a lot of experiences but they didn't seem very,... they didn't leave me feeling better, anyway, so I was in London for two years and then decided that I needed to experience America in a more positive way. I didn't want to work in bookshops the rest of my life so I just thought I'd give it a go. So I just went there and got a job doing international economic research! 

A.B: And taking photographs in the evening?

A.R: No, I got married to an Englishwoman and I got a couple of hundred pounds or whatever it is from various people - when you get married, people give you gifts - and so I had this money when I got back. I'd been spending a lot of time just looking at what was there in New York and it was fabulous, so many things to look at. A friend of mine was a professional photographer called Larry Fink and he lived round the corner. I asked him about photography and he said he would come with me on a Friday night and that I could buy a camera with him, he would sort out a decent camera for me. And we went to some cheap, discount store, rock bottom prices, and I got a really nice camera for the money. Then took pictures on a Saturday morning. On Saturday afternoon I developed them in Larry's darkroom round the corner, next to a tyre/ car repair workshop. There was a Sicilian bloke round a BBQ outside, drinking beer. Very New York. On East 11th St. I lived on East 10th Street. Went back to the darkroom and printed them on Sunday and on Monday morning, from being not a photographer, without a camera on Friday afternoon, to Monday morning I had twenty really quite nice prints on the office wall, in my office. The whole place went, Wow! It was a wonderful sort of Boom! And the boss said: "You really ought to be a photographer". And I said: "No no no! It's just a passing pleasure". I took some pictures for him - the company - of one of the big meetings they had organised in Washington, with the presidents of 100 companies and they got more orders for my pictures than they had ever had before by far! And he said: "I'm going to fire you, you've got three months on full salary, provided you don't come into the office except to show us pictures".

A.B: What a lovely boss!

A.R: Unbelievable. Really. So I went out and we'd already booked a holiday in London, come back to London, and I thought well, what can I photograph in London? and we worked out a few things, we knew ten people who were 23 and fashion editor of the Observer and things like that. They were all over 70 in New York, I don't know why but it was the case. There was a whole thing about seniority and going up the ranks and stuff like this. And I felt stultified in New York in an odd way. Socially? Or Hierarchically. All the fashion editors of magazines in their late 60s /70s, just astounding, giving opinions about what 20 year olds should be wearing. Just weird. And the opposite was the case in London. So I photographed all these young people doing extraordinary different jobs: graphic designers, The Who, journalists, all sorts of different people. Possibly Derek Boshier as well, I can't remember. There was a Conde Naste magazine called Mademoiselle, and they said: "We can't commission a person to take pictures in London, when they've only been taking photographs for a month or two months" - or something like that, "but we'll look at them when you come back". So I took them with me when I went back and they published six pages of them. It was a knockout start. That was my first paid work as a photographer. 

A.B: How did you get involved with the Velvet Underground crowd?

A.R: I was sitting at home in 277 East 10th St, and the phone rang and it was a friend of mine called Barbara Rubin, who was an underground film maker who I'd met around the place. And she said: "I'm in a film, making a film right now with Piero Heliczer, his film, and there's some music here that is fantastic". And I said I'd be there in about six minutes. And I was there in seven minutes. It wasn't very far from where it was. And going up the stairs of the tenement block I could hear this music and they were playing "Heroin" and it was just... It went right through me. I thought it was fabulous music. And I went up into this small apartment, very ordinary apartment, rather like mine, and there were these musicians with painted bodies and stuff and Barbara was playing a nun, fully dressed as a nun, and there was a bloke who looked like a gangster and the Velvets were there with body painting and there was a CBS news photographer and a sidekick photographing it with a movie camera.

A.B: Did you have your camera with you? 

A.R: Definitely. She said: "You've got to photograph them", so, yes I was there. And I took loads of pictures. 

A.B: Was this long after you'd had your six page spread?

A.R: I think it was about two months afterwards. Maybe two or three. 

A.B: So you must have been still buzzing off that?

A.R: I don't know, it was just one of those wonderful things that were happening (laughs). I mean, when I got to New York I got a loft by a complete chance. I slept on somebody's sofa for a night and the next day the landlord came to visit. He was called Seymour Finkelstein, a wonderful little fat man who wore the clothes of the artists - he had several loft buildings and he rented them all to artists and if they threw away clothes he would wear them, so they were covered in paint. 

A.B: Whether they fit or not? 

A.R: They were usually getting droopy by that time. He was quite large. He wore old... so nobody could tell he wasn't a Bowery bum and he wouldn't pay bribes to the fire department so... he was a generous man, it was quite strange, he lent me lots of equipment. The 2nd floor loft became empty that day and I said: "Can I have it?" And he said: "Yes" - and he lent me loads of equipment to take plaster off walls to make it brick, and stuff like this, and paint and timber to make a huge bed frame with a walk-in closet underneath and a small staircase. Fantastic. It had double glazing, rubbish double glazing but double glazing, and it had a pot belly stove in the middle with about 40 or 50 feet of stove pipe going out and it went out into the chimney wall just above where I built the bed. 

A.B: So is this where Hoppy turned up? 

A.R: No, no it was just after that. We got evicted because Seymour wouldn't pay bribes to the fire dept to allow him to have tenants. I got another apartment on E 10th St. The first one was at No.2 Bond Street, which is the same as 2nd St. 

A.B: But getting back to Barbara Rubin filming the Velvets. You turned up and they were playing "Heroin"...

A.R: I loved the music. Loved it. I just thought it was such a good band and I said: "Well, where are you playing next?" And they said the Cafe Bizarre, so I went to the Cafe Bizarre and said: "Where are you playing next?" And the third gig was the New York Society for Clinical Psychiatry at Del Monico's.

A.B: Oh, that was supposed to be their 1st gig so you must have seen them before they actually played in public. 

A.R: No, the Cafe Bizarre was earlier. The Psychiatrists convention was February the 12th or 13th '66.

A.B: And then they got involved with Andy Warhol?

A.R: No, they were involved slightly before. Andy Warhol was invited as the clinical psychiatrists guest... he took the Velvet Underground.

A.B: I see, so it was through him that they got that, because it's an odd job for a rock'n'roll band. 

A.R: Very odd. Very odd. But it was all the psychiatrists needing to know about the culture of the children of the rich people that they were dealing with. 

A.B: I just love to imagine them doing "European Son" and "Heroin" to this crowd of psychiatrists. 

A.R: The whole thing was very weird 

A.B: Do you remember when Nico got involved?

A.R: Yes, she was at the psychiatrists. That was the first time that they played with her. I don't know who was playing with her, if it was Lou or if they both played with her, so to speak. I think Lou and Cale both had scenes with her. I don't know. Anyway, at the clinical psychiatrists do at Delmonico's there was Cale with Edie Sedgwick and they were very, very involved, so I don't know which one Nico was with at the time. I sort of didn't follow them so closely after that. I think it was because I didn't like Nico. At all. Because the music had been so... It was quite interesting they felt very different from Pink Floyd. Pink Floyd felt like middle class people playing at it, I mean, you know, quite good and everything but they had worked out how they should be as musicians, how to pose as a musician, I mean they were musicians as well but they were also doing it... The Velvets were like a working band, like craftsman, doing a job, seriously doing a job and working out how to do it and taking it seriously and I think that's what they were doing.

A.B: Some of their music is so joyful.

A.R: I love it! When Hoppy was in New York...

A.B: Did he get to see them? 

A.R: No I think it was before they arrived. I had a feeling, I know this is a completely improper thing to say but I had a feeling that Hoppy saw what I was doing with my photographs and was quite impressed with them. And I think that he moved away from photography after that. I've got no... I just have a vague feeling that there was something about how he was looking at them and thinking: I can't do this or... I think he was taking photographs of... Oh God, it's so difficult to say these things... I think he thought he was taking photographs of interesting things but that he didn't know that his photographs were actually pretty good as well. And I think he looked at my pictures and thought: they're really good pictures and they're of all sorts of different things and not just because of the subject, they're good pictures.

A.B: That was always his criteria. I mean that was part of the frustrating thing.

A.R: That he didn't think his pictures were any good.

A.B: Trying to get him to do something with his photographs. Because he didn't give a damn about whether they were intrinsically interesting because of what they were of, all he cared about was whether they were good photographs. And he grudgingly came to accept that - and I watched it happen, it happened over a period of time - actually some of these photographs were worthwhile because of what they were of rather than the quality of the photograph. 

A.R: I was actually amazed to see the exhibition at the Ideas Gallery because the pictures were so bloody good. 

A.B: I always thought they were. As soon as I started looking at them I was...  I mean, I don't know much about photography but I thought these are good pictures!       

A.R: And I hadn't seen them. I hadn't seen almost any of them before that exhibition, so... 

A.B: The selections in the book ("From The Hip") are what Hoppy liked, those are the ones that he thought were good. 

A.R: And they're not the best! (laughs) But I think that one of Burroughs is...