Friday, December 22, 2017


Michael Armstrong, the controversial screenwriter and director used to live round the corner from me in London at the tail end of the last century.

I often used to run over to his flat in the middle of the night to binge watch videos alongside British actors with household names, all of whom went to RADA with Michael.

At drama school, Michael quickly realised he wanted to be a writer instead of an actor and went on to write and direct films like the controversial Mark of the Devil, and The Haunted House of Horror.
(Quentin Tarrantino owns a private copy of the latter film and selected it for his Austin Festival, as one of the most significant films depicting the Sixties in Britain).

 I was honoured when Michael asked me to write the Forward to A Star Is Dead, his latest screen play book about the Sex Pistols.

I saw them perform only once: their second gig at the artist Andrew Logan’s studio in Butler’s Wharf. None of us had heard anything like them before and minutes after they started playing everyone walked out en masse.

The reason why Michael’s A Star Is Dead script with the exploitation director Pete Walker attached (and to star the Sex Pistols) didn’t get made was because the Pistols disbanded shortly after Michael’s final draft.

It was a tragedy, as the band's manger Malcom McClaren loved the script, as Armstrong’s laugh out loud funny script was more outrageous than the Pistols themselves.

 Michael‘s prolific series of screenplay books (available from Amazon) include the House Of the Long Shadows, The Image, a short starring David Bowie in his first screen role and Eskimo Nell, a classic spoof of the old school British Film Industry, which Armstrong wrote and acted in.

 Although I have attended screenwriting classes over the years, the only useful thing I learned in all of them was chatting to fellow participants at the bar during the intervals. But after reading Michael Armstrong’s published screen play books I finally understand the craft of screenwriting.

 Each of Armstrong’s screen play  books include a History of  his screenplay, with various drafts of his screenplays followed with a Glossary of Terms and advice on how to read a script.

 Michael is currently writing books on all his screenplays and as he’s written a vast body of work over the years, this task should take him quite a while to complete. I'm already making space on my bookshelves for them.

Thursday, September 07, 2017

The British Underground of the Sixties Goes To Press

I hope this doesn't read like a well-deserved press release: but If you’re fascinated by Sixties memorabilia, for the first time in living history the covers of every 1960s underground paper and magazine have just been gathered in one publication: The British Underground Press Of the Sixties by James Birch and Barry Miles.

To accompany this mind-boggling event, James Birch, the international art dealer and curator, and prolific author Barry Miles are hosting a major exhibition of the covers and artwork of the underground press in an exhibition at James’ gallery: A22 Gallery, 22 Laystall Street, London EC1R 4PA. From 28 September-4 November.
James Birch and Barry Miles/British Underground Press on YouTube
 I predict this unique show will be a historical humdinger, especially as Barry Miles (commonly known as Miles) is a walking encyclopedia of all knowledge relating to the Sixties ‘counterculture.'

One of his late twentieth century credentials includes being the creator (with John ‘Hoppy’ Hopkins) of the infamous International Times in 1966: the first British underground newspaper, which according to The British Underground Press started the news media revolution.

Even though I have no more space left on my bookshelves, I shan't be able to resist purchasing the exhibition's covetable catalogue.

Start wallowing in nostalgia: IT, Oz, Friends, Gandalf’s Garden, Black Dwarf and Ink etc. According to the British Underground Press of the Sixties site, the catalogue also includes the comic books that grew out of the papers, and various examples of the graphics, ads, posters and flyers produced by each publication.

Also, there will be 100 limited edition Groovy Deluxe sets of the catalogue housed in a box each one with an original 1960s issue of IT, OZ and Friends, an original OZ Janis Joplin poster (sob!) and is also signed and numbered by the authors.

(More The British Underground Press of the Sixties by James Birch and Barry Miles. Published October 2017 by rocket88books The British Underground Press).

If only I had kept all the magazines in the late Sixties (when I was in nappies!) instead of discarding it all, I would now be rich!