Our debut event was the launch of the International Times. Guest writer Harry Mason explores the publication and why the Roundhouse was the perfect venue for its launch.
When the Roundhouse first opened its doors on 15 October 15 1966, it didn’t begin with a concert or festival. Gigs from Bob Dylan and the Stones would come later, but for its debut the Roundhouse opted for the launch of underground magazine the International Times.
It was a bold choice, but one that was carried out with aplomb. The Roundhouse played host to an all-night rave billed as a ‘pop-op-costume-masque-drag ball’, with guests invited to ‘bring their own poison’. It was an opulent and provocative night, playing host to screenings, readings and mysterious ‘happenings’, not to mention performances from Soft Machine and a fledgling Pink Floyd. It was a fitting choice, however, with the Roundhouse and International Times going on to become two pillars of a British cultural revolution.
The IT, as it was dubbed, became emblematic of changes in music, film, writing and thinking that were occurring at the time. One early article was directed at ‘Crazy Dirty Rotten Beat Tea-Head Commie Rats’. Clearly, challenging the dominant narratives of the mainstream media didn’t originate with the internet age. The proto-punk IT was determined to up-end what was expected of the British press, printing art, poetry and polemics that still have the power to shock.
The IT archives are all available to view at internationaltimes.it/archive, providing a compelling snapshot of the time. Modern readers can now look back at the first, tentative usage of terms like New Wave, an advert for the art installation where Yoko Ono and John Lennon first met, and early write-ups for Jimi Hendrix and The Who. They can discover how the IT railed against the Nixon establishment post-Watergate, and conducted investigations into the effects of LSD in protest against stringent anti-drugs legislation.
It’s all too easy to imagine how scandalised the conservative 1960s establishment was, and it’s little surprise that the IT had a fractious relationship with the authorities. Police raided the IT offices numerous times, and eventually shut the magazine down in 1973 after the printing of gay personals ads.
There have been sporadic publications under the International Times name since, with the magazine re-launching as an online journal in 2008 (sadly minus the masque drag ball) and, of course, it is celebrating its 5oth anniversary too!
The International Times stands as a testament to the daring counter-culture of its time. Much like the Roundhouse itself, it epitomised the spirit of dissent, creating a tradition of tearing down old conventions to break new ground. It was a convention-defying but ultimately era-defining phenomenon.