"When John Lennon was invited by friend, John Dunbar, to an exhibit at Dunbar’s Indica Gallery in London on November 9, 1966, the intellectually hungry, emotionally restless 26-year-old Beatle reportedly thought the avant-garde show might involve drugs, an orgy, or any of the things that made swingin' London swing. In fact, what was happening at the Indica was a conceptual-art show called Unfinished Paintings and Objects, exhibiting the work of Yoko Ono, a 33-year-old Japanese artist who created things like transparent homes, imaginary music, and "underwear to make you high."
Well. That's how the story goes. That's the way it is, so that's what it will be. But we know different don't we. Well ... we think we do at least, because the very man who met Yoko Ono said in 1971 that he knew about the exhibition a week before it opened, and attended it a night before it opened. Which places his arrival at the doors of the Indica Gallery on the 7th November, 1966. A Monday. Because the International Times, whom Barry Miles served as an editor, thought fit to include in its issues the run date of the exhibition, which was 8th November until 18th November, 1966. It in fact changed to this date, from the originally posted 9th November until the 22nd November in a fortnight. (The International Times was published fortnightly. Unless they were getting raided by the police.)
Barry Miles, Peter Asher, John Dunbar. MAD. Had McCartney, who helped put up the shelves of the Indica Bookshop, and also helped finance the operation been included as a named partner, they might've been known as DAMM. Or even MAID, as any allusion to McCartney's presence with Indica was under the pseudonym Ian Iachimoe. They could even go as Meter Maid if they liked.
Let's go in reverse through these gentlemen's backgrounds. Just to be trendy.
Firstly the D in MAD, John Dunbar. Well, first, let's look at his Father, Robert Dunbar, one time Cultural attaché in Moscow.
Robert ('Bob') Dunbar (1914-2000), film director, producer, teacher and critic, was a pioneer of the field of film studies in Britain but also worked extensively in the industry in numerous capacities. He was apprenticed to producer Erich Pommer at Germany's Ufa Studios but returned to England when Hitler came to power in 1933. He worked first at Gainsborough studios as an assistant director, then as a production manager at Alexander Korda's London Films, where he assisted Alfred Hitchcock and René Clair; he also worked closely on William Cameron Menzies' film of H.G. Wells' Things to Come (1936).
In 1937, with the near total collapse of British film production, Bob found it increasingly difficult to get work and, two years later, he took off for Hollywood, en route making a detour to Mexico, where he met his future wife, Tatiana, the daughter of elite Russian émigrés. When the second world war broke out, he registered at the British consulate and they married. He was soon seconded to the Ministry of Information, and later moved to the Foreign Office as deputy head of the inter-allied information office in Mexico and the Caribbean.
In November 1944, Bob was posted to Moscow as a cultural attaché, in charge of press, public and cultural relations at the British embassy. He also edited a newspaper, British Ally. The film director Sergei Eisenstein would frequently dine at the Dunbars' rat-infested flat and, on one occasion, waited in the dark of the kitchen to catch a rodent, which he proudly presented on a covered dish.
In 1953 he became a producer with Group III, a government-sponsored organisation aimed at nurturing new talent. After a brief period working on comedies at Hammer Films, he produced one of his most successful films The Man Upstairs (1958) starring Richard Attenborough. However, production of British films was becoming increasingly difficult, and he set about teaching at a small art school in South London, which he bought and transformed into the London School of Film Technique. Early students of the LSFT included Mike Leigh, Iain Sinclair and Bill Douglas. In 1974 the School went into liquidation, but it survives today as the London International Film School.Along with Roy Fowler, Dunbar instigated the BECTU Film History Project, an extensive archival research initiative aiming to preserve oral histories, ephemera, papers and artefacts pertaining to the history of film production in Britain. He also chaired the Journal Committee of the film technicians' union ACTT, of which he was made an honorary member.
Wow. And when you cant find work in the dried up film industry, you just kind of drift to the Foreign Office as deputy head of the inter-allied information office in Mexico and the Caribbean. And then kind of drift into working directly in Moscow during the final throes of the war with Germany. The country you were expelled from when Hitler came to power. Okay!
It doesn't mean your son is interested in those sort of things though. In January 2006, Dunbar participated in the International Symposium on LSD in Basel honouring LSD inventor Albert Hofmann on his 100th birthday. With John Hopkins and Barry Miles, Dunbar gave the seminar "LSD and its visual impact".
London, spring 1966. In the unlikely surroundings of St James's - more accustomed to bowler hats and bearskins than new art - a cultural revolution is in progress. Indica, the happening experimental art gallery that is the brainchild of 22-year-old Cambridge graduate John Dunbar, first opened its doors last year. Tonight, it's showtime. 'Swinging London' starts here. The private view has attracted all the right people: Dunbar's wife Marianne Faithfull, Paul McCartney and his girlfriend Jane Asher, Eric Burdon of the Animals, photographer Gered Mankowitz, producer Michael White, John Pearse of the King's Road clothes shop Granny Takes a Trip, a pretty boy called Mark Feld who's about to change his name to Marc Bolan, beat poets, art critics and the in crowd. William Burroughs hates parties but stuck his nose in for a few minutes before retreating to his flat round the corner. The flamboyant art dealer Robert Fraser, in his tight pink suit, and various Ormesby Gores and McKewens represent high society's hip vanguard. The classes are colliding, having fun, taking lots of drugs and using the energy from the social bustle to create art of many kinds.
Guests spill out into the yard with their glasses of white wine. Later, Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate will tap on the window for a gossip. And in a matter of months, John Lennon will arrive in a chauffeur-driven Mini at the behest of John Dunbar, who thinks his friend should see the work of a young Japanese artist called Yoko Ono before her show opens.
'It was a wonderful time,' declares Marianne Faithfull today from Paris, in her rich rock'n'roll contralto. 'The opening night of Indica was complete chaos. Everyone was trying to get the place ready - John, Barry Miles [who ran the bookshop side of Indica], Paul McCartney, Jane Asher, our friend David Courts, so many people ... but nobody had thought to clean the lavatory, which was, of course, filthy. I remember I was wearing a beautiful dress and very pale tights, and there I was, on my hands and knees, scrubbing the loo. Because of John, I was very much a part of it all, and I'm so proud that I was.'
Again, Mr.Dunbar and Mr.Miles, you seem to not agree on when this exhibition opened. You have not been paying attention John! Gallery - Bookshop. Communication! But we know John arrived in a chauffeur driven Mini. Before Yoko Ono's show opens. Which would be the 7th November, 1966, as her show opened the next day on the 8th November, 1966 at 2pm in the afternoon. And Polanski was there around 3am that morning while they were still mounting the exhibition.
Let's move on to Peter Asher. Well, first, his Father.
Richard Alan John Asher, FRCP (3 April 1912, Brighton – 25 April 1969, Marylebone) was an eminent British endocrinologist and haematologist. As the senior physician responsible for the mental observation ward at the Central Middlesex Hospital he described and named Munchausen syndrome in a 1951 article in The Lancet.
Phew! I thought Dunbar's dad had some hefty credentials. Anyway. Digging deeper one finds this Anonymous comment on a blog entitled "Did Something Go Wrong in the 1960's". Anonymous says:
I used to model for Harley Street specialists training med-students at this time, starting in '58 as a 12 year-old. The police, lead by top-cops Joe Simpson and Shirley Becke, used to supply Profs Emanuel Miller and Richard Asher with the drugs they wanted to study, and used me as a guinea-pig! There would be several off-duty coppers present to see the result and work out how to deal with an acid-head.
But the real problem was trying to stop the influx of drugs. I'm guessing here, but the blacks flooding into Britain were finding work hard to find (and not because of colour, there WASN'T any work, half my classmates had no jobs after school in '62) and wrote home to relatives and started-up networks to import drugs and make a living selling that.
Interesting. Because when you start looking up Joe Simpson, this automatically brings up British gangsters The Kray Twins. And when you start looking into any connection the Krays may have had with The Beatles, up comes the suicides of Brian Epstein (Beatles manager) and David Jacobs (Beatles/NEMS lawyer) almost a year apart. Not to mention the suicide of Richard Asher in April 1969.
Will have to go into Peter Asher himself sometime later, because his story after the Indica brings him to California and the whole country rock scene of the 1970's, coming out of that infamous neighbourhood of Laurel Canyon. Peter was also the one that introduced McCartney to the Process Church of the Final Judgement. It all gets convoluted at this point.
Barry Miles. Do I dare venture into his past and what it yields? Sure! Why not.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barry_Miles ~ have a read. There is very little information about his parents other than what can be found here at present. http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/mar/20/barry-miles-sixties-indica-interview
The London that Miles dreamed of as a grammar-school boy in the Gloucestershire town of Cirencester was not swinging but static. His parents were working-class folk who knew their place and counselled their arty son on the perils of getting above himself. "My mother used to say: 'You're flying too high, my boy.' Both my parents had been servants in a big country house in Gloucestershire, which had a moat around it and a drawbridge. All my relatives were in service. It was the rural proletariat." He offers his genial laugh. "That's why I love cities so much!"
Well he shares working class roots with McCartney, there's a common ground. Because Dunbar and Asher seem a bit upper middle, upper class. If one sees such things as mattering.
Shall have to investigate further. Carry on.