The 60's – 80's Underground from Brian Cassidy Bookseller
- by Michael Stillman
The 60's – 80's Underground from Brian Cassidy Bookseller
Brian Cassidy Bookseller has launched his Catalogue #10. This is filled with, what should we call it, "counter culture" material from the 60's to the early 80's? That's a terrible name, but it is a collection of literature, poetry, music, politics, and life in general from outside the mainstream, except perhaps for a brief period in the late 60's when strangeness became mainstream. And then the 70's arrived and it retreated to its traditional, underground mode. A clue of what is to be found here is most works are held together by staples, not bindings, a sure sign of being on the fringes. Others are posters and photographs, in no need of being held together. If you are 45-70 years old, this will rekindle memories of lost youth. If you are younger, it's a chance to discover what you missed (and if you are older, you hated this stuff then and undoubtedly still do). One thing we can say about the era is it was filled with creativity, perhaps in shorter supply today. Here are just a few examples.
We start with a more traditional item, a regular book. Then again, this is pre-60's, having been published in 1959. The title is The Butterfly Tree, and it was written by Robert Bell. Bell was an Alabama native, the story is set in Alabama, and the work is considered a significant piece of Alabama literature. Still, it is not a well-known title, and Bell spent most of his working life as a librarian rather than a writer. Nonetheless, it fits in this catalogue because of the cover art. It was drawn by perhaps the greatest symbol of 1960's underground art, the artist of that period to achieve the greatest mainstream recognition (don't plan on buying any of his paintings unless you are very well set financially). Andy Warhol drew the picture of the young man on the dust jacket in the days before his reputation had been established. He was still primarily a commercial artist at the time, drawing advertisements and the like. Warhol has signed the dust jacket on this copy. Item 18. Priced at $1,250.
Next we have a pair of photographs of the family that ushered in the 1960's. They were hardly the radicals of the latter half of that decade, but they were the image of youth and change that signified its beginning. These are pictures of the Kennedy family, taken by Mark Shaw, a family favorite who was allowed to join them and take natural, unguarded photographs. Item 42 was taken in their Georgetown home in 1959. The scene is the breakfast table. Caroline, then two years old, is sitting on her father's lap. Jackie is reaching out to her from the side. Plates, glasses, and coffee cups are visible on the clear glass table. Everyone looks happy. $2,500. Item 43 was taken in Palm Beach in 1963. This was before the horror in Dallas later that year. Jackie is holding two-year-old John, who has an impish grin. Jackie's mouth is wide open, either in surprise or to shout out something. Both this and the previous picture were printed in 1964 and appeared in Shaw's photo book of the Kennedy's shortly after JFK was assassinated. $2,500.
We move to the other end of the decade and photographs of radicalized youth at the height of the protests against the Viet Nam War. Item 47 is a collection of 21 black and white photographs in an envelope with the business card of photographer Ann Douglas. Date these to circa 1968. The pictures feature members of the Youth International Party, better known as the "Yippies." If traditional left wing organizations tended to be overly serious and angry, the Yippies promoted their beliefs with street theater, laughs, and fun. Pictures include their founders, Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, and Ed Sanders, and Judy Collins as she announced their formation (in front of a sign proclaiming "Abandon The Creeping Meatball"). There is even a nude photograph of Hoffman. You didn't need to do this, Abbie. The Yippies would become best known at the Chicago Democratic Convention of 1968, where the Mayor and police were not amused by their theatrics and sense of humor. Both Hoffman and Rubin would end up as part of the Chicago Seven. They were convicted of crossing state lines to incite a riot, but their convictions were overturned. $2,500.
Next we have a flyer for some musical performances in Philadelphia, smack in the middle of the decade (1965). On the left side we have mainly folk and protest type of musicians playing extended runs (several days to more than a week) at the 2nd Fret. Featured performers include Tom Rush, Dave Van Ronk, and Phil Ochs. And then there are The Trolls, who are described as Rock & Roll. I'm not sure who they are, maybe the 60's band out of Chicago whose biggest hit, Every Day and Every Night, made it all the way to #96 on the Billboard charts in 1966. The right side of the flyer promotes a concert at the nearby Camden Convention Center by a man who needs no introduction – Johnny Cash. He is accompanied by the legendary bluegrass duo Flatt & Scruggs. Lester and Earl were the best of their genre, but may only be known to most people for recording the theme song of the Beverly Hillbillies. Item 59. $200.
We close with a return to one more traditional item, more fitting for the 70's (it was published in 1973). It comes from the Gahenna Press, the private press of noted artist and wood-engraver Leonard Baskin. It is the first volume of the never-completed The Gahenna Shakespeare. This is a folio publication and a "first thus," so perhaps we can call it the "First Thus Folio." Naturally, this limited edition features Baskin's engravings along with Shakespeare's text, and is one of 150 copies signed by the artist. Item 34. $2,000.