Secret histories are so regularly more interesting and enlightening than the official version of events that it makes you wonder why we ever allow ourselves to be blinkered by the un-secret variety at all. I really can't recommend Barry Miles' London Calling: a countercultural history of London since 1945 enough. But for works like this, a whole treasure trove of the weird, the wonderful and the arcane would be in danger of slipping permanently and irredeemably through the cracks in the pavement of the collective memory.
Take Pauline Boty.
Lovely looking lass, played one of Alfie's birds in the iconic Sixties adaptation of the Bill Naughton novel and, not content with all that, was a fabulous Pop Artist who would no doubt have gone on to eclipse most of her former classmates had she not tragically died at the ridiculous age of 26.
Michael Bracewll can tell you a lot more, obviously - although he'll probably spoil the pun in this post's title by pronouncing her name all wrong or something:
As well as being a dab hand with the old oil, turps and linseed oil (did I forget to mention that she was a first rate cook to boot?), Boty was also what the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood would doubtless have called a "stunner" (amongst other things) and was somewhat less (or more?) edifyingly known by her peers as "the Wimbledon Bardot". You can see why in this clip from Ken Russell's film on the British Pop Artists, Pop Goes the Easel. She certainly knows how to shake a tail feather:
Reading about Boty - an artist I wasn't familiar with before - is almost as uplifting as the discovery that Absolute Beginners author Colin MacInnes "basically liked to be raped by a black man, preferably a ponce..." (You show me a black man who's willing to do something like that to a 50s novelist whose famous relatives included Edward Burne-Jones, Stanley Baldwin and Rudyard "Ruddy" Kipling and *isn't* a ponce and I'll give you a fiver, Gungadin....)
But it's not all high cultural insight. There's fascinating stuff like the fact that the CND symbol was designed by Gerald Holtom; a Christian pacifist from (of all places) Twickenham. According to this, he had a factory there which was used to make the original placards bearing his now universally recognisable design ahead of the first Aldermaston peace march. Worthy of a blue plaque, don't you think?
But that's not all. Miles' book also has stuff in it of genuinely earth-shattering and global importance. For instance, of all the artists in Larry "Parnes, Shillings & Pence" Parnes' stable of British rock 'n' roll legends - Vince Eager, Billy Fury, Johnny Gentle, Dickie Pride to name but a few of the least ridiculously coiffed - only one was headstrong enough to refuse the monicker Parnes attempted to foist on him. Who else, but the original Bovver Boy of British Pop...
Yes, Joe Brown he remains to this day.
And the name he so strenuously and successfully managed to dodge?
L.U.V. on y'all,