life films books orders links home

Tonite Let's All Make
 Love in London
 0 9522035 8 8

Tonite Lets All Make Love In London
a novel by Peter Whitehead

Tonite let's all make love in London
 or The Case Of The Purloined Soundtrack
 or Volume Three:The Milton Crookshank Memoirs (edited by Rachel Bishop)
 Milton blows the front on the CIA's take-over (cash/assassination) of British Culture in the Sixties



London: January 1964
 My mind was still reeling from the reports of the Kennedy assassination. The grainy and

 bloody images of the Zapruder film were still jump-cutting aggressively into my consciousness, the blood-spattered frames lacerating the decomposing linear narrative of my dreams - Zap - Zap - Zap - the tortured montage, a perfect mimicry of the jerky syncopation of eyelids in REM sleep. The most revealing, harrowing images, not yet seen in public, and not to be released by LIFE (sic) Magazine for many years, had been sent to us, eighteen unmistakably clear blow-ups, by our mole in Washington; carelessly ( I thought) code-named All-Eyes.

It was already evident to me that from now on, time would operate on a different wavelength. No longer enjoying the vast, romantically imagined, cyclic panning shots of history; from now on time was to be crystallised into a hard-edged permanent present - at best enjoying the jerky illusion of past and future afforded by a motion that could not be seen, though known to be there; (we'd fingered the cogs, the sprocket holes, the projecting lenses, the brittle coils of film that could burst into flame if its movement was terminated); that flux that manifested itself at 25 frames a second.

 What a dream! Each and every one of us, prime witness to a murder! But were we so innocent? Maybe not. Wasn't there a sneaking feeling that we too had been responsible? In pressing the button on the camera, might we not as easily have pressed the trigger on a gun? Was this the first chapter of the pulp story or the last? We seemed already to know all the necessary facts. The who and what and why, didn't really seem important, now that the sacred deed was done (we knew it would become an endless escalating mess whatever the so-called facts). We didn't need to sit through the rest of the movie if we didn't want to. Who needed the truth? We'd got what we most wanted - for which we'd bought our tickets - the vicarious pleasure of being present at a sacrifice, where a god was dismembered on stage in an ecstasy of images, his face (moments before) reflecting a luminous glow, as the light suddenly to become fire, criss-crossed the translucent scales of film - like a mirror split by an incandescent laser beam.
 The projector bulb, short-circuited and fused, before the film was ended.
 Assassination - which had always seemed (to me) to be an inevitable possibility, an organic part of the American democratic political process - would however, never be the same again. You'd pause, hesitate just at the wrong moment, looking over your shoulder, hoping that your own unsuspecting Zapruder would be there. If not, you'd feel cheated, even angry, that your act (after all, you always felt stage-fright, it always required courage) was not going to be recorded for posterity. And yet, of course, there was the paradox too, the conundrum that could not be solved without going through with the action - you both desired but dreaded being witnessed; your act of making history caught on a mere home movie! The irony of it! You, like Oswald, becoming inseparable in the collective mind from the badly shot images - the capture of the precise moment of death, the last flickering of the eyelids, the head imploding - even though you played no part within the image; being safe, for the moment, behind the camera. You might as well have been filming it, yourself.
 Once arrested and in police custody, take care not to be filmed, though in case your own Jack Ruby - and we assassins all have him, it's an occupational hazard - rushes forward sucked into the ecstasy of the image, eager to share, but also to steal your glory, guns you down, an ignominious little blunt nosed bullet in the stomach; too fast to be seen at 25 frames a second, but there, nevertheless.
The world, suddenly, no longer flickering by on the screen inside your head.


.TIMEOUT: magazine 1999

Tonite Lets All Make Love in London: Hathor £9.99

Novel as History, History as novel. Film-maker and artist without portfolio, Peter Whitehead centres a tale of espionage and illumination on the Beat Poetry Incarnation at the Albert Hall in June 1965 (also the subject of his 1966 documentary, Wholly Communion). The nearest progenitor is probably Norman Mailers book on the yippie march on the Pentagon, The Armies of the Night.

Narrated by MI5 agent Milton Crookshank after Whiteheads alter ego Patrick Walker slips into psychedelia-induced catatonia in the Egyptian section of the British Museum, Tonite... deals with nearly everything, including the infiltration and takeover of nascent Brit counter-culture by the American intelligence services. The spies, counter-spies and luscious under-age au-pairs (Gunvor, Gunilla) begin to seem interchangeable and self-replicating after a while, but maybe thats the point. The narrative swaps energetically between notes, tapes, film and slash-punctuated stream-of-consciousness musings in a way which might be intended as a mirror of Whitehead/Walkers fractured consciousness or a statement about societys schizophrenic nature. Or something else that Ive missed entirely. Can a blind owl fly by insight? as someone asks. Its a relief eventually to find yourself under the Albert Hall dome where the prose is calmed by a beautiful and mysterious dancer and the visionary outpourings of Ginsberg, Corso and others seem comparatively mild and unassuming.

With the self-confidence of the already damned, Whitehead tackles life, death, sex and European cinema at a run, ignoring or failing to notice the usual dull concerns of the novel to produce something that is in parts perilously close to being unreadable while being also rather wonderful. Intermingled songlines of mermaids and jellybabies melting in the sun. Thats right.

Stephen Blanchard

TIME OUT MAGAZINE: September 29, 1999.


In the 1960s, Whitehead was at the heart of swinging London and the counter-culture: he made documentaries such as Wholly Communion (on the International Poetry Incarnation of 1965 at the Royal Albert Hall) and Tonite Lets All Make Love in London. This novel recycles material from the films, but to new ends; in the memoirs of Milton Crookshank, the spy with an interest in the occult, counter-culture gets muddled up with counter-espionage, Whiteheads own films are spliced

with the Zapruder film and conspiracies crawl like krakens under the surface (were told that Crookshank was behind Squidgygate). Its not terribly well-written in conventional terms, but conventional terms are the last thing Whiteheads interested in.

Robert Hanks