U.S. Intellectual History Blog

Using Rock To Think—And Dream, Part 2

Kramer_Republic-of-RockIn my first post on Michael Kramer’s Republic of Rock I ruminated on the book’s argument and Introduction. I introduced his key themes (hip capitalism, hip consumerism), and asked a question about the ideas of space and place in the book—which Kramer graciously addressed in the comments.

In today’s post I will reflect on Part 1 of the book. Titled “San Francisco,” this includes chapters 1-3 and focuses, primarily, on hip capitalism—albeit through different contexts. [Note: What follows was updated at 8:30 pm, CST, today.]

Chapter One

In this account of Ken Kesey, the Merry Pranksters (those “technocrats of psychedelic consciousness”), and the Acid Tests, Kramer argues that “the Acid Tests became unconventional conventions, gatherings that sparked intensive investigations of selfhood, democratic interaction, patriotism, and national identity not outside but within mass-mediated and militarized Cold War American culture” (pp. 32, 49). For chronological context, the Acid Tests occurred from roughly 1964-1966—the beginnings of Johnson’s term and precisely when he escalated America’s involvement in Vietnam.

Kramer relays that “the ideal” for Kesey and the Pranksters “had been to discover a winning formula of individual freedom and collective communion that might transform society into a more radically democratic place” (p. 63). Using Wolfe’s observation that the Pranksters led their participants to an “Edge City” that was a “panopticon,” Kramer notes that a “wickedly oscillating dialectic of freedom and control…haunted the efforts by Kesey and the Pranksters” (p. 62). It was the Pranksters’s sense of humor (their “irreverency,” p. 55-56), Kramer argues, that helped them navigate that dialectic. Republic of Rock helps you see their “fixation on citizenship”—that their intentions could be inspiring (p. 63). They sought, in short, to re-imagine the state in the context of a democratic culture through LSD, dancing, and rock music. Crazy as it sounds, it was an attempt at a bold stroke, the kind that are often required to inspire peaceful revolution.

If you have read Tom Wolfe’s Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, Kramer’s narration of events will be familiar (if not as colorful!). At the very least, I believe you will find the Kramer’s argument plausible. I found it convincing. I don’t know that anyone could intellectualize the Acid Tests and concurrent S.F. rock scene any better than Kramer. Indeed, his chapter on the Acid Tests has inspired in me a desire to reread Wolfe’s book. Wolfe’s account was so outlandlish and crazily distracting to me the first time around that I didn’t connect the Pranksters adventures to deeper currents and problems in American culture. As has been the case with many others, even Wolfe’s superficial narrative of events was spellbinding.

I had only two minor critical thoughts on this chapter. First, the focus on the aesthetics—the show—of the the Acid Tests results in a de-emphasis on the soundtrack. I found myself wanting to know more about the lyrics and sonic qualities of the songs most used by the Merry Pranksters during the Acid Tests. Second, what of the bad trips—what of “the reckless ones whose bad trip left them cold,” as Johnny Cash described them in his 1971 song “Man in Black”? What happened to those who couldn’t complete the oscillation “between joy and fear in the name of discovery,” as promoted by the Merry Pranksters (p. 43)?

Hip capitalism emerges at the end of chapter one when Kramer focused on the 1967 Human Be-In/Gathering of Tribes. The Pranksters participated in the Be-In, but the radical theater troupe the Diggers characterized the Be-In as commercialized and co-opted (p. 65). This nod toward hip capitalism is better developed in the next chapter, wherein Kramer tells of the story of radio station KMPX.

Chapter Two

In the course of two years, during 1967-1968, KMPX became a virtual but “crucial sonic space for the San Francisco counterculture” and then suffered a crippling labor strike. Kramer argues that KMPX staff members sought to create “a new kind of commercial radio within the existing system rather than opposing capitalism.” The station’s hippie disc jockeys and staff members promoted a countercultural “leisure culture” via psychedelic rock music but also “confronted the meaning of work” (p. 70).

KMPX was a “pioneering example of hip capitalism” in that it the “station sold its noncommercial sensibility” (pp. 69, 80). The station promoted an “atmosphere of democracy” via its disc jockeys who where “intelligent friends,” laying down groovy tracks while creating an environment of “musical inquiry, debate, and discussion” (pp. 75-75). But the events surrounding the KMPX labor strike signaled that a working-class consciousness existed in its countercultural labor force(p. 71). The labor problems and strike represented a Michael Denning-esque “laboring” of hip capitalism. The strike itself was practically about salaries and creative growth (pp. 83, 86). But the strike also fed the communal imagination—its dreams growing a “community ethos” (p. 90). As is evident, ironies and paradoxes coexisted at the station, within the “tricky logic of hip capitalism” (p. 93).

I confess that this chapter engaged me a bit less than the others in Part One (i.e. chapters one and three). Then again, I found nothing bothersome; no significant critical comments arose in relation to the material presented.

Chapter Three

I loved this chapter. Through an event that never was—the Wild West Festival—Kramer shows how the logic of hip capitalism collided with an ethic of cooperative association.

The Wild West Festival (WWF) was not to be merely a rock party. The festival planners sought to “reshape the economics of the entertainment industry through a new cooperative structure.” They wanted participation, creativity, and institutional stability, not mere transitory events. Planners and participants would celebrate all types of “art making” (p. 99). The cooperative structure would remove power from seedy promotes and the greedy pop industry types. This arose when “many in the counterculture [had] begun to question the commercial dimensions of what felt like civic gatherings” (p. 98). That “felt” was the key. The feeling needed a concrete, practical dimension that coincided with the ethic of community.

In the narrative Kramer leads us through failed deliberations, via community meetings, that nevertheless show us the spirit of democracy in the counterculture (pp. 112-115). One of the common characters between chapters two and three is Tom Donohue. He had been a station manager at KMPX before and during the strike. By early 1969 he was helping plan the WWF—hoping for a “‘tidal wave’ of creativity and artistic expression that would transform the Bay Area and spread to other places around the world” (pp. 99, 129). Donohue, with his feet in both worlds (i.e. commercial and artistic), was a representative of the contradictions of hip capitalism (p. 120).

This period of deliberation and negotiation was brief (March-August 1969), but the story “tells” of all the contradictions inherent any effort to organize participants with anarchic tendencies. Again, the story here is less about the music than the music scene. This is indeed the greater part of the story of Part One in Republic of Rock. The scene and the setting for psychedelic rock mattered as much as the sound and the fury of the performers. That scene was definitely aspirational but only indirectly political, which often made it seem impractical and impotent (hence the failed WWF and the dissolution of KMPX as a countercultural haven on the FM dial).

The big lesson in relation to the WWF is that mixed philosophical approaches resulted in an inability to compromise (pp. 121-122). Rock alone as a common denominator would not, or could not, necessarily continue the democratic dreams it inspired. The music can create a scene of possibilities, but it can’t alone foster a new reality.

Coops were supposed to be the solution to the problems of capitalism, hip and otherwise—an alternate form of working and living. But Kramer’s cautionary tale, at the end of chapter three, about the short-lived Family Dog on the Great Highway coop, shows the problems of putting together sustainable alternatives. I wanted to hear more about the practicalities and daily problems of Family Dog, but Kramer is content to let us know, with the WWF failure in mind, that at least some vision of an arts cooperative came into being (pp. 124-129).

This concludes Part 2 of my series. The third and final installment will appear next. – TL

18 Thoughts on this Post

  1. “I found myself wanting to know more about the lyrics and sonic qualities of the songs most used by the Merry Pranksters during the Acid Tests.”

    I don’t think you do. I’ve heard some of the bootlegs from around that time–the Grateful Dead (The Warlocks till 1965) were the main house band at the tests (before that, they listened records of the Beatles and Dylan, etc.) or the Pranksters banged on things themselves.

    The music was pretty unstructured.

  2. Tim —

    Thanks for the post about the book. I think you are right that the book is much more about the rock scene than the music itself, though I do occasionally go straight to the sounds themselves. In the end I was more interested in reception, perception, circulation, context in this book. Why did the music matter so much to people? Some of the answer to that question is in the sounds themselves—in the “text”—but as much of it needs to be recovered from the people and spaces to which, and in which, the sounds circulated.

    I’ll be posting some followup materials about the Acid Tests, KMPX Hippie DJ Strike, and Wild West Festival (as well as rock in Vietnam War-related materials and other side stories) on my http://www.republicofrock.net blog in the coming months, including audio of a few interviews, film footage, and other sundry items.

    When it comes to the Acid Tests, as John Haas suggests, you probably “had to be there”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-VF1eVtaoks.

    Thanks again!
    Michael

    • Michael,

      I should clarify that my point about you studying the “rock scene” was much less a criticism than an observation. I’m sure you were balancing many important intellectual demands. And it’s in the scene that one finds more evidence of contextual connections—interpretations by audiences. So I’m totally with you on circulation.

      I can’t wait to see those audio-visual materials. I will say again that this book is most ripe for 21st century methods of narration presentation (e.g. sampling, interviews, contextual sounds, extra 2-D color prints, etc.).

      Now to watch that YouTube clip.

      – TL

      • I think the main voice is Ken Babbs (Kesey’s righthand man and a former helicopter pilot in…wait for it…Vietnam). But Kesey shows up later on that as does the Grateful Dead singing the national anthem as cops come in to shut down the Fillmore Acid Test (citizenship!).

  3. Tim, meself grew up in The Wonder Years, Suburbia, PA. Frankly, the hippies were too exotic and inarticulate compared to my Motown bridge to the America outside my experience.

    Ready For a Brand New Beat: How “Dancing in the Street” Became the Anthem for a Changing America. By Mark Kurlansky

    Google preview @
    http://tinyurl.com/ltht4s8

    The 1967 San Francisco scene was a socio-political bacchanal that found its inevitable fate in 1969 at Altamont. There’s not one song from that entire time/space trainwreck that meant a shit then or means a shit now, is there?

    [bleg] What is the most meaningful song of 1967 San Francisco? The Summer of Love?

    The Motown, well, that was some real shit, even to us Wonder Years boys a million miles away from Detroit. Marvin, now there was a prophet. Co-wrote “Dancing in the Streets.” We got him, somehow.

  4. I second Tom’s reference to Motown, though I was not born in that era. 🙂

    This book looks fascinating, but for a project called Republic of Rock, which pretends to center on Sixties counterculture, it is tragic that it doesn’t really attend to the intersection between rock and race, and the role of African Americans in this counterculture (apart from the chapter on the GIs, which does touch a bit on race-related matters). It seems to me that the book reproduces the tired tradition of racialized whitewashing in rock criticism, which continues to this day (for a fun case of such exclusions, see the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s list of inductees).

    • I’ll let Michael fully defend himself here, but I would say that he does more than just “touch a bit on race-related matters” in Part Two of the book (esp. chapter four). – TL

      • I look forward to reading your assessments of those sections of the book. Perhaps my comment was hyperbolic. But I am still taken aback, it is very curious that race becomes central only in the chapter dedicated to the Vietnam War. I see some references here and there to figures like Hendrix, the Black Power movement, etc. It would be impossible to write such a book without doing so. Maybe my quarrel is mostly with the ambition of the title (was the music scene in NYC and in Detroit not countercultural?)

  5. Tom Van Dyke, I’m with you. I’d take Motown anytime over SF scene on musical grounds as well as a lot of other grounds. I suspect that even most of the participants in the SF scene themselves would too! But there’s no reason to compare one off against another in terms of historical significance or study. This kind of work isn’t about which music was better, it is about tracing out different histories and what to make of them. On that note, of course, Motown did a lot of things, as Craig Werner, Suzanne Smith, Brian Ward, and many others have documented. But that’s a whole other story that demands its own space to unfold, be told, and, of course, be heard. It would be interesting, however, to line up different versions of Dancing in the Street, from Martha and the Vandellas to the Dead to others, just to hear and think about the differences sonically and socially.

    Kahlil Chaar-Pérez, Your hyperbole would have more behind it if you actually read the book before writing so dismissively (I can’t tell if you have read the book closely from your comments). Otherwise your critique is as tired as what you rightfully critique about the racialized definition of the rock genre. It is true, I would agree, that there has been a “whitewashing” of rock history, particularly I would argue in the 1970s. But it is also true that there has been a long running critique of this “whitewashing,” especially in, ironically of all places, the very rock criticism you lump in with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Nominating Committee (which is a different entity from the RockHall Museum and Archives one should note). Go back to the record even of early rock writing in the 1960s itself—say Robert Christgau, Jon Landau, Ellen Willis, Ralph Gleason, Richard Pinkston IV, Geoffrey Jacques, Samuel Delany, and others—and you’ll see expressions of this, a good chunk of it written by people of “non-normative” identities, in other words not just all middle-class white males but also African-American, female, gay, bisexual, working class. Not that rock criticism was some kind of utopia or panacea. Far from it. But the people and certainly the ideas involved in the range of rock writing were far more expansive, colorful, complex—and far less uniform or hegemonic—than your comments would indicate. Indeed, contrary to the implications of what you wrote, rock writing has often been the site of some of the most forceful critiques of institutions such as the Rock Hall Nominating Committee itself when it comes to a heightened consciousness about race and rock.

    As for my book, there is plenty in The Republic of Rock about rock and race throughout, from thematic explorations of the topic in the introduction to investigations of the ironic replacement of FM ethnic radio in San Francisco by the first countercultural rock station to heated debates between promoter Bill Graham and African-American SF neighborhood activist Arnold Townsend over the Wild West Festival in 1969. However I don’t think the book addresses race in a typical academic way, which is what might be bothering you.

    For this book, I was interested in the umbrella concept of citizenship in relation to the shifting nature of consumer capitalism in the 1960s and what thinking about citizenship and consumer capitalism could tell us about the stakes of oppositionality and cooptation in modern American history. Race emerges as a crucial factor (as does gender, sexuality, ethnicity, nationality, region, class) *within* that narrative and interpretive framework. Other scholars, journalists, and of course many of the musicians themselves, have written ably about race and rock. I love those books. And I also think there’s far more to research and write about the topic. But the point is, while race is not one of the framing concepts of my book, it is very much there, present in the analysis, folded into it. I just didn’t want to reproduce the binary between either ignorantly “whitewashing” the history of rock and race or, by contrast, getting too caught up in simply trying to peel the whitewash off. Instead, I wanted to show how crucial race and other categories of identity were *as part of* the concept of citizenship within the important shifts in the system of American consumer capitalism and military power during the late 1960s and early 1970s.

    Recently, there’s been wonderful historical work on the “long civil rights movement.” I’d add that we might also think of a “wide civil rights movement” in the 1960s, one that made issues of identity and citizenship up for grabs in unlikely and surprising quarters—in commercial music and its consumption, in psychedelic rock halls aimed primarily at a new market of young, middle-class white consumers (yet located in the middle of the historically African-American Fillmore district in San Francisco, something about which I also write!), and in the spaces of citizen-soldier rest and relaxation and wartime nightlife halfway around the world in Vietnam. One thing Republic of Rock tries to document and interpret is the reach and impact of that “wide civil rights movement.”

    Best,
    Michael

    • Thx for the reply, Michael. I say this stuff as a musician meself, and know a lot
      more whiteboy SF stuff from the inside out than I do R&B.

      Per my bleg, about the most meaningful song of 1967 San Francisco, or
      of the scene/movement/be-in? I’m not turning up much. The music
      seemed to be a vehicle, more just a medium for the larger
      phenomenon–and indeed that seems to be the thrust of your survey of
      the scene.

      I mean, you need some event to get all dressed up in your paisley and
      bell-bottoms and drive your V-Dub van to in the first place, and
      something has to be going on while you’re humping and getting high.
      Voila, the modern festival/concert.

      I think you’re spot on with your invocation of “Rock” as opposed to
      rock’n’roll. “Rock” is a whiteboy thing, and in the SF context, I hear
      more country-folk than blues, which characterizes British rock. There’s a
      fine and subjective line here, but the 1967 SF music scene was indeed
      evolving a new American style, more in the instrumentation than in the
      vocals, more jam-based than song-oriented, and more like a bluegrass
      jam than blues jams like Cream or the Stones. But still, with electric guitars, undeniably “rock.” The results themselves from 1967 are perhaps not that
      memorable, but the influence lives on.

      [Today, musicians call it “Americana.” In the country-folk tradition, the third is natural, not flatted, as in the blues.]

      • Tom — I’m with you on this. The most famous SF rockers were almost all folkies, as rooted in country as in the blues, swept up in the possibilities of Beatlemania after 1964. Though of course it depends how you bracket the scene: Sly and the Family Stone? The East Bay bands that came more out of garage rock (listen to all the garage band stuff on box set Love is the Song We Sing for instance)?

        Me? I have a weird soft spot in my heart for “If You’re Going to San Francisco.” Of course it was written, rather cynically I suppose, in LA and many in SF blamed that damn song for causing the demise of the SF scene after summer of 1967. On the other hand, the song does name something, both ideologically and affectively: it names the moment when a smaller local scene fed back out into the global media circuit, spreading, calling into being, declaring the possibility of some other way of being in the world.

        We could list other intriguing songs that do something like this “naming” of the affective feeling of the SF scene as well: Dino Valenti’s “Get Together,” which the Youngbloods popularized after relocating to Marin County; or Sly’s “Summertime” or a half dozen other songs; or the Grateful Dead’s “Golden Road (To Unlimited Devotion)”; or Jefferson Airplane’s “We Can Be Together” from a few years later; or Janis Joplin’s versions of “Piece of My Heart” with Big Brother and the Holding Co. or, a few years later, “Get It While You Can.” Just off the top of my head.

        But as you notice, in my book, I’m more interested in responses to the music than in the music itself (Nadya Zimmerman’s book and Nick Bromell’s book both do more with the music itself, not to mention work of Sheila Whiteley and countless others). Not that one’s more important than the other. Just that much has already been written about the music itself. There was more to listen to, look at, feel, think about in the archival sources that had something to tell us about the spaces and worlds around the music, engendered by sounds but not necessarily the sounds themselves. Other sounds: the social and political sounds generated by the musical sounds.

        Thanks as always for engaging with the book and these topics. Appreciate all your comments, from the witty ones to the more sincere.

    • Michael, I stand corrected, at least for the most part. I confess that I have only skimmed the book, and as I recognized above, my dismissive remark was hyperbolic (and I would add, hasty). And your comment has convinced me to buy your book, sit down, and read it carefully. I admit that there is a risk with imposing certain identity-based frameworks on multiform objets of study such as the one you are analyzing here. One can easily miss the forest for the trees and/or miss connections between those trees.

      I don’t find your comment about the “tiredness” of my type of critique fully convincing though. The fact that a critique has been done a number of times doesn’t mean that one cannot retake it, in other terms, taking other theoretical, critical, contextual concerns into consideration. Confronting such “tired” criticism head on can be a very productive exercise. But fair enough.

      Also, I should have specified what I meant as rock criticism as essentially what you mention, what one could describe as a normative form of rock criticism. Anyhow, thanks for your response, I appreciate it.

      • Kahlil — I think we are much in agreement here. There is an important critique to continue to develop about rock and race in the countercultural context. In fact there’s a good critique of my book to make, I think. I just ask that you make it out of a close reading of the book rather than use my book to restate the already-existing critique of rock and race. In some ways, what I was trying to do in the book is try to ask questions about race, class, gender, sexuality, nation in new ways instead of just banging my head against the wall of the standard-issue mode of asking the question in academia (not that I’m against that or other modes of head-banging entirely!). I heartily welcome your critique of the book’s shortcomings on the question of race and rock and counterculture. No book is perfect. We have to make choices of focus shaped by our evidence, the kinds of questions we want to ask, and so on, as I’m sure you would agree. So critique away. All I ask is that you engage with what the book does try to do as well as what it missed or lacks. Onward! — Michael

      • Michael,
        Again, thanks for taking the time for addressing what was a lazy critique. I am actually quite interested in the idea of the republic of rock in dialogue with Warner, and how it appears you are pushing against Gramscian analysis of culture, how the idea of hegemony doesn’t suffice to understand the nooks and crannies of cultural production “on the ground.” I was wondering how affect connects with what you are articulating here and saw in one of your notes that you offer the idea of a seizure of feeling in counterpoint to Williams’ structure of feeling. Seizure seems to be a nifty figure to capture the tension between capitalism and counterculture. It also seems to condense a sense of social crisis and disorder that might be read unto the context you’re analyzing. In terms of aesthetics, this reminds me of the sublime, as a shock effect that agitates the subject and threatens to decenter him, even as it reifies power relations (the masculine and the military, thinking of Kant). Much of the rock music that emerged as part of this counterculture, its more psychedelic, experimental, jam-based forms, would seem to materialize this very idea. Anyhow, I look forward to reading all the references to race in your book (kidding here).
        All the best,
        Kahlil

  6. Hi Kahlil —

    Hey, we recovered from our exchange of barbs and moved on to something way more interesting! I really appreciate this and honor it very much. Your comments are very provocative. Thanks. A few quickly written thoughts here (so pardon any typos please) and more to follow.

    Feel free to followup to if you get the urge to. I look forward to what’s on your mind about this stuff, of course.

    First, exactly so. This book is very informed by Warner and Berlant in terms of bringing discursive, performative, sensorial, circulatory, and especially affective theories of the pluralistic and non-normative public sphere to bear on thinking about the counterculture (with the less normative aspects of Habermas lurking in the background as well as Negt and Kluge and Bruno Latour).

    I was struck that these were very useful for thinking about my source materials. The evidence, to me, suggested that the social worlds that rock seemed to spark were counterpublics that emerged from the energies of the shift from a mass consumers’ republic (of Lizabeth Cohen fame) to the niche market world of hip capitalism (and in Vietnam what I call hip militarism, the militarized version of hip capitalism). The metaphors we use as historians start to matter a lot here. Instead of thinking of the counterculture as outside and against mainstream culture, I started to understand it as a kind of welling up of a counterflow within the currents of capitalism itself, or to shift metaphors for a moment, a kind of bubble formed in the acid of the belly of the beast.

    That is, in its way, Gramscian, though more to me the Gramsci of Stuart Hall than the one popularized in US intellectual and cultural history during the 1980s, which tended to use Gramsci to explain the reassertion of hegemony rather than to draw upon Gramsci for thinking about radical democratic openings (perhaps in the perceived aftermath of the failure of 60s radicalism—I’m thinking Genovese, Lears here).

    I’m also so glad you noticed my riff on Williams buried in the endnotes. I’m working on a more theoretical essay about this concept of “seizures of feeling” right now. I think it might help us get through the now rather tired, all-purpose (and brilliant) concept of “structures of feeling” (amazingly useful as that term is).

    A few other thoughts. I’m in the middle of Berlant’s Cruel Optimism right now and I am struck once again at the weird gap that exists between intellectual history (especially US intellectual history) and cultural studies. Berlant’s work, much more in the arena of queer theory, also consciously uses an “archive” and is consciously about thinking historically. She wants to deepen our understanding of the notion of optimism as it relates to social crisis. Yet, though she mentions narcissism, not once does she engage the work of, say, Christopher Lasch on that concept or his later work on progress, hope, and optimism. Now that’d be an essay I’d love to read: Berlant on Lasch! And there’s absolutely no intersection between the work of social historians such as, say, the aforementioned Lizabeth Cohen and someone like Berlant. A bit more between a book like Sarah Igo’s The Averaged American and someone such as Berlant. But only in a cursory way.

    I’d like to see more engagement between these two conversations: US intellectual history and contemporary cultural studies. For instance, there’s a ton of engagement with, say, Ranciere or Badiou in the cultural studies world right now, but it seems to me that there is a gap between that conversation and the one going on among intellectual historians. I’m glad to be corrected here, though I’d hold to the position that even if a few people are speaking across this divide, it *is* a divide, one worth thinking about as to why it exists and how it might be productively bridged for interpretive purposes.

    Next, the word “atmosphere.” Berlant uses it in Cruel Optimism:

    “In The Female Complaint I describe the juxtapolitical as a world-building project of an intimate public that organizes life without threading through dominant political institutions. These works open up questions about political art whose aim is not a refunctioning of the political but a lateral exploration of an elsewhere that is first perceptible as atmosphere.”—Berlant, CO, 20

    Latour also uses it in his book on the public sphere, Making Things Public: Atmospheres of Democracy (now that book rocked my world…someone needs to recreate the exhibition he created about public spheres and tour it around the world!). I think the term “atmospheres” could be very useful for thinking about topics such as rock and the counterculture, indeed about cultural politics in general.

    Penultimately, I think you are right about the Kantian sublime at work in psychedelic rock. The Acid Tests, for instance, were many things (including a bunch of frat boys from U of Oregon, a chance for people to experiment with LSD, a place to “to party,” etc.), but in my reading of sources they were also about probing what kind of democratic collectives might be possible in an overwhelming world of electronic stimulation and Cold War American technological power. The answers, as I try to argue, were not all good. As Kesey used to remark, the Acid Tests *were* tests. And at his most honest he seemed to suggest that he was the one who failed the most when it came to achieving anything remotely democratic with them. And of course, Vietnam was, as many journalists, scholars, filmmakers have shown, a kind of hyper-sublime, one that rock music both fed off and into (that loop between SF and Vietnam is one of the reasons I focus on those two places and not other important locales: Detroit, LA, NYC, London, or car radios, teen clubs, and bedrooms across America and Europe). As for Vietnam, Michael Herr puts it evocatively in Dispatches:

    “The Sixties had made so many casualties, its war and its music had run power off the same circuit for so long they didn’t even have to fuse. The war primed you for lame years while rock and roll turned more lurid and dangerous than bullfighting, rock stars started falling like second lieutenants; ecstasy and death and (of course and for sure) life…” – p. 258.

    So those are a few ideas lurking in the book. Finally, I look forward to your quantitative analysis of mentions of race in the thing! Hah! More seriously, I look forward to your comments about what I missed on the topic of race and rock as well as other things you notice.

    Onward and Thanks!
    Michael

Comments are closed.