More about Acid Rock Precursors – an extract from Rock Routes – a book on Rock Music by Opher Goodwin.

Everything you ever wanted to know about Rock Music.

More about Acid Rock Precursors

As early as 1965 there was a pre-hippy community on the West Coast and in Texas. They had really long hair, wore granny dresses, bright clothes and tended to look like a cross between Western Desperados and Civil War escapees. They were a radical bunch who was looking to establish an alternative life-style. They became strongly involved in the Anti-War movement and the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee which had evolved out of the Civil Rights Movement and involved the leadership of Stokely Carmichael. At the time they were very much a minority cult but the philosophy and attitudes were well evolved. They were an extremely fun-loving bunch. In those days it was not easy for such a non-conventional bunch to live in amongst straight society. They experienced a great degree of harassment and even danger from the more red-necked members of the community they lived within.

Owing to their student status and free-wheeling lifestyle, meaning that they were not very well heeled, they tended to congregate in the run-down areas of more tolerant regions. There were contingents in New York (Greenwich Village), Texas, Los Angeles and San Francisco. New York started out with the Lovin’ Spoonful leading the way but they were left in the wake of the Byrds from LA.

The Haight-Ashbury area was organised by the Family Dog who were a group of socially motivated organisers from the community. They organised a set of dances, on similar lines to ‘The Trip’ in New York that had nurtured the emergence of the Lovin’ Spoonful, complete with Light Shows and suitable music for the embryonic Freak Culture. The Family Dog set about hiring a large Hall in the Fisherman’s Wharf area of the city that went by the name of ‘The Longshoreman’s Hall’.

Their first venture was aptly called ‘A Tribute to Doctor Strange’ and featured prototype Acid Rock Bands like Jefferson Airplane, Charlatans, Marbles, and The Great Society. The music was loud, distorted, electronic and attracted in crowds of colourful long-haired kids from the newly established alternative culture of Haight-Ashbury. They sported their weird costumes with great glee, festooned with SNCC and Peace decals. These Hippies then proceeded to get down to the business of letting it all go by dancing their individualistic free-form dances and having a ball. It was a resounding success.

The following day the same crowd of revellers took place in a Peace March on the Oakland Army Depot. It was a march that featured the antics of Ken Kesey’s Merry Pranksters, the Hell’s Angels and the Instant Action Jug Band led by Country Joe. It was this association of social and political activity with the music scene that was to give rise to the 1960s counter-culture and the Acid Rock Scene. A generation inspired by Bob Dylan’s social message was beginning to awaken and come to life.

Family Dog followed this up with a second two weeks later importing the Lovin’ Spoonful. What followed was a chain of events involving the San Franciscan Mime Troupe who were a group of poets and actors who were run by none other than Bill Graham. They had regularly performed their controversial happenings in the Golden Gate Park and often run into conflict with the police and public due to their frequent use of obscenities. This had led to arrests and heavy fines. In order to pay for these fines Bill had organised a benefit for the troupe. It was to be a Rock Concert on the lines of the Longshoreman’s Hall gigs and featured Jefferson Airplane, the Great Society, the V.I.P.s, Warlocks, Mystery Trend, Gentlemen’s Band and the John Handy Jazz Quintet. This benefit was publicised by Bob Dylan himself who happened to be in the Bay area on the first of his electric tours. It was to be held in the now infamous Fillmore Auditorium. The hall was done out with bright decorations and huge signs at each end saying ‘LOVE’ in typical Freak fashion. It attracted myriads of proto-Freaks.

Following this the San Franciscan scene really began to gel. Bill Graham became a Rock promoter. Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters added to the looniness of the times, along with Neil Cassady who had been a consort of Jack Kerouac. The Warlocks had graduated through the Acid Tests (Acid supplied by Owsley) to become The Grateful Dead. The Acid Tests, complete with Warlock feed-back, ranting from Cassady courtesy of Lady Amphetamine, poetry reading from Allen Ginsberg and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Street theatre sideshows from the San Franciscan Mime Troupe, strobe lighting, and general madness from the Pranksters and audience set the tone for what was to follow. There were inputs from the Seeds (all the way from LA), Chocolate Watch Band, Count Five, Beau Brummels, Golliwogs, Sopwith Camel, Mojo Men, Vejtables, Chosen Few and the Tikis.

The small cult community was happening and began to blossom and attract in more like-minded people. By 1966 it had developed into what became known as ‘The Trips Festival’ and all the groundwork had been laid for the explosion of the sound onto the national scene in that stupendous Summer of Love in 1967.

Was it possible that Rock Music could end war, liberate minds, put a stop to poverty and injustice ad save the world?


Everything you ever wanted to know about Rock Music!

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Opher Goodwin

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