Rock genres – Acid Rock

Rock genres – Acid Rock

acid 4
captain beef

Acid Rock as a genre started in the mid-sixties and flourished in the late sixties.

At that time LSD – lysergic Acid Diethylamine – was legal and thought to be safe. Marijuana was the drug of choice for the burgeoning alternative culture and was extensively used.

A Rock Scene sprang up in the two cities on the West Coast of America which had attracted in large numbers of alternative characters. In Los Angeles the scene was centred around Venice and the Sunset Strip and in San Francisco it was around Haight Asbury.

The culture was very radical. It became known a the Hippie movement typified by its long hair and bright clothes, liberalised attitudes to drugs and sex and a distrust of the establishment.

The Acid Rock culture had grown out of a coalescing from a number of sources. There was the influence of the British Bands who had inspired a number of musicians to get into bands; the politics and poetry of the Folk movement, exemplified by Bob Dylan, with its radicalising message; the influence of East Coast musicians like the Lovin’ Spoonful and then the seminal band the Byrds with their Folk-Rock and spacey sounds.

In Britain a similar thing was taking place simultaneously. It was based in London where both cannabis and :LSD were circulating and was creating a Psychedelic scene based around clubs like The UFO Club, Middle Earth and the Eel-Pie Island.

The two were to cross-fertilise and interact.

In Los Angeles the leading lights were the Doors, Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band, Buffalo Springfield, The Mothers of Invention (Frank Zappa) and Love. They tended to have a Blues based sound. Frank was a a bit of a one-off and not really what I would call Acid Rock but …….

In San Francisco it was Jefferson Airplane, Country Joe and the Fish, Big Brother & the Holding Company, Quicksilver Messenger Service and Grateful Dead. There was more of a Folk influence here.

The effects of the drugs on the music was very evident. The pieces were drawn out into long jams with the integration of soaring guitars and harmonies. It was intricate and interweaved into complex rhythms and there was the use of different instrumentation, musical forms, electronic sounds. It created a dense sound that was mesmerising and you could get lost in. It was album based, rather than singles, and was focussed on the ideology of the alternative culture with its peace, love and anti-establishment themes. The music was of and for the sixties alternative culture.

When coupled with light shows in small clubs the atmosphere was a total immersive experience that was intended to be consumed while high.

Surprisingly it was instantly commercially successful with bands like the Doors and Jefferson Airplane hitting the singles charts. This threw everyone into a dilemma. The bands were in danger of being called ‘Sell-outs’ and losing their street credibility and the establishment was shocked and did not know how to deal with the drug references and social messages.

Some of these bands went on to become among the biggest in the world – like the Doors. Others developed huge stadia followings like Grateful Dead and others fell by the wayside like Country Joe and the Fish.

My favourite was the incredible Captain Beefheart who produced the greatest body of work, pushed the boundaries, was innovative and extraordinary, was a poet of great originality, and created complex music the like of which has never been bettered. He influenced a thousand other musicians and remains a largely unsung hero.

My book – ‘In Search of Captain Beefheart’ is not actually about the Captain; it is about my quest for the lodestone of Rock Music. It’s a tale of a man’s journey and love of Rock Music.

I have a number of other books concerned with Rock Music you might enjoy – Tributes to the Top Rock acts:

My views on the greatest albums of all time:

Rock lives!!

Captain Beefheart – Safe As Milk (1967)

A sample from the On Track book.

Thank you to all the kind responses to the Beefheart book. I’m glad that so many of you are enjoying it. Please leave reviews on Amazon. I have sent out all of my personal copies and ordered in another batch if anybody else wants a copy.

Safe As Milk (1967)


Don Van Vliet: vocals, harmonica, marimba

Alex St. Clair Snouffer: guitar, bass (9, 10), percussion

Jerry Handley: bass (except on 8, 9, 10)

Ry Cooder: guitar, slide guitar, bass (8), percussion

John French ‘Drumbo’: drums

Sam Hoffman: theremin (6, 12)

Russ Titelman: guitar

Richard Perry: harpsichord

Milt Holland: log drum, tambourine, percussion (2, 4, 8)

Taj Mahal: tambourine, percussion (7)

Studios: Sunset Sound; RCA

Producers: Richard Perry, Bob Krasnow

Engineer (and demos): Gary (Magic) Marker

Label: Buddah

This album is a very good entry point for those who are unfamiliar with the work of Captain Beefheart. Don had been listening to jazz musicians John Coltrane, Charles Mingus and Miles Davis, and had a clear vision for the way he wanted the band to go. He wanted to be more experimental and move away from straightforward blues to incorporate African rhythms and jazz, and take on the acid vibe of the day. However, that was a work in progress, and for this album he retained the heavy blues base which made it accessible to the uninitiated. This was still desert blues, but now with an acid tinge.

   Much was happening in 1966. It was a watershed year of great change. The key factor was drugs. While marijuana and speed had been staple drugs for the blues/R&B vibe, there was now the sudden influx of LSD. It transformed the attitudes of the musicians and audiences. In England, this had an impact on established bands like The Yardbirds, the Stones, The Animals and The Pretty Things, who changed quite dramatically from straightforward bands playing Chicago blues, into experimental psychedelic bands. The process could be clearly seen with The Beatles’ evolution on albums from ‘Please Please Me’ to the psychedelic Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Newer psychedelic bands like Pink Floyd and The Jimi Hendrix Experience were starting out just as a new underground venue scene sprang up to cater for them.

   On America’s West Coast, a new style of music labelled acid rock was emerging. Bands such as The Doors, Love, Jefferson Airplane, Big Brother and The Holding Company, Country Joe and The Fish and Grateful Dead, were sweeping in. Beefheart was on the crest of this wave.

   In order to achieve his new vision, Don knew that changes had to be made. Clearly some of the band members – though well versed in the blues – were unable to make the transition to acid rock. The first to go was drummer Paul Blakely, who was replaced by John French (later named Drumbo). This was an important change, because not only was John (incidentally, also from Lancaster) an accomplished drummer and master of the complex polyrhythms that Don was envisioning, but he could also read and transcribe music, so was able to interpret Don’s ideas from his piano-playing, humming or singing, notating them and organising the band to play the music that was coming from Don’s mind. This talent would become more and more important as the band developed, the music became more complex, and the Captain became stranger and stranger.

   With John onboard, the band moved to Los Angeles in order to break into the wider music arena and seek a record deal. The underground scene was beginning to take off with venues like the Avalon Ballroom, where they found their own specific type of audience. The second change, was to find a guitarist who could handle the more complex arrangements. Don had been impressed by the guitar-playing of young musician Ryland Cooder who was in a moderately successful folk/R&B band called The Rising Sons. Ry was a 20-year-old guitar/slide prodigy whose skills Don coveted. Don knew that Ry could transform the band’s sound. However, what followed was – sadly – a game of intrigue and deception.

The book is available through Burning Shed (The publishers own distribution site) Captain Beefheart On Track (

Or through Amazon:

Captain Beefheart On Track: Every Album, Every Song: Opher Goodwin: 9781789522358: Books

I do have a batch of copies that are available signed (including post and packaging) for: £17 – UK     £20 – Europe   £23 – USA

If you are interested please message or email me with your address. Payment through paypal –

Today’s Music to keep me SsSsAaAAaNnnneeee in Isolation – Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band – Safe As Milk

I remember getting this when it first came out and being completely blown away. It still blows my mind. Best band ever – and so brilliant live!

C̤a̤p̤t̤a̤i̤n̤ ̤ Beefheart–S̤a̤f̤e̤ ̤a̤s̤ ̤M̤i̤l̤k̤ ̤-1967. Full Album – YouTube