The Space between the Notes: Rock and the Counter-Culture

The Space between the Notes: Rock and the Counter-Culture

The Space between the Notes: Rock and the Counter-Culture

The Space between the Notes: Rock and the Counter-Culture


The Space Between the Notes examines a series of relationships central to sixties counter-culture: psychedelic coding and rock music, the Rolling Stones and Charles Manson, the Beatles and the 'Summers of love', Jimi Hendrix and hallucinogenics, Pink Floyd and space rock. Sheila Whiteley combines musicology and socio-cultural analysis to illuminate this terrain, illustrating her argument with key recordings of the time: Cream's She Walks Like a Bearded Rainbow , Hendrix's Hey Joe , Pink Floyd's Set the Controls For the Heat of the Sun , The Move's I Can Hear the Grass Grow , among others.The appropriation of progressive rock by young urban dance bands in the 1990s make this study of sixties and seventies counter-culture a timely intervention. It will inform students of popular music and culture, and spark off recognition and interest from those that lived through the period as well as a new generation that draw inspiration from its iconography and sensibilities today.


Rock's superiority over previous popular musical forms is simply the result of its existence in a period of expanded and heightened social, political and psychological awareness, a period which made possible and necessary a hip and relevant popular music.

Progressive rock and the counter-culture are often perceived as inseparable. Recognised as a social force, music was thought to say things of cultural and political significance, to have a message. Orientated towards a collective experience, rock appeared to provide the means whereby young people could explore the politics of consciousness, 'love, loneliness, depersonalisation, the search for the truth of the person and the attempt to set up an alternative life style' . The question that arises is why there should have been this emphasis on a 'hip and relevant popular music'.

Was it, as Richard Neville wrote at the time, just symptomatic of an 'intense, spontaneous internationalism'? 'From Berlin to Berkeley, from Zurich to Notting Hill, Movement members exchange a gut solidarity, sharing common aspirations, inspirations, strategy, style, mood and vocabulary. Long hair is their declaration of independence, pop music their esperanto and they puff pot in their peace pipe.'

Roszak also draws attention to the international dimensions of the movement. Throughout the West (as well as in Japan and parts of Latin America), it is the young (qualified as perhaps only a minority of the university campus population) who find themselves cast as the only effective radical opposition within their societies.'

Both Neville and Roszak, in common with most counter-cultural theorists, also discuss the divisions within the counter-cultural movement, the New Left, hippies and yippies. At the same time, Roszak points to the similarity of sensibility which united student and graduate activists and the drop-out hippies,

the continuum of thought and experience among the young which links together the new left sociology of Mills, the Freudian Marxism of Herbert Marcuse, the Gestalt-therapy anarchism of Paul Goodman, the

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