The American Counterculture

The American Counterculture

The American Counterculture

The American Counterculture


A functioning police state needs no police.

William Burroughs, Naked Lunch (1959)

Look out kid

It's somethin' you did

God knows when

But you're doin' it again

Bob Dylan, 'Subterranean Homesick Blues' (1965)

It is tempting to start this book with a tidy narrative of origins that identifies one seminal moment as the countercultural Big Bang from which all the radical social and political movements of the 1950s and '60s evolved. Perhaps the morning in July 1947 when Jack Kerouac stacked the pages of his then half-written novel The Town and the City in a neat pile, said goodbye to his mother, and headed for Route 6 and his first transcontinental adventure. Maybe it would be better to think of Miles Davis cutting class at, and later dropping out of, the Juilliard School of Music to listen to and jam with Charlie Parker, or of Parker's after-hours bebop sessions at Minton's in Harlem with Charlie Christian, Dizzy Gillespie and others; or the day in 1954 when Leo Fender produced his first Stratocaster, the guitar that - even more than the Gibson Les Paul - would later embody the sleek, sexy look associated with Jimi Hendrix and a legion of other guitar heroes of the 1960s and '70s. We could even begin with the marketing man who first dreamed . . .

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