Rock, Counterculture and the Avant-Garde, 1966–1970

How the Beatles, Frank Zappa and the Velvet Underground Defined an Era


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About the Book

The convergence of rock music, counterculture politics and avant-garde aesthetics in the late 1960s underscored the careers of the Beatles, Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, and the Velvet Underground. This book examines these artists’ relationships to the historical avant-garde (Artaud, Brecht, Dada) and neo–avant-garde (Warhol, Pop Art, minimalism), considering their work in light of debates about modernism versus postmodernism. The author analyzes the performers’ use of dissonance and noise within popular music, the role of social commentary and controversial topics in songs, and the experiments with concert and studio performance. Albums discussed include Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, The White Album, Freak Out!, We’re Only in It for the Money, The Velvet Underground and Nico and White Light/White Heat, as well as John Lennon’s collaborations with Yoko Ono, the Zappa-produced Trout Mask Replica by Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band, and Nico’s The Marble Index.

About the Author(s)

Independent scholar Doyle Greene is the author of several books and serves on the editorial board of Film Criticism. He lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Bibliographic Details

Doyle Greene

Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 232
Bibliographic Info: discography, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2016
pISBN: 978-1-4766-6214-5
eISBN: 978-1-4766-2403-7
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vi
Preface 1
Introduction: Pop Goes the ­Avant-Garde 4

Part One: All You Need Is Studio Time (or, the Ballad of John and Yoko): The Beatles
1. Rebranding the Beatles: Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967) 19
2. Music Television: Magical Mystery Tour (1967) 32
3. The Dialectic of Lennon/McCartney: The Beatles (a.k.a. The White Album) (1968) 43
4. One Bad Apple: John Lennon, Yoko Ono and the ­Avant-Garde Turn 55
5. Breaking Up Is Hard to Do: Abbey Road (1969) and Let It Be (1970) 65

Part Two: No Commercial Potential: Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention
6. Zappa in Context: Pal Recording Studio and The Steve Allen Show (1963) 79
7. Motherly Summer of Love: Freak Out! (1966) 85
8. Nothing Succeeds Like Excess: Absolutely Free (1967) and “Rock Theater” 93
9. The Conscience of a (Practical) Conservative: We’re Only in It for the Money (1968) 104
10. Project/Object: Zappa, Mass Culture and Postmodernism 116

Part Three: All Tomorrow’s Parties: The Velvet Underground
11. Andy Says: The Exploding Plastic Inevitable and The Velvet Underground and Nico (1967) 143
12. The Black Album: White Light/White Heat (1968) 157
13. Playing It Safe: The Velvet Underground (1969) and Loaded (1970) 168

Conclusion: The ­Avant-Garde Goes Pop 178
Discography 187
Chapter Notes 191
Bibliography 212
Index 217