cover image Haight-Ashbury, Psychedelics, and the Birth of Acid Rock

Haight-Ashbury, Psychedelics, and the Birth of Acid Rock

Robert J. Campbell, edited by David P. Szatmary. SUNY/Excelsior, $29.95 trade paper (250p) ISBN 978-1-4384-9336-7

Campbell (1950–2016), a former editor of the Colorado Springs Independent, provides a rambling and enthusiastic account of the counterculture that emerged in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury neighborhood in the 1960s, and the music and substances that fueled it. Campbell explains how the “unprecedented” quantities of LSD brought to the Bay Area beginning in 1965 helped to foster a “mindset, sensibility, and perceptual style linked to psychedelics.” Meanwhile, music venues such as Mother’s opened and began hosting nascent rock bands, fueling the appeal of the “quasi-utopian, countercultural” community. Long before finding bigger stages, such bands as the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane “considered their music more of a community interaction/recreation than an entrepreneurial venture,” Campbell writes. After the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival, acid rock went mainstream just as Haight-Ashbury, now inundated by droves of “would-be hippie” newcomers, “deteriorated into a carnival freak show—all circus, no bread—in celebration, imitation, and perversion of itself.” While much of the ground Campbell covers is well-worn and several sections drag, it’s a vivid and up-close portrait of a much mythologized place and time. Hippies will welcome this deep dive into the culture of the Haight. (July)