- Using Rock To Think: Opening Reflections on Kramer’s Republic of Rock
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- The Republic of Rock: Music and Citizenship in the Sixties Counterculture by Michael J. Kramer;
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Jan 30, Josh rated it really liked it Shelves: viet-war. Kramer argues that a symbiotic relationship existed between the counterculture in the United States and the U. The war in Vietnam became a metaphor suffusing various aspects of the counterculture—for example, concert venues were labeled "induction centers" because it was at those sites where youth were "inducted" into the counterculture. On the other hand, Kramer acknowledges that "the commodification of phenomena such as hippies. Army also took advantage of the counterculture and appropriated its values and material manifestations "in the hopes of raising morale among young troops.
For example, a poster for a touring soldier rock band in Vietnam "featured a Haight-Ashbury-like neighborhood of head shops, music stores, and street art transposed to the confusing space of military struggle as if to suggest that American GI's could become hippies in their downtime even if they were still warriors at work.
The first explores the counterculture of rock in San Francisco, more specifically in the Haight-Ashbury.
Using Rock To Think: Opening Reflections on Kramer’s Republic of Rock
He includes a chapter that explores LSD and rock culture among the many "induction centers" where rock bands like The Grateful Dead performed psychedelic shows. Another chapter describes how the workers of KMPX, a rock station in San Francisco, struck for better pay and more importantly artistic license. A third chapter describes how the "Wild West Festival" in San Francisco, the equivalent of a Woodstock for the Bay area, ultimately failed because potential attendees and performers chafed at the co-optation of the counterculture by capitalism.
The second part, and more interesting my purposes, describes how rock played an outsized role in the lives of American soldiers in Vietnam. Chapter Four, "A Soundtrack for the Entire Process," details the varied ways that rock music entered Vietnam—official channels, such as the AFVN, "bullshit bands" and underground music stations, through the PXs and mail services. Kramer argues that rock music suffused the experience of GIs in Vietnam and actually helped inform their interpretation of the conflict and citizenship back home.
On one hand, Kramer's argument is appealing for understanding soldiers' culture during the latter years of the Vietnam conflict, especially after , but less helpful for knowing the relationship between music and soldiers before rock music became popular and salient. Kramer also blurs distinctions between line and support units in Vietnam, preferring to discuss how rock music became a staple on support bases in Vietnam and perhaps the occasional fire base while only hinting at the power for rock music to influence the lives of combatants infantrymen.
It's probable that infantrymen in sustained combat operations rarely listened to rock music in the ways that support soldiers stationed in Da Nang listened to music a particular focus of Kramer's analysis. Kramer makes broader points about how "hip militarism" functioned like "hip capitalism" to provide access to rock music while simultaneously drawing on "rock" as a genre to market a message to soldiers. The institutional effort to address morale through music occurred approximately in late and especially between and This meant that the Entertainment Branch was escalating its efforts to assuage morale through music at precisely the same time demobilization was proceeding at full pace.
Kramer rightly interprets the MCTS as a pat of the army's last-ditch efforts to buoy morale, but Kramer does not emphasize the contextual reality that the army's mission was no longer "winning the war" but instead training and developing the ARVN forces to take over. Therefore, Kramer mistakenly associates the presence of rock music with the exacerbation of morale problems among American soldiers because rock undermined the army's "mission" in Vietnam by bringing into tension the army's official stance and the counterculture's rebuff of authority and especially the war.
To what extent did those who were doing the fighting actually hear the sets performed by the MCTS program? This is a crucial question not addressed in Kramer's analysis and its likely that much of Kramer's evidence hails from the support services in Vietnam that already had more access to mass culture and other amenities.
If anything, soldier dissent in Vietnam predated the Entertainment Branch's efforts to inject rock into Vietnam and was worsened partly by the presence of the counterculture in Vietnam, but even more so by demobilization. Soldiers simply did not want to be the last man to die in Vietnam—or for that matter, no soldier in Vietnam wanted to be the first, last, fifth, or thousandth man to die. Rock also was not the only type of music available to soldiers in Vietnam and other works have provided a more holistic assessment of how different musical genres hit soldiers on an emotional and psychological level throughout the war.
It is important to note that Kramer's book deals mostly with the period in Vietnam. Chapter six describes how the importation of American mass culture and counterculture into Vietnam affected Vietnamese youth who came of age in the midst of war. I would argue this is the most interesting chapter in the book, and well-written.
Kramer focuses on a Vietnamese band known by the acronym CBC. During the war, the CBC faced potential recriminations from Vietnamese military police who perceived the band-mates as subversives, American military police who believed the long-haired hippie Vietnamese men and women were "dirty gooks," and a future communist regime that despised Vietnamese who closely affiliated themselves with American culture and practice. Hence, as the war concluded and communist forces consolidated their hold on "South Vietnam" the band-mates of CBC fled to Thailand to escape persecution at the hands of the communist government.
The CBC then moved throughout the Far East before finally arriving in the United States through the generous support of veterans and a refugee resettlement program. I would recommend this book to scholars of the sixties, the Vietnam War, or music history. Enthusiasts of rock might find parts of this book accessible and interesting. Beware, though, Kramer is an academic and thus the book is riddled with neologisms and obscure jargon.
Jun 06, Steve rated it really liked it. Very interesting new study of the roll of rock in forging community and new paradigms of citizenship in San Francisco and Vietnam. I knew nothing about the KMPX strike, the aborted Wild West Festival, Vietnam pirate "bullshit band" underground radio, the CBC band and the drive toward a "transnational" Woo Very interesting new study of the roll of rock in forging community and new paradigms of citizenship in San Francisco and Vietnam. This isn't a lengthy book, but I can pretty much guarantee you'll learn a great deal from it. Jun 09, Leslie rated it really liked it Shelves: music-culture.
I picked up The Republic of Rock mainly because of my interest in the Vietnam War, but as it turned out, it offered new insights on my own, post-Vietnam War generation. Kramer's thesis is that, during those years, rock music became the platform for a profound inquiry into the nature of American citizenship. Being both a product of the American Cold War military-industrial capitalist culture and a site of rebellion against it, rock posed contradictions that necessitated constant consideration. Kra I picked up The Republic of Rock mainly because of my interest in the Vietnam War, but as it turned out, it offered new insights on my own, post-Vietnam War generation.
Kramer asserts that rock's roles in two milieux in particular - the San Francisco counterculture and the Vietnam War - not only exemplified its paradox, but also were linked closely to one another. And this isn't some pasted-on, after-the-fact, academic gimmick. In the book's introduction Kramer quotes a letter in the underground paper The Berkeley Barb : "There probably would be no Haight-Ashbury without the war.
Both hip "isms" were calculated, but the military's use of rock in an attempt to lift morale was especially cynical and cruel. It was also, ultimately, a failure, for though it undoubtedly offered soldiers escape from the war's horrors, as Kramer writes, "partying to rock music often By then, we were fully aware that rock music was basically a party bus hired to deliver us to the altar of consumerism for sacrifice.
And even though, as Kramer writes, "consumer experiences that traded on heightened critical awareness could not be vacuum-sealed from actual critical awareness," it's been shown time and time again that awareness is no substitute for action. And thus is the human race doomed to repeat history.
But I digress. The Republic of Rock is an extensive, in-depth study of the uses and roles of rock music in the San Francisco counter culture of the late '60s to early '70s, and in military culture in Vietnam in the same era. I gained considerable insight from it.
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Well worth reading! Apr 01, Maxwell Octigan rated it it was ok. Very interesting study of how rock music impacted society and the counterculture in San Francisco as well as Vietnam. The book is a bit repetitive and is written like a text book making for a long and sometimes boring read. Sep 27, Craig Werner rated it really liked it Shelves: sixties. Attentive to the tensions and contradictions, he's sympathetic to the aspirations of many of the musicians and audiences, but presents a clear-eyed analysis of the way the scenes were implicated in the very systems they set themselves up in opposition to.
I know more about Ken Kesey and the Acid Trips, but picked up some cool detail. I've been working on a book about music and Vietnam vets for a decade--with any luck the book I've written with my vet friend Doug Bradley will be out next year--and I had some of the inevitable specialist's quibbles Kramer misidentifies the songwriters responsible for "We Gotta Get Out of This Place" and he missed an opportunity to place Sly and the Family Stone closer to the center of his argument.
But none of them undercut the book's value. I did learn quite a bit of detail about relatively obscure GI bands and Vietnam bands that I hadn't known previously. Kramer's deeply grounded in cultural theory and at times there's an "academic" feel to the prose, but he never succumbs to jargon or abstraction. One of, if not the, best academic book about rock in the late 60s. View 1 comment. Certainly not easy reading, this is an academic book, with all the stuff this entails. Basically it's about hip, how hip music was incorporated in hip capitalism and hip militarism. It speaks of delusions of an era, the late 60s, when love and flowers would produce something different.
Politics were not, for them, the source of lasting change nor the best means for expressing dissent p.
The Republic of Rock Music and Citizenship in the Sixties Counterculture - AbeBooks
Returning to San Francisco and Vietnam, I will be curious to see how the Kramer develops the theoretical discussion of place in Republic of Rock. Place does arise as an issue in the Introduction when Kramer says rock helped collapse the distance between Vietnam and San Francisco p. It seems clear, however, that San Francisco itself held forth unique possibilities and realities, even while Kramer acknowledged other sites of counterculture formation in his notes p. In both works he saw the positive possibilities for a democratic culture and social change through dance and music.
This concludes installment one of my reflections on The Republic of Rock. Look for one or two more future entries, plus another more focused reflection from L. We ask that those who participate in the discussions generated in the Comments section do so with the same decorum as they would in any other academic setting or context. Since the USIH bloggers write under our real names, we would prefer that our commenters also identify themselves by their real name.
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Great post, Tim. What does 60s rock culture have to do with Gilded Age historiography? Find out tomorrow!
Wow this sounds like a really fascinating book! One more thing: the idea of place and music is also important. In some ways place also shrinks in that book, as places as disparate as Harlem, Cairo, Accra, and Bandung become united through music and the speeches of figures such as Malcolm X.
Disco was the same thing, but better—more diverse, less alienation and squalor. Focus on the essentials. Indeed—buy it—check it out of your local lending establishment. The Intro alone and reading the notes with it is worth money to read. Republic of Rock does note that many of the San Francisco rockers came out of the folk revival, but Robert Cantwell, Benjamin Filene, Ron Cohen, and others including my new project on folk revival on the West Coast focus more thoroughly on folk as compared to rock.
Thanks for the close reading of the introduction and first chapter of The Republic of Rock. But let me focus on your interest in place and geography for now. But the symbolic interactions between the war and the music in San Francisco were far more crucial than the material connections. In the sounds of rock circulating back and forth across the Pacific and moving through countless other locales as well: Los Angeles, Detroit, New York, London, etc. Issues of democratic political philosophy and psychology sprang up in engagements with the music in this context.
In its place, a military segmented by age, race, region, class, and, most of all, for the administrators of the war, cultural styles arose, particularly after It also smuggled in questionings of the war itself and grapplings with the identity of the citizen-soldier. So moving beyond the place of domestic American consumer and civic culture to the state-dominated place of American military culture overseas provides a key insight into the mechanisms of American consumer and military imperialism both at home and abroad.
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Meanwhile, back in San Francisco, the war was like a kind of hidden transcript haunting struggles over rock music commerce and civic culture, infused into the psychedelic sounds themselves and continually referenced as linked to domestic alienations and problems of democratic existence. Overall, then, rock coursed through the entire apparatus of American consumer and military empire during the height of the Vietnam War and during its awful, slow-motion ending after Nixon came into office, reorganized place and space. To harken to navigational terms, the music was able to disorient and reorient listeners.
Its sounds offered new territories of belonging that were not geographically based, but rather transgressed, if only momentarily, established boundaries of nation, state, market, ethnicity, race, class, gender, region. The appearance of this polity—if we can call it that since it was but a state of being rather than a proper governmental state—is what continues to fascinate me. How did musical and sonic experience sustain the glimmering appearance of what was for many a temporary but enthralling social formation in which they could think through the stakes of citizenship in the modern world?
How weird that a form of commercialized popular music could do this! It is a reminder that place is as much a construction as a geographically-fixed entity, a state of mind as well a of locale.
This was particularly so in a world that was, by the s and even more so now , dominated by mass-communications systems. For intellectual historians, the story of rock and place in San Francisco and Vietnam is also a reminder that not just highbrow intellectuals, but also everyday people—even the adolescents and young adults who were the most avid listeners to rock in the sixties counterculture—quite actively forge, define, articulate, and shape ideas of place, and ideas in general! Rocking out turned out to be far more than just fun. Michael: Thanks for the long comment.
How much did youth know that the Presidio was a command center? How close is Haight-Ashbury to the Presidio? Could each see each when gathering took place in the Haight? How close were the Acid Test events to the Haight and Presidio? Were those venues closer to the Presidio? I apologize if the logisitics of my speculations are impossible. Perhaps I just need to Google map both, but I did wonder about these topographic issues while reading. Those arguments matter, and I think the connections are aptly shown in your book. Just mapped both.
It looks like the Presidio and Haight-Ashbury are about I guess all of this goes toward another layer of embodiment of thought—that our bodily gestures might emphasize the inner confusion and protest—in the context of the geography of San Francisco. The intense rock of radical reimagination could literally review the imperial regime during a Haight event. Alice Echols and a few other scholars have mapped out the spaces of the San Francisco counterculture.
The most fascinating stories about this that I came across came from Reg E Williams, who was involved in the revival of the Straight Theater. He writes in his unpublished memoir about how powerful it was to watch an endless line of military ships depart out the Golden Gate, presumably on their way to Vietnam. My sense in SF itself was that the war hovered over everything, suffused everything.