Author(s): Peter Bebergal
From the Hoodoo-inspired sounds of Elvis Presley to the Eastern odysseys of George Harrison, from the dark dalliances of Led Zeppelin to the Masonic imagery of today's hip-hop scene, the occult has long breathed life into rock and hip hop - and indeed, esoteric and supernatural traditions are the secret ingredient behind the emergence and development of rock and roll. With intellectual substance, vivid storytelling, and laser-sharp analysis, writer and critic, Peter Bebergal, illuminates this web of influences to produce SEASON OF THE WITCH, the definitive work on how the occult shaped and saved popular music. As Bebergal explains, occult and mystical ideals gave rock and roll its heart and purpose - making rock into more than just backbeat music, but into a cultural revolution of political, spiritual, sexual and social liberation. Bebergal explores how the biggest names in popular music have participated in this spiritual rebellion and in so doing crafted rock's mythic soul. The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, King Crimson, Black Sabbath, Killing Joke and even The Rolling Stones, among many others, not only transformed rock with their musical innovations, but saved rock from becoming a series of radio-friendly 45s spinning out endless redundant chords. Their stories serve as a window that exposes how, without the occult imagination, there would be no rock as we know it. SEASON OF THE WITCH, also, investigates the figures whose lives intersect, both directly and indirectly, with the culture of rock: the fin-de-siecle magician, Aleister Crowley, who would become a counterculture icon; the symbolist artist, Austin Osmond Spare, whose sigil magic would influence an entire subculture of British musicians in the 1980s and 1990s; the pulp horror writer, H.P. Lovecraft; the nightmarish serial killer, Charles Manson; and the underground filmmaker and Crowley devotee, Kenneth Anger. While occult influences appeared at rock's inception, the true alchemical marriage didn't happen overnight, but rather built slowly towards its own peak when the planets aligned in the 1960s and sexual liberation, anti-war protests and other social movements collided. In this climate, musicians and fans alike would blow their music and their minds with LSD, opening up a cultural third eye that exposed them to alternative religious and occult practice. It was a shot heard round the word in song, such as the cosmic I AM spirituality of The Beatles' "Tomorrow Never Knows," one of the first great mystical moments in popular music. From then on, at every turn, musicians pushed at the edges and would eventually give rock its truly defining sound and mythology. All the essential rock genres, from heavy metal to progressive, from glam to punk gathered their wool from the occult's harvest. These are just a few of the extraordinary figures who readers meet in this feast of storytelling and cultural illumination.
Peter Bebergal writes widely on the speculative and slightly fringe. His recent essays and reviews have appeared in The Times Literary Supplement, BoingBoing, The Believer and The Quietus. He is the author of Too Much to Dream: A Psychedelic American Boyhood and The Faith between Us (with Scott Korb). Bebergal studied religion and culture at Harvard Divinity School.