Woodstock Rock

Underground, psychedelic, protest and progressive music from the adolescent years of rock 1963-1974

In Perth, Woodstock Rock can be heard every Thursday from 8-10pm on RTR FM 92.1

On the rest of the planet, the show can be heard via the RTR FM website.


We define the "Woodstock Era" as roughly 1963-1974, a period of time that saw unprecedented musical experimentation. Woodstock Rock aims to play a wide range of music from that time period, focusing primarily on underground sounds. Remember however, that during the Woodstock Era the underground and mainstream music scenes intersected in a way not seen again until the alternative rock explosion of the nineties. Bands and performers such as Jimi Hendrix, Cream, Jefferson Airplane and many others took psychedelic and acid rock to the top of the charts. At the same time artists like Bob Dylan redefined the subjects that could be addressed in popular song and influenced an entire generation of songwriters.

In Britain, the Beatles were the epitome of a self-contained group, able to write and perform their own songs. It helped of course that the songwriters in the group were Lennon/McCartney and Harrison. As the decade wore on the Beatles progressed from a beat group heavily influenced by Rock'n'Roll and Motown to an entirely more complex rock band. Along the way they introduced their audience to psychedelic and eastern music forms.

Meanwhile, in London the Rhythm and Blues scene generated a number of bands influenced by the harder edged sounds of blues and soul artists. Outfits like the Rolling Stones, The Yardbirds, The Pretty Things, The Who and John Mayall's Bluesbreakers filled nightclubs in the nation's capital. From this scene would come musicians who went on to form Cream, Fleetwood Mac, and Led Zeppelin, who all dominated the music scene of the Woodstock Era.

In The United States, Civil Rights and the Vietnam War provided a focus for the protest singer movement. Largely rooted in folk traditions, scenes sprang up in Greenwich Village and other locations with folk clubs the first forum for many performers. Artists such as Phil Ochs, Fred Neil, Joan Baez and Bob Dylan came to prominence from this background.

At the same time the "British Invasion" of the mid-60s spawned a host of groups who wanted to be the Beatles or the Rolling Stones. Any number of bands got together and released their efforts to the public. This "garage-rock" phenomenon threw up a host of terrific singles, and occasionally albums, often released on local independent labels before the band faded back into obscurity. Lenny Kaye first threw the spotlight on these forgotten bands with the release of "Nuggets" in the early 70s, featuring artists like The Count Five, The Strawberry Alarm Clock, The Electric Prunes, The Strangeloves and others. These days a number of reissues invoke the DIY spirit of those times.

A number of different regional scenes came to prominence at various times. In San Francisco The Jefferson Airplane, The Grateful Dead, Quicksilver Messenger Service and Moby Grape brought acid rock to public attention. Los Angeles spawned groups as well known as The Doors, Love and Spirit. Best of all though were The Byrds who were at the forefront of folk-rock, space-rock and, in tandem with Gram Parsons, country-rock. Without doubt they were one of the most influential bands of the 60s.

From Texas came wild garage and psychedelic bands, pre-eminent among them The 13th Floor Elevators and Doug Sahm. Detroit unleashed a raft of guitar-driven rockers like The Stooges, MC5, Alice Cooper and Ted Nugent and the Amboy Dukes.

Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention produced a number of albums that parodied both the mainstream and the underground communities. The Fugs added radical politics to their confrontational brand of protest music. In New York, the Velvet Undergound fused dark lyrical concerns with avant-garde rock. Largely unknown at the time they are now considered a massive influence on many that came after them.

In the wake of Bob Dylan's John Wesley Harding album, and the first two records by The Band, many artists embraced a back to basics approach to music. For many musicians this simply meant returning to the folk or country roots from which they had first sprung. Much of the music made under this banner anticipates the Americana movement of the nineties.

As the 60s gave way to the 70s, the technology available in the studio enabled artists to realise some of their grander conceits. This was the time of the concept album, and Progressive Rock bands fused rock rhythms with classical and jazz influences. Yes, Genesis, King Crimson and Emerson, Lake and Palmer all built on the earlier experiments undertaken by The Moody Blues and Procol Harum.

In Australia and New Zealand, the early to mid-60s music scene was largely dominated by overseas acts, with many local artists gaining success with cover versions of international hits. Local bands rarely broke onto the international market, with The Easybeats a notable early exception. However a vibrant garage scene existed outside the mainstream charts featuring legendary bands like The Missing Links, The Black Diamonds, The Purple Hearts, The Sunsets, Chants R'n'B and The LaDeDas. As the 60s drew to a close the focus shifted to more progressive and blues based bands and the local scene came to be dominated by excellent performers like Spectrum, The Master's Apprentices, Tamam Shud, The Human Instinct, Chain and Billy Thorpe and the Aztecs.

This rich tapestry of musical expression forms the basis for Woodstock Rock. Each week we program two hours of music drawn from the Woodstock Era comprising artists such as those specifically cited above, plus many far more obscure and overlooked acts. We highlight the connections between different artists and explain the context in which the music was made. We purposely plan each program to reflect a wide variety of styles, pace and sonic volume. Above all else the music remains a great listen, a tribute to the vision of those artists and bands that performed during that time.

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