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Magic held a special fascination for the post-war counterculture, a movement that valued music and art as tools of the imagination to counter what Theodore Roszak called the “technocracy” in which science was to blame for cultural disenchantment in the West. At a time when countercultural rhetoric was bolstering a newfound faith in the power of music to generate social change, rock music began to be conceived by many musicians and perceived by audiences as a kind of magic. This article considers music by the Beatles, the Doors, Pink Floyd, Frank Zappa, Captain Beefheart and others to show how musicians invoked magical imagery and how some drew on magic-inspired techniques of art such as incantation and collage. This study finds that invocations of magic in rock during the countercultural era balanced precariously between the charismatic religious shaman whose magic corresponds to the faith of the cultural group and tricks of the secular illusionist who practices a magic of deception.

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