During 1967-8, The Lovin’ Spoonful, The Animals, The Who, Richie Havens, Jefferson Airplane and the Iron Butterfly, performed in the gymnasium at the small, liberal arts Drew University in suburban New Jersey. Turns out, this experience was not unique to Drew. College campuses across the country were essential for the growth of popular music, and of rock music in particular in the mid- to late-sixties. The music industry took notice as booking agents, record shops, pop music promoters, radio stations, and industry magazines and newspapers all began to place more emphasis on the opportunities provided by the nation’s colleges.
While we know a great deal about activism on college campuses during the sixties, we know little about that same environment and its relationship to the growth and development of rock culture. This essay will explore the relationship between the growth of rock culture, the college campus, and the broader sixties experience. The college campus proved crucial in the development of rock music as student tastes determined “rock culture.” Folk, pop, soul/R&B, folk rock, hard rock, and psychedelic/acid rock, thrived simultaneously on the college campus from 1967 to 1970, precisely the period of significant change in popular music.