Beat sound, Beat vision

The Beat spirit and popular song

By Laurence Coupe

Beat sound, Beat vision


  • Hardcover
  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 978-0-7190-7113-3
  • Pages: 232
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £15.99
  • Published Date: January 2011
  • BIC Category: Cultural Studies, United States of America, USA, Blues, HISTORY / Social History, LITERARY CRITICISM / American / General, Humanities / Social & cultural history, The arts / Music, The arts / Blues, Popular music, Literature: history & criticism


This book reveals the ideas behind the Beat vision which influenced the Beat sound of the songwriters who followed on from them. Having explored the thinking of Alan Watts, who coined the term 'Beat Zen', and who influenced the counterculture which emerged out of the Beat movement, it celebrates Jack Kerouac as a writer in pursuit of a 'beatific' vision. On this basis, the book goes on to explain the relevance of Kerouac and his friends Allen Ginsberg and Gary Snyder to songwriters who emerged in the 1960s. Not only are new, detailed readings of the lyrics of the Beatles and of Dylan given, but the range and depth of the Beat legacy within popular song is indicated by way of an overview of some important innovators: Jim Morrison, Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, Donovan, the Incredible String Band, Van Morrison and Nick Drake.


In a series of articulate essys Coupe stretches out his ideas and linkages, investigating who inspired who, casting Alan Watts in a central role alongside the omnipotent William Blake. Some of Coupe's theories are contentious but from this uniquely English perspective they are absolutely thought provoking.


1. 'This is IT': Alan Watts and the visionary tradition
2. 'Go moan for man': Jack Kerouac and the beatific vision
3. 'Vision music': Bob Dylan, Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg
4. 'Within you . without you': the Beatles and Allen Ginsberg
5. 'Eco-Zen', or 'a heaven in a wild flower': from Gary Snyder to Nick Drake


Laurence Coupe is Senior Lecturer in English at Manchester Metropolitan University

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