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Book Review: Season of the Witch by Peter Bebergal

Subtitled ‘How the Occult Saved Rock and Roll’, the book traces the soaring heights and bitter lows of the rock movement including its early influences and subsequent influencees with particular regard to performers and performances who have either overtly or covertly used occult inspiration.

The examples used have clearly been carefully selected, meticulously researched and diligently created to give an idea of scale and scope of evidence of the crossover between the two, but without ever appearing to cherry pick, inflate or obscure wider musical and cultural contexts merely to prove the case.

The author charts the rollercoaster ride of rock’s evolution with compelling illustrations of moments of seemingly cosmic synchronicity to probable crass commercial sell-outs, rejoicing in the occasions where music came close to fulfilling its potential as unifier, challenger and visionary while mourning the periods where it lost its purpose and vitality.

Most interesting for me was how well balanced the book – it works equally well as a journey through the occult as it does through rock music. Key practices, figures, themes and trends are presented in enough scope and detail to give meaningful context to their musical manifestations without being either too heavy and laborious or passive and dismissive. Certainly by the end I feel there’s an argument to be made that at times rock and roll did just as much for the preservation, awareness and furtherance of occult interests as the other way around.
As an added bonus this is a really compelling and accessible work to read; the author uses some lovely turns of phrase throughout while remaining concise, objective and enthusiastic about the subject matter. It’s clearly a topic of deep personal interest and there are some definite observations woven throughout, but these are not asserted as any kind of conclusion or factual analysis and in my view add to its value as a highly interesting source of food for thought.