Peter Doggett- There's A Riot Going On
Doggett details the drama of the aborted American revolution
There's A Riot Going On' traces the rapid decline of 1960s counter-culture from naïve radicalism to uncommitted self-obsession. Psychedelic musicians are exposed as ignorant or hypocritical, movements slip from dynamic idealism to drug-addled cynicism while radical politicians are confused and exhausted. In breathless prose, Doggett details the drama of the aborted American revolution, expressing disappointment while retaining a tremulous hope in music's potential.
Although Doggett obviously admires the musicians of the late 1960s, he clear-sightedly deconstructs the bizarre mixture of psychobabble and empty rhetoric that characterised the period. John Lennon comes across as a distracted junkie who switches between support for terrorists to flaccid pacifism; Dylan abdicates responsibility for any political stance while artists from Mick Jagger to Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young climb on the revolutionary band-wagon without actually offering anything. Without denying the power of the state - guns, spies and the courts were routinely used to undermine the counter-culture - Doggett reveals how easily capitalism could co-opt the wild energy of the times.
Since much subsequent radicalism has taken its cue from the 1960s - Public Enemy adopted the Panthers, Rave took its utopianism from the first summer of love and even the SSP follows the inclusive spirit of 1968 - 'There's A Riot Going On' is a quietly depressing read. It shows how the energy of youth can be mistaken for commitment, and catalogues some of the stupidest statements made by public figures (on both sides of the conflict). Of course, these days nobody would mistake a concert performed by millionaires as a substitute for meaningful political protest, would they?
Out Now. Published by Cannongate. Cover Price £25.00 hardback.