The sixties era, certainly in so many respects, but especially for the music, will always be remembered. I, like many others love all eras of music, but it is very much the sixties which has laid the foundations for what has followed, and in doing so, and consequently being the first, has maintained being (arguably) the most exciting and innovative period in the history of popular culture. Of course, not all the music from this period is political, but much of it (even when subconsciously) reflects the cultural changes, and this book quite superby reflects that. It almost manages to give a running commentary to the social events/changes of the time that after reading it, those records never quite sound the same again, such is the listener's greater understanding.
For a short period (mid sixties - early seventies) it really did seem like it was possible to change the world. Maybe because after the post war years people had more money, were better educated and did feel they had the faculties to question authority, especially concerning black rights, the vietnam war, and women's liberation. The details contained in this book concerning those groups desiring revolution - the Black Panther group, the SNCC, the White Panther group and the Yippies etc. are truly revelationary, not just within the details of the lengths these groups would go in pursuit of their causes, but also in their desire to ensure they gained as much publicity as possible by rallying many of the top musical stars to their causes. Not all pop stars wanted necessarily to relate, or get too heavily involved, and sometimes it wasn't always easy to know where to draw the line, which was especially true of John Lennon. There is also the matter of the egocentricity of many of the leaders which sometimes tends to overshadow the causes they represent. There are times when one begs the question as to whether the leadership is really using the causes they represent merely to boost their own profile, because certainly over the longer period ego does seem very much to take the place of logical thinking.
Really this book proves a must for anyone who wants to find out a little more about what exists behind much of the music of the times, because 'There's A Riot Going On' really puts you there right within the context of what was happening. This is also a book which can aid anyone in more general terms who are interested in knowing what was happening - sociologists and historians, especially.
If there is a drawback to 'There's A Riot Going On' it is that its sheer scope sometimes makes it a difficult read, not in the way of being hard to understand necessarily, but because there isn't always a clear thread running through and topics tend to get picked up and dropped, so its often a case of going back over what you've already read to get a clear perspective before perservering. That sounds like a criticism, but it's not in a way because the attention to detail Peter Doggett has afforded his subject is quite astounding and means that it would prove hard for it to be any other way. It's a truly enlightening read, ultimately, and all praise deservedly goes to the author.