book review::Guitar Army

Recently I finished up Guitar Army, published by Process Media, and written by artist, poet, musician, radio dj, and activist John Sinclair. In the 1960’s John Sinclair spearheaded a movement using the power of what was a new and extreme version of Rock n Roll, to spread a cultural revolution. Sinclair was the manager of Detroit legends the MC5, and also the main force behind the leftist White Panther Party. Sinclair created quite a storm in his time with his revolutionary ideas combined with the explosive power of the White Panther Party band MC5. In 1970, John Sinclair was sentenced to close to 10 years in prison for giving an undercover officer two joints. On the 10th of December 1971, The John Sinclair Freedom rally was put on, where John Lennon famously performed The Ballad Of John Sinclair and three other numbers with Yoko. John Lennon had so much cultural capital that as a result of the concert, three days later Sinclair was freed from prison.

Among other things, Guitar Army chronicles the MC5’s battles with local Michigan authorities. Moreover, Sinclair goes into some detail about the government antagonism of Sinclair and his cohorts, which served as validation of just how afraid the power strata were of Sinclair’s ideas. In Sinclair’s column Rock n Roll Dope, Sinclair directly and indirectly gives a good sense of how passionate the fans of the MC5 were and how there really was this magnetism that was drawing people together who were seriously looking to make change. It is also really interesting to read Sinclair’s section on Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club, and how by his own admission there was 60’s culture before the record and then there was the 60’s culture that was transformed by the drug infused imagery and music of the incredibly rich, famous and powerful Beatles. During this section, Sinclair goes on to muse about the real power the Beatles offered for change, if they only had proper direction and a message.
Guitar Army offers much in the form of getting the reader to understand and relate to the cultural environment of a time when rock n roll was not only taking over the U.S., but was also evolving at such a rapid rate that the potential was seemingly endless. Throughout the book, there are many quotes from Mao and Lenin on the power of mass consciousness and the power of ideas with respect to making change reality. The book is a great product of the sixties and includes over eighty concert flyers, illustrations, and photographs, and some will surely be inspired with a new belief in the power of words and ideas. Sinclair’s writings serve as a valuable resourse with respect to the cultural cogs and wheels that were turning during a time which seemed to hold so much potential for positive change. What I found even more compelling than the writings was just how apparent it is that these folks truly believed they could change things. In the end, all sorts of changes occurred, but it doesn’t bare much of a resemblance to Sinclair’s utopia.
Be Sociable, Share!
Bookmark the permalink.
  • Archives

  • Bogs et Cogs