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The Maggot in the Rose

Geoffrey Cannon, unpublished, 1971

Author's note, 2018: Nobody talked about flower power or summers of love or fun, fun, fun after the Manson and the Altamont murders, followed by the deaths of Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and (after this piece was written) Jim Morrison. Looking back, I think this was good. The Rolling Stones and the Velvet Underground were not fooling around when they included drugs and violent death in their numbers – well, Keith Richards, Lou Reed and John Cale certainly meant what they composed, played and sang. The admission of death gave rock music more scope.

Later, I felt the same way about The Satanic Verses. The reaction of the Ayatollah Khomeini meant that as in John Milton's day, fiction was taken seriously. No, I am not saying that Salman Rushdie deserved to be murdered, any more than I condone the death of Sharon Tate, or feel OK about the deaths of Jimi, Janis and Jim. I mean that the real presence of menace and horror and death makes art of any form more important. It gives the rock band and singer the chance to convey that they are not kidding around.

Many bands now seriously steer into dark places, my choice being Joy Division. No, I am not saying that death rock is where it's at, any more than I would with poetry single out Francois Villon ('The ballad of the hanged men'), William Dunbar ('Lament for the makaris'), William Blake ('The sick rose') or Paul Verlaine, Arthur Rimbaud and the other poètes maudits.

The Guardian did not run this piece. I should not complain, they did run a number of my think-pieces. I should have developed it and offered it to New Society. These days I would go for Radical Philosophy or The London Review of Books, or both.

Total word count of piece: 1112


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