ARE THE KIDS ALL RIGHT? by John G. Fuller

ARE THE KIDS ALL RIGHT?

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

The 1979 Cincinnati Coliseum tragedy--eleven fans ""squeezed to death"" in the pre-concert crush for a show by ""The Who""--might make an effective long magazine article. But to stretch it into a book, sensationalizing journeyman Fuller (We Almost Lost Detroit, Fever) not only does the customary second-by-second, interview-heavy recreation; he also pads unmercifully--with socio-psychological theorizing that is inane at best, irresponsible at worst. Why the fatalities? Fuller's own research clearly indicates that the major reason--a sufficient explanation all by itself--was the ""brutally stupid crowd planning"": 18,000 people kept waiting, then forced to push through a few doors (sometimes as few as two), with first-come/first-served seating as an incentive. Moreover, there's virtually no evidence here that the crowd, once put in this impossible situation, behaved badly or strangely. Nonetheless, Fuller wonders ""why the crowd was pulled so forcibly by the tidal action"" and answers with a diatribe against ""the consistent social violence and destructiveness of the hard-rock phenomenon"": it works ""mass hypnosis,"" Jekyll/Hyde style, on otherwise delightful adolescents (""As sane and sound as they were in the everyday world, they could be sent into an emotional tailspin at the twang of a guitar string""); the rock-concert crowd, ""addicted"" from album-listening, arrives in a death-wishing, ""posthypnotic"" state; and so on--with irrelevant recycling of familiar drugs-and-mayhem stories about sick-o rock stars, Woodstock, and Altamont. Fuller constantly quotes sociologists, psychiatrists, and others--mindlessly, frequently out of context--to make this case. But all the generalized, often self-contradictory blather doesn't conceal the absence of solid information about how people actually behaved in Cincinnati. So, though reasonably informative when sticking to the known facts, this is mostly hysterical hooey--with obvious appeal to those who'd like to join Fuller in blaming rock music for the evils of the younger generation.

Pub Date: Oct. 27th, 1981
Publisher: Times Books