Fintan O’Toole: The marching, charging feet of 1968

Fifty years ago the world was on the brink of revolution. Then the right struck back

Czechoslovakia, August 1968: Prague residents and students on  top of a Soviet tank in Wenceslas Square. Photograph: Sovfoto/UIG via Getty Images

Czechoslovakia, August 1968: Prague residents and students on top of a Soviet tank in Wenceslas Square. Photograph: Sovfoto/UIG via Getty Images

In April and May 1968 the Rolling Stones were in the Olympic studios in west London recording a pulsating new track. The music had previously been attached to a different song, but Mick Jagger had come up with new lyrics after he was in the crowd at a demonstration against the Vietnam War that was charged by the police: “Everywhere I hear the sound of marching, charging feet, boy / ’Cause summer’s here and the time is right for fighting in the street, boy.”

In 1995, asked why the band was still playing Street Fightin’ Man on stage, Jagger shrugged. “I don’t know whether we should really play it . . . I’m not sure if it really has any resonance for the present day. I don’t really like it that much.”

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