The Clash by Joe Strummer, Mick Jone, Paul Simonon, and Topper Headon is, as the cover below suggests, the official book put out by the group Rolling Stone called “the only band that matters.” It’s big, it’s pink, and it’s awesome.
The book is a treasure trove of photographs, set lists, notes, and other memorabilia that fans can spend hours poring over. The text of the book is largely taken from prior interviews (such as Don Letts’s documentary The Clash – Westway to the World). While some may be disappointed that there are not many new insights from the band in the text, it is hardly surprising given Joe Strummer’s death in 2002. The pictures take up any perceived slack in the narrative.
An early photo of the band shows Paul Simonon playing a bass with the notes painted on the neck in white letters amazed me. Now that’s punk rock. Pictures from the Notting Hill Carnival riot remind the reader of what a volatile place England was in the late seventies and how the situation almost couldn’t help but ignite punk music. The original photo of Don Letts walking ominously down the street toward the phalanx of policemen on the cover of Black Market Clash is a powerful image just waiting for the right moment to explode.
I was especially smitten with the photographs taken by Pennie Smith who describes taking an iconic shot of Simonon smashing a bass as terrifying. She was apparently much closer than the picture, later used for the cover of the masterpiece London Calling, would suggest. The cover of that album would come to define the band’s ethos – fans and students of rock history that were also destroying what had come before. Smith also took defining pictures of the band on tour in Thailand that would later be used for the Combat Rock album and publicity. I need to get my hands on the long out of print The Clash Before and After: Photographs by Pennie Smith.
After I got my copy as an early Christmas present for myself, I began e-mailing like-minded friends to make sure that they began dropping appropriate hints around anyone who might be buying them a gift. For fans of the band, The Clash is a must have. I’ve been flipping though my copy compulsively. I recommend The Clash, the book and the band, highly.
As a result of my immersion in Clash lore, I had to create a band-inspired logo through some not-so-punk DIY photoshopping.
Sweet. And now, some streaming audio of some of my favorite Clash songs
– London Calling
– Straight to Hell
– Complete Control