Isn’t a lavish, coffee table hardcover book on “The Only Band That Mattered” something of a sell-out, a blatant attempt at a cold cash grab reaching out to middle-aged men whose Mohawks have turned grey or mall kids who think the Ramones are too soft?
You know what I say? Bollocks!
For any real fan of the Clash, this heavy effort is a must-have for the bookshelf, coffee table, or dilapidated squat. And as for Strummer, despite his proletarian beliefs, he always wanted to be a rock star. So he’d probably be quite proud that his band is worthy of such an effort almost 25 years after disintegrating. Recent releases like Strummer documentary The Future is Unwritten and the Live at Shea Stadium CD seem to bear this out.
True, the bulk of the book’s text is taken from oral interviews with the four “classic” lineup members (sorry, Terry Chimes), and some of it was used for the Clash documentary Westway to the World. But the publisher points out that it also includes new material and research, along with scores of amazing photos of the band, the punk scene, record sleeves, posters, and rare memorabilia.
The book also reproduces itineraries for every Clash performance. For those keeping track, they played Houston twice: October 5, 1979 at Cullen Auditorium with pal Joe Ely, and June 5, 1982 at Hofheinz Pavilion. An full-page concert poster from the latter date is reproduced in the book, noting that tickets were available at “Ticketmaster, Montgomery Ward and Sound Warehouse.”
So dear Topper, co-writer of “Rock the Casbah,” if The Clash is really not what you want as part of the group's legacy, I’m sure you’ll be signing away your royalty checks from the book to the charity of your choice. Let me suggest Strummerville, your old lead singer’s still-going organization to help struggling musicians. I’m sure you can get the pounds direct-deposited. - Bob Ruggiero
The Clash, by Joe Strummer, Mick Jones, Paul Simonon, and Topper Headon. Grand Central Publishing, 384 pp., $45.