Rise And Fall

I found this excellent documentary on Youtube over the weekend, The Rise And Fall Of The Clash, directed by Danny Garcia and co-written by Mick’s schoolmate (and subject of Stay Free) Robin Banks. The footage and talking head interviews are fairly standard but within this film lurks some awkward and uncomfortable truths. The title is a bit of a misnomer- it’s about the fall of the band rather than their rise and the aftermath of their gigs at Shea Stadium where they seemed to have cracked the US with a hit lp (Combat Rock) and a pair of singles (Rock The Casbah and Should I Stay Or Should I Go?). The causes of the fall are pretty well known- Topper’s sacking, Joe’s insistence on bringing Bernie Rhodes back as manager, Mick’s timekeeping, the internal and political contradictions of being famous and successful versus being a political band who started out in a squat- but this film has some insightful interviews with some of the main players and bystanders- Mick Jones himself, Pearl Harbour (Paul’s girlfriend at the time), security man Raymond Jordan, Terry Chimes/Tory Crimes, Viv Albertine, Tymon Dogg, Mickey Gallagher and Vic Goddard. The cast are divided about Bernie Rhodes, central to the story and the split- some think he’s an anarchic genius who gave The Clash an edge they needed. Some think he’s an enormous bellend.

The second half of the film is where it becomes less well-known and more compulsive. The story of The Clash Mk2, without the sacked Mick Jones and with three new members- Pete Howard, Nick Shepherd and Greg ‘Vince’ White. The treatment these three got was, to be frank, appalling and how Joe and Paul went along with it is jaw dropping. Vince White deserves some kind of award. Joe and Paul then go onto to record and then leave to Bernie to finish and mix the Cut The Crap album, a record largely expunged from the official histories of the band. Grim, uncomfortable and fascinating stuff. Even if you’ve little interest in The Clash or think you’ve seen enough Clash documentaries, you should set aside ninety minutes for this.

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Us ’83

There’s no doubt that for $20 (even in 1983 prices) that’s an interesting line up.

This was the last gig Mick Jones played with The Clash, in front of 250, 000 people. The Clash had truculently refused to play hours before their stage time but relented. There was an argument with Dave Lee Roth about the $1.5 million Van Halen were receiving and Joe insisted the organisers, including Steve Wozniak of Apple fame, pay them more or donate more to Clash approved charities. This led to a pissed off Clash taking the stage and the tensions are evident in the clips- the whole thing was recorded- although some of the tension may be internal. Joe and Mick were barely speaking, Mick and Paul rowed on and off. As a result, Mick was playing his 80 minutes on stage in the band he formed. Topper was gone too by this point, replaced by Nick Howard (who had replaced Terry Chimes/Tory Crimes). During the show Joe repeatedly abused the audience and organisers and on leaving the stage (even more pissed off that the dj began playing songs straight away, denying them an encore) the band got into a scuffle with security. During the brawl, in a last display of band unity, Paul waded in to stop Mick getting a kicking (‘cos he’s only a skinny bloke Mick isn’t he’ said Paul). Having said all this, for a band adapting their set and sound to stadiums this is top stuff. Mick, Joe and Paul are tight and the drumming is good enough. Paul looks like the coolest bassist in the world and can clearly play the thing too, without the notes panted on the fretboard like in the early days. However you look at it, it’s a long way from Camden Town in 1976.

There’s some variable quality clips on Youtube. The whole show is there but a lot of it has been filmed by a man watching it on video on his TV in his front room. The two below are straight from the DVD and are good quality.

There’s a new Clash box set in the offing, remastered by Mick and packed in a boom box/ghetto blaster designed by Paul, with demos and extra tracks (that have been available on bootlegs for donkey’s years) and accompanied by all manner of trinkets, retailing at somewhere around one hundred pounds. It is ridiculous. Yes, of course I want it.

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