Film Review : The Rise And Fall Of The Clash

The Rise And Fall Of The Clash, the band that have refused to die

The Rise And Fall Of The Clash, the band that have refused to die

Film Review, The Rise And Fall Of The Clash
Director-Danny Garcia, Limited Release.

So here we are, the Glasgow premiere of a film about a band that meant so much to so many people from the city.

The Clash linger like a ghost around Glasgow’s streets. Everyone from the era has a tale; Strummer appearing outside Listen Records on Renfield Street and taking a pillion on a fan’s motorcycle up to the West End and Glasgow Uni’s QMU when he was told about the student-only policy. Gig abruptly pulled.
Getting “lifted” by the Glasgow polis outside of The Apollo when he and Simonon attempted to intervene in a fracas. The night in the cells singing “The Prisoner” with fans who’d also had their collars felt.

The legendary shows with Suicide and The Specials as support, the bouncers steaming in to the young punks, most my age, (14), and the band stopping the show to jump in.

There’s a whole generation of Glaswegian blokes who still use The Clash as a template for what clothes they chose to go out. Me, I’m taking the fifth”¦”¦.
The audience for this one-night-only screening reflects the above. Lots of well-kent faces on show, lots of slicked back, thinning quiffs and a few pairs of brothel creepers.

Garcia thanks us for attending and the curtains go back.
The movie immediately appears a bit “so what”. The age-old clichéd stencil graphics, the fuzzy, out of focus riot shots, the familiar footage.
The narrative drags.

We’re given interviews with Pearl Harbor, Anthony Mingay (Rude Boy director), a couple of The Blockheads, Viv Albertine and others. The only early insights are from band security Ray Jordan, who is an erudite, articulate witness. The over-riding theme throughout the first hour is of a band of naive innocents being led astray by Bernie Rhodes, who despite declining to be interviewed has several taped-phonecall appearances throughout.

It’s irritating to constantly see the same pieces of footage replayed as each protagonist pictured is spoken of.

The only original Clash member appearing is Mick Jones, who’s cheerful, self-effacing comments reinforce his likeability but offer nothing new.

The most interesting part of the film is the interviews with Clash Mark 2 members Vince White, Nick Sheppard and Pete Howard.

White comes across, and it may be due to editing, as an over-emotional, bitter and garbled drunk. I would suggest that you read his memoir, Out Of Control for a truer picture of the man.

The two others seem embittered if somewhat proud of their achievements. It’s a shame that history has left such a poor shadow over that line-up, but as one commentator adds, it’s difficult for one man to fill Jonesey’s shoes, never mind two.

From reading James Fearnley’s Pogues book, I’d expected Strummer to come over as less than innocent. His alleged problems with infidelity and prima donna excess is never mentioned despite it clearly being an issue in The Clash’s latter days.

Oddly, a one-off mention of Strummer’s “depression” is never elaborated on at all. This is certainly not an issue I’ve heard of in the many Clash books and films I’ve perused and seems to be thrown off as an aside.

Topper’s drug problems are again dealt with in a scene, and although some of the footage of him opiated in a taxi is disturbing, it’s never really delved into other than as a reason for his dismissal.

Given the previous in-depth analysis of The Clash in the Strummer biopic and Don Letts’ peerless Westway to The World I was left wondering what the point of “Rise And Fall” is.

Over nearly two hours of movie, we’re left with the verdict that “it was all Rhodes’ fault”. An unsatisfactory, simplistic and one-dimensional look at the last days of a band that were as complex as they were contradictory.

I believe Garcia, who is clearly way too young to have been around at the time has the best of intentions, but Rise And Fall Of The Clash comes across as a Clash movie too far.

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6 comments on “Film Review : The Rise And Fall Of The Clash”

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  1. yes..strummer’s depression is alluded to a lot in the book by chris ‘sandwich’…probably an important thing for him in the latter years ..and causes, his brother, his guilt about jones and headon..etc…quite interesting..

  2. So much of the story and even (dare I say it) the music of The Clash seems with the passage of time, in my opinion at least, to have worn rather poorly. Ah, but the memories…to have fully understood the real power of The Clash you had to have been there, then; the feeling (I hope to god it still exists for young’uns today) that music was so important, your life depended on it!! Punk was the tribe against which all others looked so tame, so decadent, so washed up. Here was the band that exemplified cool; the music, the politics, the look! Scanning copies of Sounds, or MM or the NME. Bulletins from the front lines. Battles in grim 70s/80s Britain; forgotten by worn-out Labour, shat on and spat on by Thatcher’s boot-boy army. If, in the pages of that grubby music ‘inky’ (remember ‘inkies’??) you’d nicked from WH Smith’s, you read Strummer laying in to some crackpot Tory scam, then it lifted the heart. “Look, someone else thinks like me! These guys feel just as bad as we do.” It gave those of us who were there a sense of something like hope. Not that it did us much good, perhaps. The bastards still won.

    To expect someone who wasn’t there, who has grown up in a world where music, even so-called ‘cool’ music is regarded as a commodity, something to sell crap by on the telly, where no-one would even think of believing that This Band Could Change Your Life or (God forbid!) change the world (how naive we were!), to expect them to be able to convey what it’s like to expect so much from one band, in a world where to wear that t-shirt could get you a kicking…well, it’s a tall order. Probably better to have interviewed those booted and suited old guys at the screening. They know. Being a fan is way more intense than being in a band! They used to say that the soul of The Clash was London, but its heart was in Glasgow.

    Maybe the songs don’t sound so good as they used to. Maybe it turns out that Joe was a bit of a tool after all. But, hell, it was great to have them on your side, against the fascists, the Tories, the trendy tossers. Fighting that war, being part of that gang, the last gang… How can you get that across in a film? if you weren’t there?

    Think I’ll go and have a lie down, now. Just pop me false teeth onto this glass…

    • Nostalgia City, man.. Haha. Not everything in life has to have been lived to be understood, but your point is gotten. I’m younger than the late 50 year olds out there, and am not going to even pretend to understand what it was like to have been a Clash fan in the late 70’s/early 80’s, because I don’t know, but all I can do is read and watch and learn.. and that’s enough. So no you can’t know the true living feeling, but one can gather a lot, if their mind is in the right frame of mind, so to speak, from just reading, watching, learning.

      And the music has far from worn poorly, in my personal opinion. You must be out of your mind. It is and will always be timeless, because it is of quality. And quality is eternal.

  3. Personally, I find all these films/documentaries/whatever on punk boring. A few shaky clips of the band, anecdotes from everyone & his dog, etc, etc. At the end of the day, it’s the music that mattered so why not skip the revisionist horseshit & play the records instead…

    • Because there’s always the music.. but documentaries and new insights, slight or not, are and should always be welcomed. What harm do they do? Documentaries are fascinating, especially if they’re about your favorite band.. even better if they’re actually quality. People just like to watch them, they like watching people talk about it all, just like they like reading books. Do I HAVE to pick up ‘Redemption Song’ by Chris Salewicz and read bout Joe’s life when I can just listen to the music? Certainly not, but it’s still fascinating to read about someone who you respect and admire their artistic contributions and the life they led. Simple as.

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