This Day In Music’s Guide To The Clash – book review
This Day In Music’s Guide To The Clash
Author: Malcom Wyatt
Publisher: This Day In Music
Freelance writer Malcolm Wyatt has more than 20 years behind him in regional journalism, and now spends much of his working days between publishing house This Day in Music and other writing projects, including features and interviews for regional newspapers and his popular writewyattuk.com website, started six years ago and including one-to-ones with a veritable who’s who of big names from the world of music, comedy, arts and literature. Interrogated victims (his description) include David Baddiel, Bill Bailey, Belinda Carlisle, Lloyd Cole, Julian Cope, Alan Davies, Graham Gouldman, Justin Hayward, Ian Hunter, Wilko Johnson, Howard Jones, Lulu, John Lydon, Graham Nash, Gary Numan, and Jimmy Osmond.
For his latest project Wyatt turned to the Clash, a band who within the opening introduction he admits, due to only being born in 1967, that he never had the opportunity to see live, he also missed out on The Mescaleros and his regretted both ever since, more so as he matured and began to fully understand the impact the Clash had upon not just himself but the entire music world. Wyatt perhaps bravely, also declares his affection for the Sandy Pearlman produced ‘Give ‘Em Enough Rope’ album; Pearlman’s contribution to the Clash story has stirred debate between fans from the day of its release.
Anyway, a cursory browse through Amazon or Waterstones lists at least a dozen books looking at the legacy of the Clash, there is even a Clash inspired adult colouring book, not to mention two titles scheduled for publication in early 2019; as such you wonder if there is anything left to be said.
But then look at the band’s legacy, they recorded six studio albums (nine if you recall ‘London Calling’ was a double and ‘Sandanista’ a triple) in just six years, I’ve purposefully discounted ‘Cut The Crap’ as to me whilst they went under the moniker of the Clash – they weren’t;
The Clash arguably had it all, Joe Strummer the wildly charismatic frontman who was also able to craft a politically dogged lyric, Mick Jones a deceptively fine guitarist, Paul Simonon the epitomize of cool who somehow not just learnt, but who became proficient on a bass guitar and Topper Headon a powerhouse drummer; then behind the scenes the names are nearly as infamous – Bernie Rhodes, Kosmo Vinyl, Caroline Coon, The Baker (Barry Auguste), Roadent, Robin Banks etc
Popular history suggests that the route the Clash took was more interesting than that of their early punk contemporaries, they absorbed their influences and allowed themselves to evolve, taking us from the rage of White Riot through reggae to funk early rap, disco, and way beyond.
Thankfully Wyatt is aware of these factors and does seem to have been able to offer something new and credible, this despite his requests for interviews with the surviving members being politely declined.
To combat this Wyatt has been clever in his presentation; it is essentially research led, its not revisionist, and as such I think there are a couple of very minor factual innacurascies, but definitely no out loud howlers. The book is sub-divided into easy to navigate chunks, ‘Pre Clash: The Early Years, looks at band member’s early lives and upbringing to the pre-Clash days of Strummer’s 101ers and Mick Jones’ London SS, ‘Classic Clash: From ’77 To The End’ looks at the rise and subsequent decline, before leading us on to ‘Post Clash: B.A.D, Mescaleros and More’ and then sections looking at album releases, a Clash timeline etc each making a detailed analysis of events that defined the band and the individual members.
There are a couple of minor edits that need correcting, a page heading entitled Queen, which I guess stems from another TDiM title but nothing to get excited about, and certainly nothing that detracts from the information.
Wyatt has drawn from a huge literary archive crediting authors and interviewers who offered something pertinent to the event being discussed; as such LTW boss John Robb’s own ‘Punk Rock: An Oral History’ is frequently referenced alongside Johnny Green’s ‘The Clash & Beyond’; Marcus Grey etc – these excerpts alongside some well researched images combine with Wyatt’s ‘with hindsight’ slant to create both a thoroughly entertaining, and informative read.
Whilst there is little in the 320+ pages that a Clash obsessive will not have read before, the book is a very neat, accurate assessment of one of the most influential bands ever – to be fair I don’t think its aimed at obsessives, its aimed at existing Clash/punk fans or anyone with even a passing interest in rock ‘n’ roll, and a whole generation of record buyers who are only now discovering the Clash, a band who’s full story can be found in this neat book; as such its certainly worthy of a place in any music fans library.