Clash books, and books about The Clash

One of these days I’ll definitely get together a definitive list of Clash related reading material (let’s go ahead and call them books) for the site. I don’t think I’ve read everything on the market myself yet but I think a buyers guide might be useful and informative. With your help we may even uncover some gems that I didn’t know about. There have been shelves of books already written about the birth of the English punk scene in 1976 and of course the genetic links that the English origins hold to New York or elsewhere. When I say elsewhere I’m thinking The Saints who were from Australia and arguably were the earliest purveyors of what was to sound like British punk rock. While I’ve read many (but not all) books written about The Clash I’ve not done more than skim the surface of books that look at the entire scene. Naturally enough many of those devote many chapters and ratios of their contents to discussing The Clash and the part they played on the scene. If you’ve read some or many of those books get in touch if you’d like to help put together an unofficial guide to them for the site as a future project.

For my money I’d still recommend that every Clash library begins with at least two books and if I had to narrow it down I’d first go with the Bob Gruen book which is of course primarily photographs but my goodness such photography. Page after page of fantastic imagery that owes as much to the undeniable talents of Gruen as it does his extremely warm relationship with the band. There are so many moments where he catches the band just hanging out like mates or an urban gang that you realise another photographer wouldn’t have been able to capture. Check it out if you don’t have it – the link for Amazon in the US is here or the UK is here. The price is about the same for both as both currencies continue to plummet to oblivion in an exchange rate equivalent of West Ham against Bolton Wanderers.

The other book I just can’t stop reading and enjoying each time through is the very detailed and emotive work Chris Salewicz and his fairly recent biograpy of Joe Strummer – Redemption Song. A riveting work that I keep finding excuses to read again as each time I open the pages I feel like I am transformed to a specific moment in the evolution of John Mellor to Joe Strummer and The Clash from West London nobodies to globally famous. Equally meritorious is Salewicz’ ability to bring light and definition to Strummer’s childhood and equally fascinating his life and career after The Clash. You almost have to roll your chair back when you appreciate that  period covers some 25 years and saw Strummer acting, writing, and performing in a number of guises. Speaking of Chris Salewicz I just picked up his new book about Bob Marley which I’ll get started on in the weeks ahead, here’s a link to a really good interview with the author in the Houston Press about “Bob Marley-The Untold Story”. More info on Chris’ official site.

chris salewicz redemption song extract Clash books, and books about The Clash

Extract from 'Redemption Song' courtesy Chris Salewicz

In the weeks ahead I’ll compile a list of all books I can uncover that relate to The Clash and perhaps draw on you the reader for your collective knowledge, especially for the titles I mentioned above. Not much news from the desert for you – trying to determine just how near to the stage do I need to be for Gorillaz and justify the expense. Once you are more than a dozen rows back does it make much difference, or will I rely on the video screens? I don’t do 5,000 seat venues as a matter of course…..

Thanks for dropping by as always. Tim

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4 responses to “Clash books, and books about The Clash”

  1. Anonymous says:

    i can recommend Johnny Green's book A Riot of our Own. Great perspective by somebody who was not only there but also a close friend of the band.

    Although not directly related to The Clash Chris has also written a book titled Mick and Keith its a great read for anyone interested in rock and roll.In a snippit from Chris' book redemption song, according to Joe's wife Lucinda, Mick and Keith was 'probably' the last book Joe read.

  2. Pete Stevens says:

    For me Tim, Pennie Smith's 'Before & After' was THE book. It's probably the reason I'm a photographer today and has been that cause of all the creative effort I've put in to my photography. Inspirational and iconic. Bob Gruen's too, of course ! 'Redemption Song' is also brilliant. Chris is a genuinely friendly and approachable guy and I even gatecrashed his 50th birthday party to ask permission to publish photos of his son Cole a couple of years ago ! Johnny Green's book is written by the man who was there. I bought him a pint (of water -- he's now teetotal) at Filthy McNasty's a couple of years back and he's also a genuine character. I'm currently reading 'Push Yourself Just A Little Bit More', his account of the Tour de France. Excellent…..Cheers, Pete.

  3. Tim at The Clash Blo says:

    I was always considering that as 3rd choice…liked that Gruen spanned a longer period -- both excellent in their own right. Thanks for your always interesting insight Pete!

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