Hello you fine people and welcome back to the blog. We’re rolling into February now and the list of acts appearing at this summer’s festivals is beginning to build up a healthy head of steam. We’ll start previewing some of those in the next week or two but sadly this year we don’t have Big Audio Dynamite or the Justice Tonight bands waiting in the wings to add some Clash infused flavour to events in the sunshine. Perhaps Mick Jones has got something else entirely up his sleeve? If the last few years have taught us anything it should be that ‘you never know’.
I was tidying my bookshelf this past weekend and realised I’ve still got a few holes to fill in terms of books related to The Clash, I might need to do a bit of shopping in the months ahead to fill in those spaces although there aren’t many. I was curious to see which are the best-selling titles according to the giant Amazon.com supercomputers (ignore the man behind the curtain) which I think tracks ‘sales rank’ for the last 90 days. I’ve based the top ten on a combined score from the US and UK versions of Amazon rather than some insider knowledge. I still wonder if the ultimate Clash book is yet to be written but I’m not even sure what that would be, each of the books on the market have many great merits and as a collective do a good/very good job of chronicling the history of the band. My struggle is often remembering where I read about a specific incident or fact and invariably choosing the wrong one when trying to research. Here, in no relation to my personal preferences are the top ten:
The Big Pink Book | The Clash
Stealing All Transmissions | Randal Doane (more soon on this title, and on his Feb 15th reading/signing in NYC)
A Riot of Our Own | Johnny Green
Passion is a Fashion | Pat Gilbert
The Clash; The Complete Guide | Tony Fletcher
Return of the Last Gang in Town | Marcus Gray
Redemption Song, The Ballad of Joe Strummer | Chris Salewicz
Let Fury Have The Hour | Antonio D’Ambrosio (Not a Clash book, per se)
The Clash: The Music That Matters | Tony Fletcher
Route 19 Revisited | Marcus Gray
There you have it, it seems I’ve got all but the two titles by Tony Fletcher (nothing personal Tony, but if you want to send them in for review you’re more than welcome to) and for differing reasons I’d recommend owning all eight of those above. Each brings something to the overall appreciation of the band without a doubt.
Two of the greatest books about The Clash are unfortunately both out of print so therefore I didn’t include in the rankings. Both are primarily outstanding collections of photographs with limited text but nevertheless I think both are essential to own. Namely The Clash Before After by Pennie Smith and equally brilliant coffee table book by Bob Gruen ‘The Clash’. Both can be found used on Amazon/Ebay but expect to pay over the odds. Another I’d love to read but haven’t found an affordable copy is ‘Vision of a Homeland’ which is focused on Joe Strummer and The Mescaleros.
I often wonder which title you find yourself referring to or reading a 2nd (3rd, 4th) time again from cover to cover? I find that collectively there is so much information within these pages that revisiting the entire book is often more rewarding on repeat visits, especially when the perspective continues to grow due to other titles and interviews/memories that keep popping up online. I’ll make the argument that the story of The Clash is quite unlike any other to almost the same extent as the music of The Clash accomplished the same thing. So much happened in such a short space of time in relative terms that it couldn’t fail to make for an interesting read. How many of these do you have, has the ultimate Clash book been written yet?