I read it in (Clash) books

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.

three dons 450x299 I read it in (Clash) books

'The Three Dons' - image courtesy http://www.flickr.com/photos/writemboyo/

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?


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12 responses to “I read it in (Clash) books”

  1. Gil Warguez via Facebook says:

    Bob Gruen’s book and Pennie Smith’s book are both essential. I guess Bob’s book is OOP, then.

  2. Last time I checked it was, last reprint was 2004. I wish they’d do another reprint.

  3. Gil Warguez via Facebook says:

    It would be nice if they did it in a smaller size. The original is very big and heavy.

  4. Hatch says:

    Those books above are fine. And Pennie was a good photog and a nice lady that I met when I was lucky enuff to be a sound eng for Joe Ely and we toured with The Clash. I’m going to be releasing a photo book of my own in the future of those days. It will have some stories about the bands. It will not be the ultimate Clash book but a fun look from someone that called them mates. And many photos never seen by anyone other than my publisher and editor. I know that the Baker is now working on his book. But I would like to talk Clash Girl into writing one, Strummer told her that she should. But haven’t been able to convince her to put her stories down. I’m doubtful that Mick will ever write a book. He is just too busy playing music to write a book about his days w/ The Clash.

  5. ǝıpoןǝɯ ǝp sǝsıq ‘ʇuǝɯıɐɹʌ ıno ‘ʇuɐsɹǝʌuǝɹ

  6. Tracey Blanchard says:

    My copy of The Clash Before and After is decidedly dog eared, unfortunately, having bought it when it first came out and been flicked through more times than I care to remember.

  7. HutsvilleUK says:

    My copy of Before and After is signed by the band. Had a bit of a back stage door result in Newcastle back in 82!

  8. Ccrgmac says:

    I have six on your list plus a copy of Before and After (dog eared like Tracey’s). Salewicz and Grey are my favorites.

    Not sure if it even counts as a “book” but the slim “Last Night that London Burned” that came with the Acton CD made for a nice little read.

  9. Andrea Strummer via Facebook says:

    I got Gruen’s photo book for $15 and Pennie’s for $10 on eBay. Yeeeeah, someone didn’t know what they had. 😀

    I think the ultimate Clash book is found if you read interviews, various other books, etc. Sure, it’s time consuming, but reading about The Clash is fun. 😀

  10. Graham Wright via Facebook says:

    Got 5 of them will get around to reading the rest eventually.

  11. Joannie Volpe says:

    Hey, Tim…I have them all except the Fletcher ones. I always call Redemption Song my “Joe Bible”…it’s literally falling apart at the seams, and highlighted, dogeared beyond recognition. Time to replace it with the updated version. This past year, as I was preparing for StrummerJam, I found that my “Clash Bible” was Kris Needs’ book…so many great quotes to keep me inspired.
    But my favorite has to be The Clash book that is indeed big and pink.
    Thanks for the info on the book signing on Feb. 15th; barring any blizzards or other natural disasters, I plan on going.
    Also, there is a Ray Lowry book of drawings on The Clash (don’t know if that counts, but it’s cool to have alongside the others!)

  12. Wonky Drummer says:

    Vision of a Homeland is well worth tracking down. I got a 2nd hand copy for 20 quid, which is a bit expensive, but it was well worth it.
    It’s a real “fans” book. Written by a fan who made it his mission to get to as many Mescaleros gigs as possible. His efforts to follow American and Japanese tours while holding down a job and pacify his wife are truely heroic!
    He ends up going to so many shows that the band start to befriend him, and he actually ended up running the official Mescaleros website.
    The book is his story, and he’s interviewed as many people involved with the band as he could get hold of. It’s fascinating reading all their different perspectives on the muisc, on Joe and on the gigs. Well worth a read.

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