Hello and welcome back to The Clash Blog on a relatively chilly Monday evening at the towers. It’s just as well you’re reading this from afar because if you were hearing this in person I’d offer you a hazardous materials suit and a disinfectant shower upon departure such is the health of the household at the moment. Some annoying strain of cyclical cold/flu/cold/feel knackered has been bouncing round the house for over a week and as soon as one kid goes back to school the other is home ill. Proud to say my much older and cold war hardened spirit is less likely to fully concede defeat but that’s probably stupidity on my part. It has slowed my blogging a bit though as you may have noticed….you didn’t (?) well bollocks to you for that then.
A fair few new things to cover this week as a result and the first of them leads back to my post the other day about the various books on the market that focus on The Clash. At a later date I must both cover each in more detail and set up a permanent home for that information on the site, in fact some of the other very good books about punk in general also merit inclusion.
A few weeks back I was fortunate enough to go to a local record shop here in San Diego called M-Theory (good…but no Rough Trade) for a reading from the new book ‘Stealing All Transmissions: A Secret History of The Clash’ by the author Randal Doane. If you’ve not grabbed yourself a copy for your Clash library yet I strongly encourage you to do so, in fact I’ll try an impromptu review of the book right this minute, off we go.
The book is quite unlike anything else you’ve read about The Clash thus far and that’s a good thing as the author doesn’t try and do what’s already been done so well in the past with a day by day or concert by concert retelling of events. Instead ‘Stealing…’ is a unique take not just on the relatively rapid and yet delayed rise in popularity of The Clash in the USA but more specifically looks at the surrounding circumstances that specifically helped make that happen. Randal’s research is strong and well formulated as it explains in detail the huge dynamic that FM radio, music journalists, the belief from Epic Records and mix of chaos and strategy employed somewhat by the band saw them go from failing to have their debut album even released in the states to becoming the most talked about live act from England in the space of less than eighteen months. It is as much about the important people that were supporting the band at that time as it is about our famed four and it is that perspective that provides such depth. It’s a great read and one that explores a very special time in the history of rock music. All paths lead back to The Clash but the beauty of the book is a precise look at a time when radio and print could in concert make such a huge impact and the writers and DJ’s that dared support something new could help a band break down the walls. The fact that the music The Clash were making at the time merited that positive flourish reignites the belief that was shown in the band.
The reading of the book in San Diego that I attended last month was well worth the time as Randal read excerpts and then took questions from those in attendance and the dialogue quickly expanded to understanding just how different things were in the late seventies. Could it ever happen again is one of many ideas asked in the book and you may well better appreciate the whys and wherefores after reading it. My take on the seemingly persistent ‘need’ for The Clash to break America had long been that the typical English style by the very powerful music press of building a band up and then tearing them down, this was in full effect as early as 1978 and a chorus by 1979. In that year when The Clash definitely had their backs up against the wall it was the touring and imbibing of American culture that saw them return to London to record London Calling, even though it was their least ‘English’ record by far. A fascinating time in the history of the band and the book takes you on a very different route to understand what paved the way for them to be huge in relative terms by the time they hit New York in September 1979.
What is fascinating with hindsight is my feeling that without the difference that The Clash and others to a lesser extent made would the 1980′s have become so dominated by British (and in the case of U2, Irish) acts as it was to turn out? As punk morphed into new wave/ post-punk the dividends in North America experienced by The Police, U2, Depeche Mode, New Order and The Cure (to name five at random) was through the trench-work of The Clash, Elvis Costello and XTC. Which is to say nothing of the success experienced by acts like Duran Duran, Culture Club and Tears for Fears. What seemed impossible in early 1979 (a British new wave act having a hit single and selling out a large venue in the US) was normal and then some by 1983. That first incision was genuinely led by The Clash and yet they imploded just as MTV and a massive interest in British music began a near decade long spike. The book looks at a period in time before any of that was conceivable, the industry just didn’t work that way at the time. In addition it was great to spend some time with Randal and learn that at the heart of all this is the fact that he’s a huge fan of the band and he was fascinated at learning more about the events that helped The Clash find success in North America.
I’ve muttered on about this at length as I wanted to make sure everyone in or near New York was made aware that Randal will be having another book reading/signing of the book in Manhattan this Friday night (Feb 15th). The snow will have melted by then and after Valentine’s Day you can justify going into town to hear a reading from the new book or your own or with your better half, it’s only fair. The full details are beneath and we’ll also have a Q&A session with Mr. Doane later this week and you will have your chance to win a free copy of ‘Stealing All Transmissions..’. Expect that on Thursday or Friday if I can escape the bird flu for another 48 hours.
Randal Doane will be reading from his new book ”Stealing All Transmissions: A Secret History of The Clash’ this Friday February 15th from 7pm-9pm at: KGB Bar, 85 East 4th Street, New York City 10003 (more on this very cool venue here)
KGB opens just before 7pm, Randal is scheduled to start reading at 720 pm, and they’ll be playing tracks from the Trick or Treat bootleg from a Bond’s show. He’ll also be able to answer questions and sign books etc. Books will be available at the event.
More on KGB – “In the years since it opened in 1993, KGB has become something of a New York literary institution. Writers hooked up in the publishing world read here with pleasure and without pay to an adoring public over drinks almost every Sunday evening (fiction), Monday evening (poetry), and most Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. The crowd loves it. Admission is free, drinks are cheap and strong, and the level of excellence is such that KGB has been named best literary venue in New York City by New York Magazine, the Village Voice, and everyone else who bestows these awards of recognition.”
There is a Facebook page for the event right here and I hope you can make it along or at the very least please share it with your big apple residing Clash friends if you can.
If you have any other questions please don’t hesitate to contact me. If you’re not in New York you can of course purchase the book online in the US and Canada via this link on Amazon.com – UK release is scheduled for Feb 28th, details to follow.
That’s me done for the time being, have a good day and we’ll talk again soon.