"The Only Band that Matters"

Tired of all the British pomp and circumstance in the news around the royal wedding? I sure am. My antidote of choice: some classic British punk rock, delivered with sneer and two-fingered salute. “London’s burning” by The Clash, perhaps?

Back in their 1980 heyday The Clash were called “the only band that matters,” and maybe they still are. There’s a great article in the 3/3/11 issue of Rolling Stone by Mikal Gilmore entitled “The Fury and the Power of the Clash” that gives a brief, comprehensive history of their rise and fall. In it he quotes Joe Strummer as saying in 1978: “we’re trying to be the greatest group in the world … at the same time we’re trying to be radical .. maybe the two can’t coexist, but we’ll try.” What do you think, do they still matter? Were they, are they, the greatest? There’s a lot of stuff here at the library to help you decide.

In recent years, a bunch of new Clash material has been released: a live album of a 1980 performance at New York’s Shea Stadium; a documentary about the life of Joe Strummer; and a 532 page, appropriately epic account of the making of their epic masterpiece, London Calling. Speaking of that album, the 25th anniversary edition includes an additional disc with unreleased demos and songs from that album’s sessions that is definitely worth hearing. And in 2005, all their other studio albums were remastered and re-released. So if you haven’t already, it’s probably about time that you went back and listened to all those, too.

Strummer famously scrawled the slogan “passion is a fashion” on his leather jacket. Passion’s timeless. So is a sneer and a two-fingered salute. Whether or not they’re the only band, the Clash definitely still matters.

“Black or white turn it on, face the new religion
Everybody's sitting 'round watching television
London's burning with boredom now”