I’ve no idea how long the record industry has been peddling the idea of box-sets which offer a wide perspective on the career of a band or performer. I certainly know that when I was younger, I had no intention of ever buying such a thing, partly because they were too expensive, and partly because I would usually have most of the stuff I really wanted in any event.
But 20 years or so ago, I did give in and buy my first ever box set – Clash On Broadway. I did so because I only had Clash stuff on vinyl or tape, and the former had been put in a cupboard with little prospect of ever being played again (or so I thought).
So I splashed out on this bit of luxury. And I’m real glad that I did.
There are 64 tracks spread out over 3 discs (there are only 63 listed, but there’s one additional, uncredited song at the end of disc 3.), spread out over the history of the band from some early demos in 1976 through to the release of Combat Rock in 1982.
There is also a book of lyrics for the songs. But best of all, there was a 64-page book inside the box which contains a couple of essays by Lenny Kaye and Lester Bangs, and a potted history of the period in question as told by Strummer/Jones/Simonen/Headon/Chimes, as well as other members of the band’s entourage, through all of the songs on the 3 discs.
I was probably more excited by the books than the discs mind you, because very few of the songs were new or different recordings – a couple of early demos, three unreleased songs and live versions of two singles were about it. But I didn’t feel cheated. It was a really good summary of that five year period for The Clash, and of course it could be argued that some great, and possibly essential songs, were missed out at the expense of some weaker tracks, but overall, it remains an essential purchase for any serious fan of the band.
And here’s one song from each of the CDs:-
mp3 : The Clash – I’m So Bored With The U.S.A.
mp3 : The Clash – Stay Free
mp3 : The Clash – Straight To Hell (unedited version)
I’ve gone for three of the better-known tracks rather than the more obscure or unreleased stuff, simply because these are among my favourites that the band ever did.
Clash on Broadway is still widely available, but my advice is to try and track down the more expensive version that comes in the 10″ box rather than just the CD-size box, as it’s only the former that comes with the hugely entertaining and illuminating 64-page book.
Try amazon, e-bay or old record shops. Happy hunting.