READ IT IN BOOKS : THE CLASH (1)

route19_vintage_cover

The recation to the imaginary Clash album has been remarkable.  The hits to the site over Friday/Saturday went through the roof (almost tripled!!!)  and the number, and quality, of comments that folk left behing was truly heart-warming.

I thought I should bookend the weekend with another posting about the band and I’ve dug into the archives and pulled out an old book review that I’m hoping you’ll apprecoiate.  Besides, it allows me to put up an imaginary EP of London Calling cuts to accompany the imaginary album…..

Being familiar with the work of Marcus Gray thanks to having bought and read his 1997 book It Crawled From The South : An R.E.M. Companion, I had an idea in advance that the 500+pages that comprised Route 19 Revisited : The Clash and London Calling would be packed with all sorts of facts, figures, information and trivia as well as some terrific insights into the making of an album that features in just about every critics list of greatest of all time.

Route 19 doesn’t disappoint and believe me – it does a lot more than it simply says on the dustcover. Before analysing the 1979 LP, you can enjoy potted bios of the band members and some of the other key figures in their history as well as a look back at the albums and singles that appeared before they went into the studio to record London Calling.  Afterwards there is an even better postscript – where even if you are very familiar with the post-Clash careers and lives of Mick, Joe, Paul and Topper you will come across sentences and paragraphs that give you a whole new insight.

Taking its title from a London bus route along which many of the songs were conceived, written and recorded (and a route name checked on the track Rudie Can’t Fail), the heart of this excellent book lies with the 205 pages devoted to looking at every minute aspect of the songs that make up London Calling. Every lyric is dissected, every musical note and sound is analysed and all sorts of links and tangents are explored. Yes, sometimes you can get the feeling that some of the connections feel a touch contrived to make the song a better fit to some of the issues explored. And yes, being a non-musician I did get a bit bored now and again when the prose centres on the chord changes or the types of pedals/percussion used, but this has to be balanced against the opportunity afforded to learn about those who inspired many of the songs or who were responsible for writing the songs that The Clash covered. It also at times feels like a wonderful London travelogue….and made me want to jump on board the 19 bus.

In addition, the author corrects a few long-held myths about some of the songs – and in particular highlights that some songs long attributed to Mick Jones were in fact largely the work of Joe Strummer. Stories of the band’s seemingly endless battles with their record label, both in the UK and USA, are explored in some detail – often within the context of a story on a particular song.

Oh and there’s also a hugely entertaining sections about the design, artwork and photography which certainly made this particular reader appreciate just how important these things can be when it comes to the finished product of any record….

Route 19 Revisited is a very rare thing indeed – a book that, without any question, adds to your listening experience.

mp3 : The Clash – Rudie Can’t Fail
mp3 : The Clash – Spanish Bombs
mp3 : The Clash – Guns of Brixton
mp3 : The Clash – Train In Vain

Enjoy

5 thoughts on “READ IT IN BOOKS : THE CLASH (1)

  1. As you can imagine, I grabbed this book at the time of its publication and agree wholeheartedly with your review. I set a self-imposed ban on listening to the ‘London Calling’ LP while reading ‘ Route 19 Revisited’ and by the time I reached the final pages was absolutely gagging to hear it.
    How I wish Mr Gray would now turn his attentions to ‘Sandinista’ – there are plenty of stories to be told about that sprawling masterpiece too.

  2. JC it makes it all worthwhile… and must’ve brought a well earned smile to your face…

    i’ll look out for a copy of this book…

    have you read ‘the songs that saved your life’ about every song the smiths recorded…? it’s great and it sounds similar to this clash one…

  3. I have indeed read that particular book by Simon Goddard. One of many on the band that I have in my library…

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