Last Gang in Town

Overview

Whether you grew up with the Clash or discovered them after they broke up, you probably think you have at least a rough idea of the Clash story. It is far more likely, however, that what you have is a rough idea of the Clash myth. Over the years, the myth has been revisited and reworked numerous times by the band and by the music press that helped fashion the legend in the first place. The real story has never been told. Last Gang in Town is the first full, critical biography of the definitive punk band. Joe ...
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Overview

Whether you grew up with the Clash or discovered them after they broke up, you probably think you have at least a rough idea of the Clash story. It is far more likely, however, that what you have is a rough idea of the Clash myth. Over the years, the myth has been revisited and reworked numerous times by the band and by the music press that helped fashion the legend in the first place. The real story has never been told. Last Gang in Town is the first full, critical biography of the definitive punk band. Joe Strummer, Mick Jones, and Paul Simonon grew up deluged with popular music and its associated culture. In 1976, inspired by the emerging Sex Pistols and in alliance with original Pistols idea man Bernie Rhodes, the group set out not only to redefine the rock and roll experience and to reform the music business, but to change the world.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The notorious British band the Sex Pistols has reformed, and fashion trends are beginning to cannibalize the late 1970s, so the moment seems ripe to look back at the fertile time that gave birth to the punk era. As we learn from this exhaustive group biography, the London-based Clash, the other major band besides the Sex Pistols to emerge from the punk movement, enjoyed a potent and reasonably enduring musical career. But British rock writer Gray's (It Crawled from the South) chronicle may not provide the last word. As he relates the history of the band, he fails to elucidate the Clash's importance or to bring to life the energetic nihilism of its ethos. He has researched his subject thoroughly, however, albeit mostly from secondary sources, and he spares few details in this lengthy study. We learn much of leader Mick Jones's early life, of the group's formative stages and of how it frequently had to fend off accusations that its political stances were nothing but theatrics. But at times the minutiae overwhelm the spectacle, dulling the impact of an otherwise diligent report on the vital milieu that, for a while, clad youth and underground culture in black leather and silver studs. Photos. Rights (other than first serial): Fourth Estate. (Sept.)
Library Journal
In the late Seventies, the Clash, along with the Sex Pistols, smashed and reassembled rock music into a so-called "punk" ethos, style, and culture. Gray (It Crawled from the South: An REM Companion, Da Capo, 1993) here offers three distinct explorations of the Clash: "Rock Dreams," an examination of the early lives of band members Mick Jones, Paul Simonon, and Joe Strummer; "Punk Myths," which reconsiders not only the Clash's contribution to the punk scene but the development of that rock idiom/cultural phenomenon as a whole; and, finally, "Star Turns," which traces the post-punk history of the Clash and its individual members until 1992. Gray's perspective is simultaneously macroscopic and microscopic, bringing to light a treasure trove of heretofore unknown details. Significantly, his exquisitely painstaking and lovingly surgical dissection reveals new historical information not only about the Clash but also about such important contemporaries as the aforementioned Pistols, the Pretenders, the Damned, and other punk movers-and-shakers. (Sources, however, are not documented, this book's only significant flaw.) The astonishing detail, depth, and breadth of coverage make this a definitive history of the crucial Seventies punk movement, along with John Lydon's Rotten: No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs (LJ 3/1/94). For most music collections.Bill Piekarski, Southwestern Coll. Lib., Chula Vista, Cal.
Kirkus Reviews
A hopelessly rambling and combative biography of the seminal punk band.

British writer Gray (It Crawled from the South: An R.E.M. Companion, not reviewed) is out to debunk what he calls the Clash Myth: the notion that the Clash were working-class outsiders who despised '70s rock culture as well as England's social status quo, and that they were motivated by righteous political anger, not by the desire to make money. In reality, the teenage Mick Jones played in garage bands influenced by the New York Dolls, only briefly lived in a council high-rise, and wore ultralong hair and flared jeans. Even more damning, according to Gray, Joe Strummer (né John Mellor) attended a posh public school and actually had some pre- Clash musical success fronting the 101ers, a mid-'70s London R&B outfit. The two singer-songwriter-guitarists formed the Clash in 1976. Gray speciously portrays the band's stirring agitprop as sociobiographically suspect: " `Career Opportunities' . . . came nowhere near to reflecting the realistic employment prospects of the band as a whole." Gray never conveys the impact the music had on the public, relying on sniping reviews in the notoriously fickle and trend-gobbling British music press. The Clash were plagued by management and record company conflicts, the heroin addiction of drummer Topper Headon, and the two singers' increasingly divergent personalities and musical tastes, but they produced sophisticated, melodic, incendiary rock and roll. Gray faults them for issuing contradictory political statements over the years and even for earning some money, but given that all concerned were in their 20s and were, after all, a band rather than a political action committee, his myth-busting on these fronts seems misguided.

Gray's smug, repetitive prose utterly fails to put the Clash in a coherent context the way Jon Savage's towering England's Dreaming did for the Sex Pistols.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780805046410
  • Publisher: Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 9/28/1997
  • Pages: 528
  • Product dimensions: 6.16 (w) x 9.26 (h) x 1.44 (d)

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