The Only Book That Matters

The Only Book That Matters
Reviewer: SteveJ
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The Clash:
320 pages
March 11, 2009
ISBN 10:
ISBN 13:

Presents Strummer, Jones, Simonon & Headon in their own words for the first time.

Man, they really should have called this “The Only Book That Matters.” For starters, it is pink…shockingly pink. It is heavy. And it is big…very big.  In fact, you may need a bigger coffee table. But if there’s one book to read or own about “the only band that matters,” then truly this is “the one.”

Chock full of photographs, set lists, tour schedules, posters, badges, 7” singles and memorabilia galore, The Clash is a wonder to behold. Be prepared to get lost within these pages. I skimmed through all of the eye-candy several times and I’m still amazed each time I flip through anew.

But then, finally, I got down to the reading; cover to cover, in maybe three days. It’s that good. Many books of this size and format probably aren’t ever read in their entirety, but this is the first and last word on The Clash, in their own words. No fan should miss this story.

After a brief autobiography by each member, we move to 1976, or “year zero…the day I joined The Clash,” according to Joe Strummer. All of the legendary band myths are here; Mick and Paul approaching Joe in the dole queue to join the band (with Joe thinking they were coming to rob him!), the Notting Hill riots that birthed “White Riot,” (and, incidentally, the cover of Black Market Clash” with Don Letts “facing off” with the police) and the “pigeon incident” that later served as inspiration for “Guns On the Roof”.“ 

Organized chronologically, each incident includes commentary from band members and is dotted with supporting photographs, press clippings and other incidentals. Not only is it a very effective history, it’s a fun read, gliding along as if the band were telling their story in a pub.

Dissenting viewpoints, corrections and nostalgia all come and go as old friends recount war stories and glory days. Many bios get bogged down in too much detail or analysis, but not this one: it reads so conversationally that it’s difficult to put down.

Each gig, tour, single and, album is discussed and represented visually in varying forms. Represntative song lists from each tour are recounted along with the tour dates; album release dates, chart positions and singles from each album are likewise detailed.

The best part, for me, is the song-by-song commentary. It’s fascinating; so illuminating, with no interruption or perspective from outside of the four principals, that the songs, stories and pages — and years— simply fly by.

It’s all wrapped up with beautiful photography and a fantastic layout that pulls you into their story. The Clash easily qualifies — and maybe bests — the publisher’s original campaign deeming it “THE book event of the year.”

Utterly befitting a band of the Clash’s stature and legacy, this is it. It’s as good as it gets, and maybe better. Year zero. Ground zero. It’s the only book on The Clash that matters. What are you waiting for?


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