Book review / Rebels with a curse

A Riot of our Own: night and day with The Clash by Johnny Green and Garry Barker, illustrated by Ray Lowry, Indigo, pounds 8.99

The Clash were a potentially world-class rock band who became major casualties of the confusing battle waged over five decades of youth culture. When youth and leisure were a new invention, ideas, influences and creativity coalesced into the mass bohemianism that came to define being young. In the earlier postwar decades, all this activity - propelled by usury or utopianism - had a profound effect on the dominant culture.

Gradually, inevitably, it was then distilled down to its most basic impulses: energy, style, sex, dance, speed, chemicals - in short, ecstasy. On this shiny bubble of delirium bobbing atop real life, you pay for all the rides and retire sweat-sodden after a few years to strap on the unchanging manacles of marriage and mortgage, progeny and profit. The Clash were shot down in this great fight between youth as a credible creative force - and youth as passive style consumers, profitable and lightweight. The band combined these opposed forces and walked a razor blade. They were both scary, awesomely talented punk musicians, and very cute children who looked great and wanted to play with all the toys of carefree excess.

This is their story, told from the trenches of those old wars by their ex-road manager and partner in crime, and excellently adorned by Ray Lowry's manic, ripped, cross-hatched cartoons. Johnny Green was a big, truculent guy, a closet intellectual, his appearance deceptively mellowed by large specs suggestive of (as Joe Strummer says) "a librarian in Macclesfield". However, a river of pure madness and mayhem raged through Green's personality, fed by tributaries of sarcasm, irony, chemicals, fags and booze.

Some may hold that my having been vaguely privy to the events of this book equips me to pronounce upon it. Is it authentic? Yes. It is as true as a sequence of memories from a single perspective ever can be. Here it all is, London calling from the top of the dial: the low-life riggers, the bags of cash, the cops, the coke, the quarrels, up and down the Westway, drinking brew for breakfast, the great bass speakers, the driving rain and reggae, expectation, expectoration, the nuclear nights when the garage band revved it up to bone-breaking levels of intensity, warring managers, the winding-up of fellow soldiers such as Tom Robinson and Richard Hell, becoming less bored with the USA.

Others may consider that familiarity with the material obviates objectivity. So let me also say that the very authenticity of the book ensures intervals of monotony, known as "touring". Rehearsing and recording have conversational limitations; and this is largely Boys' Own territory, with female roles pretty much restricted to certifiable nags and slags.

But, overall, this is a great, witty tribute to the only lastingly listenable punk band. Weep for the lost lyrical promise of Jones and Strummer. Relive the exultant perversity of "London's drowning and I - I live by the river". And down they went.

Arts and Entertainment

game of thrones reviewWarning: spoilers

Arts and Entertainment
The original Star Wars trio of Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill

George Osborne confirms Star Wars 8 will film at Pinewood Studios in time for 4 May

film

Arts and Entertainment
Haunted looks: Matthew Macfadyen and Timothy Spall star in ‘The Enfield Haunting’

North London meets The Exorcist in eerie suburban drama

TV

Arts and Entertainment

Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington plays MI5 agent Will Holloway in Spooks: The Greater Good

'You can't count on anyone making it out alive'film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before