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
Saturday 30 August 1997
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 & Ents blogs
- 1 Keira Knightley topless: Usually conservative actress does own take on #Freethenipple campaign for Interview Magazine
- 2 Oil tanker with $100 million cargo goes missing off Texas coast
- 3 George Galloway left with severe bruising after attack in Notting Hill by man 'shouting about the Holocaust'
- 4 Saudi Arabia executes 19 in one half of August in 'disturbing surge of beheadings'
- 5 Brother and sister, Christopher Buckner and Timothy Savoy, arrested for 'committing incest after watching 'The Notebook''
Strictly Come Dancing 2014: Gregg Wallace joins line-up as final celebrities revealed
Great British Bake Off 2014: Diana Beard quits after falling ill
Great British Bake Off 2014: Ofcom receives 13 complaints about Baked Alaska episode
Nicki Minaj suffers wardrobe malfunction during MTV VMAs performance with Ariana Grande and Jessie J
Friends reunion: Jennifer Aniston, Lisa Kudrow and Courteney Cox perform mini sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live
Robin Williams Emmys tribute led by Billy Crystal criticised for including 'racist' joke about Muslim woman
The Rotherham child abuse scandal is a tale of apologists, misogyny and double standards
What do immigrants really think of Britain? Polish immigrant's Reddit post goes viral
Scottish independence TV debate: Pumped-up Alex Salmond bounces back in bruising second round against Alistair Darling
Do you realise just how foolish the UK looks?
With Douglas Carswell joining Ukip, my party has taken another giant step forward
- < Previous
- Next >