Saturday 11 April 2009
Dylan Jones: Mick Jones showed me enough Clash ephemera to keep an old punk happy for days
Talk of the Town
Awopbopaloobopalopbamboom-time! You have exactly seven amphetamine-fuelled days left to catch one of the best rock exhibitions you will ever see – Mick Jones's Rock & Roll Public Library, currently showing at the Chelsea College of Art & Design. The iconic guitarist from The Clash, Big Audio Dynamite and Carbon/Silicon has allowed a portion of his huge collection of pop-culture paraphernalia to be exhibited for the first time, and anyone with an interest in the subject should hop on their customised Beastie Boys skateboard and get down to Chelsea right away.
It's all here: magazine covers, posters, gold discs, pulp-fiction paperbacks, Clash flight cases, Kate Moss's Glastonbury wellies, pop figurines, old photographic contact sheets, trashy VHSs, concert-ticket stubs and, my favorite artefact, a message left for Jones by Joe Strummer at New York's Royalton Hotel: "Hello Mick. It's Joe. Okay, I give up – you win. Call me."
Two summers ago, I saw Jones's entire collection in his lock-up in Acton, where Carbon/Silicon record. Having just taught me the rudiments of The Clash's "Complete Control" (laughing at my inability to master the opening riff), he took me on a tour of his shelves, showing off his first editions, his old vinyl, gig flyers, comic books, road signs, guitars, rare albums and Clash ephemera to keep an old punk like me happy for days.
"I never meant to create anything like a library," he told me, "but one day I just sort of realised that, having never thrown anything away for the last 40-odd years, I actually had a pretty good history of pop culture in the 20th century. I suppose a lot of people might think this stuff is rubbish, but it's all meant something to me."
And to me, too.
Jones hopes his collection will one day turn into a user-friendly permanent exhibition, although you only have to pick up a loose-leaf copy of the punk fanzine 48 Thrills to realise this stuff is too precious to leave lying around. It's art, and deserves to be cherished. As does Mick Jones himself.
Rock the Casbah! The one down in Chelsea. You can't miss it. There's a big picture of Lord Snooty in the window.
Dylan Jones is the editor of 'GQ'
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