Completist Control
Old bands, repackaged, resold.
Completist Control

“The Complete Clash” – Keith Topping – (Reynolds & Hearn)

From the title all the way down to it’s new boots & contracts, Keith Topping’s attempt to paraphrase the career of The Clash for the coffee table generation is desperately & utterly flawed.

Setting himself up as the everyman realist drowning in hail of revisionist gob – he then proceeds to cynically rip fucking great chunks out of Marcus Gray’s indispensable “Return Of The Last Gang In Town” without so much as a co-writing credit.

By enforcing ‘The Legend Of The Clash’ without admitting ‘The Myth’ you may as well keep on teaching the kids that do bother turning up to our rotting schools that Lee Harvey Oswald shot JFK/Diana had an accident/Iraq was a genuine threat to world peace & Prince Charles was just having a nap/looking for loose change down the back of the sofa.

Attempting to list the mistakes, inaccuracies & pure flights of fantasy that purport to join the evidence amassed from Gray’s work into any coherent whole is like trying to build a universe out of matchsticks. As Ucunt’s recent Clash extravaganza proved beyond doubt – not even Mick Jones & Paul Simonon really knew what was going on in Joe’s lyrics - yet alone some fucking two bit looser like Boaby Freaking Dullespee. Lyrics will always mean one thing to their author & a totally different one to their reader/listener. Alex-whatever-his-name-is out of Blurred summed it up best in his broadsheet (forget which one) review of “Streetcore”: lyrics mean whatever YOU want them to mean - & don’t ever let anyone tell you any different. It’s NOT an art-form – lyrics are there to:

a) Scan.
b) Fit the tune.
c) Provide a suitable hook on which to hang implied meaning after the fact.

Proof of the above: when Timo Lahdsmaki interviewed Joe at The Provinski Festival for tMx back in 2001 he asked him if the number sequence at the end of “1977” had any reference to George Orwell’s “1984” – ending as it does on that year. Joe replied in the negative – explaining that they ended the song at “1984” because it was the right number of bars!

A further criticism - if Keith Topping really believes that any true Clash fan would want to own a book that embraces “Cut The Crap” as anything other than an aberration, then he is as sadly deluded as his intro sign off suggests: His Gaff, Merrie Albion. Fuck Off.

Punk Rock has very few books worthy of the genre – Gray’s aforementioned work notwithstanding: “Please Kill Me” by Legs McNeil & Gillian McCain, “The Sex Pistols – The Inside Story” by Fred & Judy Vermorel, “Hot & Cold” by Richard Hell, “Sniffin ‘Glue – The Essential Punk Directory” by Mark Perry are a (very) few that spring to mind. Sadly (for Keith Topping), “The Complete Clash” is not one of them.

Since Joe’s untimely death, publishers all over the business have finally woken up to the fact that Clash books could probably shift units after all. We’ve recently had Alan Parker’s risible attempt & can ‘look forward’ to Pat Gilbert’s ‘authorised’ biography (if a sanitised extension of ‘the myth’ is what you require).

Me, I’ll stick with “Return Of The Last Gang In Town” & my own records, memories, memorabilia & opinions – & if you’ve got anything about you – you’ll do the same thing.

Johnny Forgotten – tMx 12 – 11/03

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