The Clash

Record Review

Phases and Stages

The Clash

Westway to the World (Epic) It makes sense the Clash would have one of the all-time great music documentaries made about them. After all, in the person of Don Letts, they had their own music video guy in-house. Letts was a close friend from day one, and directed many of their music videos. After the band splintered, Letts formed Big Audio Dynamite with Clash songwriter/guitarist Mick Jones. Originally screened at the end of the millennium in England, Westway to the World had a belated U.S. debut at SXSW. This "director's cut" is roughly 11 minutes longer than the televised version. It's the Clash's story, from childhood musical memories through their brief but brilliant career, as told by the Clash themselves via new interviews with Jones, Joe Strummer, Topper Headon, and Paul Simonon. Illustrating the story are clips drawn from virtually every TV appearance, film, and promotional film ever shot, and the lot remains some of the most exciting rock footage of all time. The Clash have resisted reforming, believing that what they accomplished was so special that it would be wrong to sully that memory with reunions. Given that both Headon and Jones were fired from the band, it's amazing to see how much love and respect they all have for each other. It's also a real credit to the band that each of them is unsparing in accepting blame for their many personal failures, foibles, and drug-induced moments of insanity, even while each of them is unstinting in heaping praise on their fellow band members. This is as close to a definitive history of one of the all-time great rock bands as we're ever likely to get. As a substantial bonus, 44 minutes of raw interview footage with the Clash is included. And best of all, the legendary, lost Letts film of the 1981 stand at Bond's in NYC, The Clash On Broadway, is here as well. It's an interesting little 22-minute film with some very good bits not used in Westway to the World.

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