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Saturday Videos – Clash on Film

December 4, 2010

It’s been announced recently that two Clash-related films are in the works for next year. It’s being widely reported that the two biopics will centre, respectively, on the life of Joe Strummer, and the making of the London Calling album. This got me thinking about The Clash on film, and a chronology thereof. Insofar as such a thing is possible, there are three films to include. They leave out the earliest and latest periods of the band’s timeline, but cover a good chunk of what’s between.

To begin, Jack Hazan and David Mingay’s Rude Boy: a disjointed, confusing mash of performance footage and acted scenes edited together to form a narrative about a dummy who follows The Clash around as a roadie for a while and some other, unrelated, kids who get arrested for something unrelated. This film came out in 1980, but is compiled from footage shot two years before, and while it’s pretty much irredeemable as a film, it does contain some excellent footage of the band nearing the end of their raw, early period, and just as they were entering the London Calling period.

Next would come this newly-announced Mick Jones/Paul Simonon-produced London Calling film, picking up from where Rude Boy left off. It is, unlike the other films listed here, going to be a fully re-enacted dramatic narrative, covering the recording of the band’s best-known album with eccentric producer Guy Stevens. This story was detailed in a short documentary by Don Letts entitled The Last Testament – The Making of London Calling, which was packaged with the 25th anniversary edition of the record in 2004.

And third in the sequence is Don Letts’ sadly-never-completed Clash on Broadway film, which was aborted and subsequently lost in the early 80s. It was intended to document the band’s 1981 residency in New York City, while at their creative peak, and featured performance footage along with footage of band members wandering around, taking in various facets of NYC. This would have been an amazing document if it had been finished, but, sadly, it never was, and all but 25 minutes of the film was lost and/or destroyed. What remains of the footage is, however, available as a feature on Letts’ Westway to the Word DVD, and parts of it comprise the video for “This is Radio Clash.”

So there, a hypothetical Clash film chronology. Or, really, an excuse to watch some videos. The full Clash timeline is, of course, covered in Westway to the World, and also in The Future is Unwritten, Julian Cope’s documentary about Joe Strummer, both of which are well worth checking out if you’ve never done so.

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