4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Likeable, thorough and enjoyable,
This review is from: Passion is a Fashion: The Real Story of the Clash (Paperback)
I really enjoyed this book. It's a labour of love, but manages to avoid the obsequiousness that many rock histories fall into.
It's also obvious that a lot of work has gone into writing this book. It draws on previous works and interviews, both published and unpublished, and Gilbert has also made huge efforts to get interviews with everyone in and around the band.
I loved The Clash from when they released their first album in 1977, and followed them with decreasing enthusiasm through the early 80s. This book is a very good account of their rise, brief peak, and unhappy decline. It's a familar storyline for rock bands - as the band members' lives get more complex and musical interests diverge, cracks open up. No shame in that, and at their peak at least they were brilliant.
The book is very interesting on the musical background and interests of The Clash members, and their struggles to escape from the staitjacket of punk orthodoxy. That's one of my clearest memories of the time - the NME-led 'Year Zero' outlook, where interest in any music dating from prior to 1976 was labelled reactionary, and most of the time there seemed to be only half a dozen bands it was 'safe' to like. The decent bands, like The Clash, soon tired of the restrictions this placed on bands and fans, and well done too for expanding their horizons so wide and so quickly. In particular, as Gilbert says, The Clash turned a lot of punks onto reggae, especially dub, more so than the equally reggae-obsessed Pistols. And they did make some great music along the way (although for me Gilbert is a bit flattering about Strummer's well meaning but simplistic lyrics).
It's great too, to understand for the first time (for me, anyway) the band members' contrasting backgrounds and personalities, and the eccentricities and manipulations of Bernie 'n' Cosmo.
It manages to convey massive fondness for the band and their music while being fair and objective about their mistakes and follies. The text is slightly clunky here and there, but generally easy and clear to read. It has pace and style, and covers all it needs to cover. A great read.