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| 21 August 2015 | Reply

Pan Macmillan Australia, rrp $49.99
July 2015
Reviewed by Shane Pinnegar
9 1/2 /10

The Clash - photographs by Bob Gruen cover

Having made a name for himself photographing the likes of Bob Dylan, John Lennon, The New York Dolls and Blondie, rock n’ roll photographer Bob Gruen found himself in London shooting The Clash in October 1976, and over the next few years enjoyed what he calls “fantastic access to the group.” In itself even that is an understatement.

Accompanying the band on tour through England, America and even to Jamaica, Gruen captures the band from the early days of their recognition right through to playing to tens of thousands at Shea Stadium in support of The Who.

The Clash by Bob Gruen

More than that though, Gruen’s shots show a gang of believers, who, as they become more and more popular and get pulled in more and more directions all at once, are dragged from the DIY punk ethos of their early gigs into a more uniform wardrobed, polished and produced band with responsibilities to keep in mind.

Impossibly skinny and aging barely a day in the six years covered by Gruen’s photographs, The Clash can be seen going through fashion phases: there’s the torn DIY phase, the hat phase (“hats can really keep you together on the road,” says Joe Strummer in one of the many accompanying quotes from the original 2001 release of this hefty volume. Other quotes come from Mick Jones and Paul Simonen of the band, filmmaker Don Letts, Gruen himself, band manager Caroline Coon and others from their inner circle), the military phase, the sleeveless phase. Their fashion statements were as iconic as their musical statements, and Gruen was there to capture so many of them.

The live photos of the band are often incredibly framed, capturing a moment that still speaks of passion and sweat and rock n’ roll magic decades on, such is Gruen’s skill. The book also boasts many shots backstage, taken at photoshoots, or just hanging out with the band. As such it’s far more than a promo volume dedicated to showing a band in the best, ‘approved by the record label and management’ light – this is the nitty gritty of rock n’ roll: near starving, waiting around, bored, inundated by fans who want a moment of your time – as well as the visceral thrill of the shows.

Category: Book Reviews

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Editor, 100% ROCK MAGAZINE

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