The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world

The Rock Pit - Hard rock, Metal and Blues Interviews, news & reviews from Australia and around the world



Documentary by DANNY GARCIA


5 MARCH 2014



Released at the tale of 2012 ‘The Rise and Fall of the Clash’ gets its local release this month, and it’s a documentary that leaves it all wide open and leaves Mick in particular looking rather good. Whatever your take on the Clash and their importance in the history of Rock, this documentary rather takes that as read as its starting point. This isn’t a film about why they were so important or what made them so, it’s one that looks at the far more interesting question ‘Why did it all go so wrong and fall apart so fast’?  


Using friends and hangers on as well as ex-members of the band the interviews are rather a mixed bag with some faces really there just as narrative instruments to move the story along, and others obviously far too besotted with the subject matter to ring true. There are plenty of candid moments though, particularly from Mick Jones and Terry Chimes. Mick in fact is great and half the time seems to be chuckling away to himself, it’s hard to tell that’s because he’s remembering past events or just amused that the documentary is being made at all!


What we like best about the documentary is that Strummer (unlike manager Rhodes) seems to get away with even the mildest criticism especially over the two key events that led to the disintegration: the sackings of Topper and Mick. The man after all is a sainted legend now and of course sadly missed, but he does seem to be particularly pivotal to the rapid disintegration post-Combat Rock.


Of the supporting cast it’s The Slits’ Viv Albertine, Chris Salewicz (Strummer’s biographer) and Kris Needs who put forward the most ‘honest’ and frank opinions into the crucial issues: the sackings and the role and influence of manager Bernie Rhodes, whose sole desire upon his return seems to be getting rid of Mick Jones, the only band member who previously stood up to him. Sadly as we all know it was too late for Strummer to realise what a fool he’d been to let Mick go, and we love the anecdote about Strummer biking round Antigua for weeks looking for him!


You do feel though, that having all of the key players in front of the camera the real questions aren’t answered. We hear of the drugs, but only a little of the hypocrisy (Strummer complaining about Jones smoking, while puffing on a spliff himself) surrounding them. We hear of the influence of Rhodes on Strummer in particular, but little about Strummer’s depression, the death of his parents and the effect that obviously had on him, and other issues that may have laid him open to that particular voice. It’s probably understandable as Strummer is sacrosanct in the Film-maker’s eyes and that’s the biggest flaw of all.


The interviews with members of post Mick and Topper incarnation of the Clash are interesting enough, and probably one of the most interesting aspects of the film.  Vince White, Nick Sheppard and Pete Howard all have different takes on their ‘hired-hand’ status with Sheppard and Howard coming across rather bitter, yet obviously proud to be a footnote in the story. White on the other hand comes across far more bitter (note to all: never drink before and during an interview) and emotional so we’d suggest checking out his rather excellent book ‘Out of Control’ instead.


We all know how it ends with the rather ironically titled ‘Cut the Crap’. There are better places to start than here if you love the Clash but completists should certainly find something in here even if it’s those final interviews. Everyone else will still be shaking their heads wondering why it all came to such a glorious shuddering halt.


Whilst the film does have its flaws; mainly I guess in that it never really seems to adequately contextualise The Clash either Socio-politically or examine its changing role in the Punk movement; as well as the unspoken strummer issues it’s a pretty enjoyable watch.   



by Mark Diggins