Monday, May 04, 2015

Sean Egan's 'The Clash: The Only Band That Mattered' (2015) - Take Two

Sean Egan's The Clash: The Only Band That Mattered (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield,2015).

Let's get into some of the nitty gritty. First, the links between reggae and punk. As Egan points out, reggae began to expand globally in the late 1960s and 1970s. One of the big watershed moments of broad consciousness-raising about the style came with The Harder They Come (1972), Perry Henzell's low-budget, mesmerizing Jamaican film starring Jimmy Cliff. "[R]eggae was sometimes a big influence on British punk bands either by osmosis (Johnny Rotten of The Sex Pistols had a long-standing love of the genre) or imitation . . . 'Police & Thieves . . . was The Clash's first foray into the medium, and an unexpected triumph" (pages 35-36).

Next, links with rap, starting in 1980: "'The Magnificent Seven' wasn't quite the first-ever rap recording by a white artist: Blondie's punningly titled 'Rapture' appeared . . . a month before the release of Sandinista!" Egon argues that "'The Magnificent Seven' was the first example of rap being used for social commentary. As it preceded . . . Grandmaster Flash's 'The Message' by two years, it could even be suggested that without [its example], hip-hop would not have embraced the political content from which it is now indivisible" (pages 146-147).

Backtrack, Mr. Egan. Let's not forget James Brown and tracks such as "Say It Loud – I'm Black and I'm Proud" (1968), "Make it Funky" (1971), "Funky President (People It's Bad)" (1974) and so on. How about Sly & the Family Stone's "Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)" (1969) and Gil-Scott Heron's "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" (1970-1971)? And back through reggae channels again. Toss in tracks from The Rolling Stones ("Miss You," 1978), Kurtis Blow (1979) and The Sugarhill Gang (1979) and I'd say there's plenty of interplay to spread around, with political content ranging from broad to specific. (Most of these live on through sampling).

What's cool is how memory works: I can remember most of these songs without even playing them again, including virtually every track put out by The Clash. The only true challenge comes when recalling a small bit of music or lyrics, then trying to piece together the origin -- a sort of mix and match endeavor. Can you dig?


Today's Rune: Separation (Reversed).


jodi said...

Erik-I CAN dig! I love those same bands and songs and how music defines almost every important moment in my life!

Charles Gramlich said...

I guess that's right. Rapture has a rap in the middle of it. I never thought to make that connection.