Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Clash: Westway to the World

Directed by Don Letts, The Clash: Westway to the World is the story about the legendary British punk rock band who started off as a very political voice during Britain’s most chaotic moments in the late 1970s to become what many said “the only band that mattered” where they would fall apart in the early 1980s. The film feature interviews with former members of the band as well as journalists and producers who were connected to the band. The result is one of the most fascinating and intriguing portraits into one of the greatest rock bands that had ever lived.

In the mid-to-late 1970s in Britain, the music world was shaken up by a new revolution that is punk as it rebelled against what was happening in the mainstream as it simplified the music back to basics and appealed to a young audience who weren’t into progressive rock or the established bands at the time like the Rolling Stones, the Who, Led Zeppelin, and Pink Floyd. Among these bands that were part of this new punk-rock revolution were the Clash as they went from being this very political and socially-driven band that talked rallied against American capitalism to becoming a band that was a voice for the people by the early 1980s. The film is about the band’s story from their formation in the mid-1970s to guitarist/vocalist Mick Jones’ departure in 1983 that many believed was the end of the Clash though they would disband three years later.

Don Letts, who was part of the punk music scene in Britain during that time, interviews the key members of the group in Jones, bassist Paul Simonon, drummer Topper Headon, and the late Joe Strummer (who died in December of 2002) as well as original drummer Terry Chimes about the band’s history. Through rare footage of the band in their early years as well as various concert footage of the band from their shows in Britain during the late 1970s to Mick Jones’ final show with the band at the 1983 Us Festival. Letts keeps the film very straightforward as he lets all of the members tell their story as well as the band’s struggle with success and how Topper Headon’s heroin addiction led to his departure in 1982 just before the release of their most commercially-successful album Combat Rock.

With the help of editor Denes Ujvari, Letts creates a film that plays into a band that is trying to maintain something that was a people’s band but forces that included their manager Bernie Rhodes who would play a role into Jones’ departure and the eventual dissolution of the band. Much of the film’s music is from the Clash as well as other genres that influenced the band like reggae as it plays into where the band came from. Especially as they were the kind of band that revealed what was going on in the world as they connected in such a way as they created a legacy that will never be duplicated.

The Clash: Westway to the World is an outstanding film from Don Letts about the Clash. The film isn’t just one of the finest films about punk rock and the band itself but it’s also a key essential film for anyone that doesn’t know much about the Clash or punk rock. Especially as it plays into a band that stood for something in a world that is often very complicated as they definitely earned that status as the only band that mattered. In the end, The Clash: Westway to the World is a magnificent film from Don Letts.

© thevoid99 2015

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