LAST GANG IN TOWN

THE STORY AND MYTH OF THE CLASH

A hopelessly rambling and combative biography of the seminal punk band. British writer Gray (It Crawled from the South: An R.E.M. Companion, not reviewed) is out to debunk what he calls the Clash Myth: the notion that the Clash were working-class outsiders who despised '70s rock culture as well as England's social status quo, and that they were motivated by righteous political anger, not by the desire to make money. In reality, the teenage Mick Jones played in garage bands influenced by the New York Dolls, only briefly lived in a council high-rise, and wore ultralong hair and flared jeans. Even more damning, according to Gray, Joe Strummer (nÇ John Mellor) attended a posh public school and actually had some pre- Clash musical success fronting the 101ers, a mid-'70s London R&B outfit. The two singer-songwriter-guitarists formed the Clash in 1976. Gray speciously portrays the band's stirring agitprop as sociobiographically suspect: `` `Career Opportunities' . . . came nowhere near to reflecting the realistic employment prospects of the band as a whole.'' Gray never conveys the impact the music had on the public, relying on sniping reviews in the notoriously fickle and trend-gobbling British music press. The Clash were plagued by management and record company conflicts, the heroin addiction of drummer Topper Headon, and the two singers' increasingly divergent personalities and musical tastes, but they produced sophisticated, melodic, incendiary rock and roll. Gray faults them for issuing contradictory political statements over the years and even for earning some money, but given that all concerned were in their 20s and were, after all, a band rather than a political action committee, his myth-busting on these fronts seems misguided. Gray's smug, repetitive prose utterly fails to put the Clash in a coherent context the way Jon Savage's towering England's Dreaming did for the Sex Pistols. (16 pages b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-8050-4640-2

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1996

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WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A LIFETIME OF RECORDINGS

Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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