Tag Archives: Maxwell’s

Memories of tinitus past

Watching these clips on YouTube gave me an idea for a story about a guy who starts seeing his life appearing as bits of Internet video. Naturally, the clips start showing things that are about to happen as well. What they show would depend on whether you want a romance or a horror story. Just my luck that there’s nothing like The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits on television these days.

The Clash clip is from their 1982 stand in the Asbury Park Convention Center. A terrific show, loud and sweaty and deafening, but then I never ever saw the boys on a bad night. Even the reconstituted Clash that Joe Strummer fielded after sacking Mick Jones rocked its balls off when I saw them at Rutgers. I remember lots of disillusioned Clash fans standing around making snide remarks and letting everyone know they were inwardly keening for their lost ideals, but the group sounded just fine to me. After Sandinista and the muzzy-sounding Combat Rock — odd how the band’s weakest album became its first big hit — the Clash were due for a back-to-basics overhaul. The trouble was, Strummer threw out Mick Jones with the bathwater, thus ending one of the most fruitful creative pairings in rock music history.

This post was occasioned by a viewing of Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten, a 2007 documentary that I just caught up with this week, and which annoyed and frustrated me like no other movie I’ve seen in years.

Contrary to what you may have heard, this is not a documentary about Strummer or the Clash. That would be Westway to the World, a far superior piece of work. Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten is a movie about a bunch of people, some of whom are famous and others who simply act that way, sitting around campfires and talking about Strummer while a Parkinson’s patient trains a digital camcorder in their general direction.

The director, Julian Temple, also mixes in scraps of concert footage and sound bites from Strummer’s BBC radio broadcasts, which demonstrated the man’s omnivorous musical appetite and generous, expansive nature. A little of that expansiveness would have greatly improved this movie, but Temple’s hipster arrogance is so complete that he can’t even be bothered identifying the people speaking to the camera. Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten is the first documentary I’ve seen that can only be understood by people who already know the story. That’s quite an innovation; it’s also quite a wasted opportunity.

Here’s another fond memory, brought to me and now you by the enterprising contributors to YouTube. Nirvana playing the big black room at Maxwell’s, just before Bleach was released:

This was in the spring of 1989. Was the show any good? Like a private bellydance from Shakira, like Jennifer Lopez wrapped in bacon — that’s how good it was. Nevermind was still a couple of years off, but Kurt Cobain’s songcraft and the band’s power were all in place. I’ve never had more fun losing my high-end hearing.

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