After a relative flurry of films, DVDs and reissues to arise in the wake of Clash frontman Joe Strummer’s death, fans are again being treated to another archival project in the form of the new DVD “Revolution Rock.”
Among the highlights of the performance footage collection is a rendition of “Know Your Rights” from the fabled 1983 US Festival in San Bernardino, Calif., the site of guitarist/vocalist Mick Jones’ final performance with the band.
Directed by Don Letts — who lensed several Clash projects, including the “London Calling” video and his 1999 Grammy-winning documentary of the band, “Westway to the World” — the DVD also includes a take on “Brand New Cadillac” from Tokyo in 1982, as well a version of “I’m So Bored with the U.S.A.” from the Manchester, England, Apollo in 1978, among several others.
The DVD extras include the full band’s appearance on Tom Synder’s late-night talk program “The Tomorrow Show,” in which the young band members toy with the host, putting Clash stickers on him at one point. Strummer and bassist Paul Simonon are much more behaved in the other extra, an interview by New York news anchor Sue Simmons on WNBC’s “Live at 5.”
Both interviews were given when the band was in New York in June 1981 for its now-mythic stand at Bond’s nightclub in Times Square. Due to demand, the Clash played 17 shows at the venue, filmed by Letts for a movie to be titled “The Clash on Broadway.” But the project never happened, as the group’s management failed to pay the rental bill on the storage unit housing almost all of the footage, except for a 26-minute cutting copy Letts had under his bed.
“These guys were at the peak of their game, man,” Letts says, remembering the Bond’s stand. “I mean, they basically ran New York for the few weeks they were playing there. There was this amazing cultural exchange going on. I can’t tell you what a buzz it was. WBLS, a totally black station, started playing ‘The Magnificent Seven’ on heavy rotation, and they did a remix of it, where they had samples of Clint Eastwood and Bugs Bunny, and that was the soundtrack of the city for the whole period that the Clash were there, and beyond.”
“I’ve been looking at this archive in one form or another for close to 30 years, and I’m still tapping my feet,” he continues. “I know that there’s three or four generations of young people who are growing up and listening to this stuff for the first time, and I know that it’s having the same effect.”
Letts believes the Clash were “a perfect blueprint for rock’n’roll. It’s a great example for those who really want to know how to do this stuff, and do it on their terms, and leave something that helps to make the world a better place.”
“Revolution Rock” will be succeeded in June with the long-awaited U.S. DVD release of director Julien Temple’s film on Strummer, “The Future is Unwritten,” which chronicles the singer’s entire career, and includes appearances by Bono, Johnny Depp, Flea and many others.