Went down to the fifth iteration of Mick Jones's Rock n Roll Library, which is currently on at the Subway Gallery–a former shoe repair kiosk in what is now called the Joe Strummer Subway (because he used to busk there) at Edgware Road tube station (Bakerloo).
Jones has famously amassed an enormous amount of stuff in his career, but this seems to go beyond passive collecting. This particular collection–less haphazard and over-crowded than previous versions–had a sort of war theme to it, but then again it didn't. As you would expect, it provided a fascinating insight into Jones's mind–here is someone who just adores physical stuff and with his fellow curators, is able to use them to tell a rich and fascinating story that's both a outward commentary on culture and inward perspective on Jones himself.
It's a curious mixture that you're constantly wondering about how carefully it's been put together. There are items that are obviously related to The Clash and Big Audio Dynamite and others that are obviously chosen for the casual war theme, just as there items that tell a story and others that don't. Below are Kate Moss's boots from the Glastonbury festival and above, some tins of London Fog to promote BAD (probably in America)
Here's a ViewMaster of Graceland, kind of what you'd expect from a Rock N Roll collector.
And here are these exquisite cowboy scatter cushions in a kind of needlepoint fabric.
One of the more interesting aspects of the show is the cultural recycling that goes on. Below, is a screen-printed patch of the cover shot from the first Clash album, sewn onto a tartan shirt. When The Clash first burst on the music scene in 1975, they wore paint-splattered and patchwork hand-made clothes (care of Mr Sebastian Conran, no less), which Vivienne Westwood also did for the Sex Pistols. The Clash never had pictures of themselves, this was something that was copied years later by blue-haired Mohican punks who lived in unfashionable parts of the home counties.
Another curious item was this pizza box. The Clash enjoyed almost unique fame and notoriety in New York, but the idea that someone would want to immortalise them on a fast-food container says more about their status than a whole pile of press-clippings.
Their first nationwide tour in May 1977 saw them a bit more organised and Bernie (Rhodes, their manager) had obviously gotten some money from CBS to get them proper gear. I can remember being quite surprised at the time that they all had matching fluorescent pink (faded now) transit cases for their guitars and amps. The original punk movement was never quite as from-the-streets as it seemed–it was the brainchild of some formidable creative talents like Malcolm Mclaren, Vivienne Westwood, Sebastian Conran, Bernie Rhodes as well as all the bands, who all emerged from the leading London Art schools and have since proved their ability to shape culture in powerful and sophisticated ways.
Another interesting item was this Ghetto Blaster. When the Clash went to the US in 1979, they refused to be photographed without a huge wardrobe-sized boombox, sometimes on their shoulders like they were listening to the latest test-match scores. This seemed faintly embarrassing–even more so if you consider that the hot technology at the time was the revolutionary Sony Walkman which allowed you to genuinely–without back-breaking discomfort nor being a public nuisance–listen to music on the move. Unfortunately, the Sony Walkman had been co-opted by a different branch of youth-culture–disco and dance–and wasn't seen as very Rock N Roll. The Clash were slow to pick up on this and didn't notice that the cool kids in London were sweating away in Greek Street basements listening to 70's disco hits and not post-punk rock n roll. When they did realise, they made Rock The Kasbah–one of their biggest hits, ironically–and the ghetto blasters quietly disappeared. This one carries Futura's signature, who was one of the first wave of late-70's hip-hop Graffiti artists and actually managed to enjoy his own retrospective and second-coming when Graffiti came round again in the late 90's.
The obligatory, though nonetheless impressive wall-of-fanzines–probably the last time that the UK produced an ouvre of graphic output that didn't involve graphic designers–something the publishers couldn't afford and so simply drew them with felt-pens. Stand up Danny Baker, this means you.
You get the feeling that only Mick Jones could happen upon a yellow vinyl disc of The Ballad of Davy Crockett.
The front cover of The Clash eponymous first album is taken in what is now part of Camden Lock Market, next door to their rehearsal studios, which was called Rehearsals Rehearsals, of which this is not the original sign but a later copy.
All in all, it's a very interesting exhibit. It's much more than the random collection of detritus that you might see at a modern art installation, though it hints at much the same observation–a window into the mind of someone with a very unusual eye and an ability to collect almost anything. What makes it so much more engaging–for me, anyway–was the cultural context of being something I recognised.
It's also fascinating from an object-language point-of-view. These are all items–many of them quite everyday items–that are telling quite complex and sophisticated stories (the pizza box being a good example) about their origins and the culture they came from.