Westway to the World

Fans of documentary style won’t find much to admire in Westway to the World, a whatyacall nonfiction film about the rise and fall of The Clash. Shot by band confidante Don Letts, it’s a standard-issue, band-sanctioned reminiscence that juxtaposes current interview footage with a smattering of performance footage and snippets of other Clash-related film and video. (I wondered whether each band member is depicted individually because they’d pound the hell out of each other if they were put in a room together.)

As an 80-minute crash course on the band’s history, it certainly serves a function. It’s even a bit moving, as when Joe Strummer apparently starts to choke up as he discusses the post-Combat Rock dissolution of the band and has to look away from the camera—but cynics may complain that such behavior smacks of deliberate romantic aggrandizement. No mention is made, for instance, of Strummer and Joe Simonon’s ill-fated attempt to revive the band without mate Mick Jones for 1985’s Cut the Crap, and the documentary disingenuously presents the band as a stadium-filling act in its final days—the Shea Stadium gig depicted here so triumphantly was actually an opening gig for The Who, and, according to the All Music Guide, they “were routinely booed off the stage on every date of the tour.” Engaging yet completely disposable.

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6 thoughts on “Westway to the World”

  1. Piss off you freaking turd. I saw The Clash twice on that tour, once opening for The Who which they did not get booed off stage and once on their own at Red Rocks. This documrntary is excellent, it obvous that you are not a fan of The Clash to take such a negative view of the four mates of “the only band that matters”

  2. Actually, I am a fan of The Clash. Just not a fan of this particular film, which serves a function as PR rather than as the straightahead chronicle they richly deserve. More uninterrupted performance footage, please, and Joe Strummer R.I.P.

  3. The clash were asked for encores at Rich Stadium in Buffalo. The Who weren’t. I also saw them later in Oswego. The were great and that is why The Who asked them to play with them. Yeah they probably do argue but that’s life and their time was then. The documentary was super. You need to get over film class and view things for what they are.

  4. Hey, Slate, thanks for the perspective on the tour. I’d like very much to think the band went out on that note of triumph in the U.S. We’ll just disagree on the documentary.

  5. Stange that this doco should have won a Grammy ,this may suggest you are quite alone in your reading of this film. If you need ” More uninterrupted performance footage ” get a DVD of clips ..open your eyes and your mind ! This is retrospective and personal film , its not a reference source..suggest you join a libray if that’s whay you need !

  6. Hi, Bhagwan! Thanks for the comments.

    You know, Celine Dion won a Grammy, too, but I’m not alone in my lack of enthusiasm for her records.

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