Clash Culture - Central St. Martins - 1/5/07

03 May 2007

at the launch of paul gorman's book 'the look: adventures in rock & pop fashion', clash manager bernie rhodes speaks all things strummer-jones related upon the 30th anniversary of the 'white riot' tour.
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The Clash

"I said to Mick [Jones] - 'Shall I kill Keith Richards for you so you can join the Stones?'" remarks Bernard Rhodes, the rather diminutive once-manager of The Clash to a packed audience of punk, style and fashion fans celebrating Paul Gorman's book 'The Look: Adventures In Rock & Pop Fashion' and the 30th anniversary of the 'White Riot' tour.

Bernard Rhodes of course didn't kill Keith Richards, and the musical landscape as we know it wasn't altered forever. Mick Jones firmly stayed with The Clash - and thank God for that. Without Mick Jones or indeed Joe Strummer, Paul Simonon or Topper Headon there would have been no 'White Riot'; no 'London Calling' or 'Straight to Hell', and all music since 1977 would probably have been atrocious.

Paul Gorman's book doesn't just focus on The Clash, however - it includes over 300 illustrations, and a CD featuring artists such as Elvis Presley, David Bowie and Boy George. Contributors include Jimmy Page, Ronnie Wood, Glen Matlock, Kevin Rowland, Nancy Sinatra, Malcolm McLaren, Paul Smith, Alex Michon and Krystyna Kolowska to name but a few.

Tonight, Bernard Rhodes is full of anecdotes and 'what ifs': "I grew up in Stepney and Soho in 1954 with Orson Welles... "My mother used to make clothes for Cary Grant...""Malcolm was getting into a fist fight over rubber with Vivienne..." or... "If Elvis Presley worked with me, he wouldn't have got fat..." And mindful boasts: "The art I was doing was on par with Andy Warhol..."

It is easy to see why Bernard Rhodes is big-headed though, as his part in the success of The Clash, and punk in general, cannot be downplayed. Joining him onstage is legendary music writer/journalist Paul Gorman who has been contributing editor at Music Week as well as working for Mojo and RocksBackPages, Alex Michon, Krystyna Kolowska, Sebastian Conran and some models oddly dressed up in Clash-style clobber. Looking pretty dapper onstage himself, Gorman tries to chair the talk about The Clash, although Bernard Rhodes is having none of it: "I taught Sebastian Conran how not to be a toff...how can you be radical by staging a gig at f**king Selfridges...", he rants instead. Conran, who studied Industrial Design Engineering at Central St Martins, does although bring some order to the proceedings by running through what he did for The Clash: namely helping to create their distinctive visual style, branding and designs for record sleeves, posters, advertising, clothing, merchandise and stage sets.

Alex Michon and Krystyna Kolowska, who were hired by Bernard Rhodes to oversee the band's image, from sleeves to spray-painted shirts, also behave quite normally for punk icons and offer some good advice to students studying fashion at the moment. It all adds to a night which proves to be both educational and rather cool - all that was left for me to do was to ogle at social commentator Peter York and grab a quick word with John Robb about his oral history (his book, of course, also on the history of punk).

More information abounds: here, here and here.

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