Lennon had a more musically proficient melodicist at his side in Paul McCartney, and Strummer had the same in Mick Jones.
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And if the Beatles were so big that it made besting them impossible, the Clash are one of a handful of bands on that second rung of lasting influence. For what the Clash, and in no small part Strummer along with band manager Bernie Rhodes did was take the explosive energy of punk and add an agenda.
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The anger was already there, but they gave it direction and then got it on the radio. Gray takes a sweeping pages to tell the story—dedicating pages to getting there and another to ramping down again—which makes it an excellent first read on the band but an exhaustive for better and worse supplement.
Side-trips like his efforts to uncover the truth about the relationship between Simonon and temporary manager Caroline Coon or to discover when exactly Strummer read a biography of Montgomery Clift are thankfully kept quick and breezy. But Gray also performs a service to rock history in his portrayal of producer Guy Stevens, who at first glance would seem to have represented everything punk was against.
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