Ta-Nehisi Coates has a nice blog entry recalling his discovery of The Clash at a time when he felt overwhelmed by the demands of parenthood. Coates was a 26-year-old father and his son was two when
my friend Ricardo handed me a copy of London Calling and told me I had to listen. This was early in the moment when I realized I had exhausted the limits of hip-hop's aesthetics and I wanted something new, which of course to all of you, is something very, very old. At any rate I know I am growing old because I have memories of the boy bobbing his head to "Guns of Brixton" or running around our Brooklyn basement apartment raising his fist yelling, "Ruuuu--deeee Ca Fale!!!"
Coates vividly portrays the anxieties of early parenthood, concluding, correctly, "No one is ready. Not even the people I often took to be more secure."
His story is also the enduring importance of The Clash. They were once known as "The Only Band that Matters" for their highly political songs. Even though that phrase was a record label PR invention, it was true despite the hyperbole.
And they still matter. I haven't yet introduced my kids to The Clash. At ages five and almost eight they're probably too young. A few years ago I gave my nephew, who was about 16 at the time, London Calling. To my surprise not only had he never heard of The Clash, but he liked what he heard and he remains a fan.
As for me, I'm old enough to remember The Clash in their heyday. I was just a dumb suburban Midwestern kid who had no idea what was driving the fury of punk. However, I understood that they were like no other band that I'd ever heard before. They offered a new form of rock and roll rebellion at a time when the whole idea of rock music as a form of independence had nearly died. With rock music once again seeming to fade into the cultural industry background, it's time to take a look back at The Clash.