We are The Clash tells a complex story of a band that was a key player in the original wave of British punk rock. Thoroughly researched account of the band’s last years, their struggle to stay true to their ideals and the political climate in both UK and US with the rise of a right-wing power. It’s a biography of “The Only Band That Matters” as much as a political history of the late seventies and early eighties. Andersen and Heibutzki remind us that the greatness of The Clash lay in their willingness to push the envelope on all levels and that their music and their message together made them a band that truly mattered.
“Nothing great can be achieved in art without enthusiasm.” That is one of the many insights in Robert Schumann’s Advice to Young Musicians (Chicago, $18) “revisited” by cellist Steven Isserlis. It is an ideal gift for all music lovers and students—whether adult concert goers or Suzuki beginners. Mr. Isserlis is a world-renowned cellist, and has also written books about composers for children. He calls Schumann a “genius…far ahead of his time” both as a composer and as an educator. In Advice to Young Musicians (first published in 1850), Schumann’s “poetic words of wisdom” are retranslated, and arranged into four themes by Isserlis, who adds his own explanations and witty updates for a modern age. Isserlis ends with a chapter of his own “bits of advice.” I’ll end with words from Isserlis, then Schumann: “…vow never to lose your love for the music itself.” And “relieve the severity of your musical studies by reading poetry. Take lots of walks!”
The photographs collected by Scott Crawford in Spoke: Images and Stories from the 1980s Washington D.C. Punk Scene (Akashic, $24.95) are so vivid and personal, you can almost smell the sweat and stink of the all-ages basement shows and you can definitely hear the pound of the punk rock reverberating off the walls. Crawford continues his investigations into the crucial story of music and dissent he began in his documentary Salad Days through oral histories, ephemera, and photographs from many different on-the-ground sources. This album features histories of Fugazi, Minor Threat, Rites of Spring, Bad Brains, and many other D.C. bands that revolutionized the narrative of punk in this country. A radical coffee-table book, this is the only possible holiday present for punk rockers of any age.