It wasn’t exactly an opening at Hollywood’s Chinese Theatre – no limos, searchlights or A list celebs flouncing down the red carpet – but the opening of Don Letts‘ WestWay To The World, a documentary charting the history of The Clash (in association with the NME) from grotty rehearsal rooms in North London to Shea Stadium to oblivion, drew a crowd of celebs and hangers-on, all fuelled by rumours that The Clash were going to reform for one last show.
Bobby Gillespie, Kevin Rowland – in fetching red turtleneck and maxi skirt – and a bewildered looking Shane MacGowan all turned up at Notting Hill’s old-school-gone-slightly-to-seed movie palace The Coronet, as indeed did many people who were “there” in 76 looking as run down and worn as the cinema itself.
Don Letts, clad in cammo gear, stood out front welcoming people. Across the road Danny Baker was squawking and ranting to camera.
The film itself was a band’s eye view with some great live footage, from the 16 Tons tour, from the Times Square gigs and from the American tours as well as some oddities – silent 8mm film of Strummer in pre-punk pub rock R&B combo The 101ers, the band writing “I’m so bored with the USA” on the window of an ice cream parlour – and interviews with all the principals involved.
Afterwards at the post-film party at the somewhat more salubrious Cobden Club – a desperate wannabe-Groucho Club – the stage was set up with gear and one by one Strummer, Jones and Simenon arrived adding a certain spice of anticipation to the proceedings. But the best it got was a rambling performance from Shane McGowan.
It could have been mawkish, sad or even magical if they had played. But they didn’t and everyone went home. Memories of what The Clash were and stood for left fully intact.