The Clash - Clash on Broadway (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

The Clash

Clash on Broadway (1991)


Although subsequent reissues rendered it somewhat obsolete, 1991’s Clash on Broadway will always be the definitive statement on The Clash. It might be ridiculous to imagine now in the Mp3/spotify/youtube age, but at the time, 3CDs was a lot of music.

When you cracked open a box that massive, and then you saw that each CD was packed to the gills, you had no idea how you were going to absorb that much tuneage. Wisely, the release presented songs in a chronological order, unlike the more “Commercial” release The Story of the Clash. Presenting the band in a linear format is key to understanding this group. When the band’s songs are presented out of order, one fails to truly grasp an understanding of how the band evolved, and in doing so, changed the face of punk itself- multiple times.

Similarly, in 1991, it was still pretty hard to get a good third of the Clash songs, due to the differences in UK and USA versions as well as the band’s fantastic non-album singles. As any Clash fan will tell you, the Clash certainly were not an "album-only" band.

While Clash on Broadway didn’t round up every Clash track, or even every rare Clash track, it put a whole bunch of the harder to find stuff along with their album cuts. In doing so, the band was presented as they should be: a focus on their core punk beginnings, accentuated by the times that they deliberately colored outside of the lines.

Starting with the band’s earliest demo recordings, winding through their albums, eps, 12-inch mixes, and one off singles, the release is careful to paint an accurate picture as possible without playing too hard to making the release populist nor miring it in minutiae. Of course, Cut the Crap is ignored entirely. Maybe that’s a little bit revisionist… but, hey, it’s the right call.

But, perhaps equally as important was the music was the book (read not booklet) that came with music. In addition to providing a history of the band, the book gave a guide to pretty much every song on the release as told by the Clash and associated members themselves. The Clash are often reduced to the four main members, but the book, smartly, pays respect and interviews other players in the band’s history including Keith Levine, Terry Chimes, Rat Scabies, and others. Really, this is one of the few times that the band really did open up about their own history and the results speak for themselves.

It would seem impossible to reduce a band as massive as The Clash into a single release- even if it’s a box set. But, the fact is, Clash on Broadway does the band justice and most importantly, truly conveys the band’s evolution and eccentricities. The box set is now mostly a thing of the past, but with all the dynamite music and fabulous reading contained within, that’s a shame. Still, as a capstone on the Clash as a whole, On Broadway nails it.

You can find this used for about $15 these days, which, in 1991 through about 2000, would have sounded like the ramblings of a lunatic. But now, people might seem aghast at paying $15 for CDs. But, if anything, that leaves this opportunity open for the wise. If you aren’t familiar with the band, or want a history course in them, you can have a permanent, expertly curated Clash history for the price of a 3-D movie. If you already have it, then pick one up for your brother or sister or cousin for his or her 14th birthday. The material in this box is literally life changing.