Culture Clash

DSC00344

I’ve just come back from a busy weekend in London with my friend John. The highlight of a packed weekend was surely meeting Mick Jones and Don Letts who used to be in Big Audio Dynamite. Of course, Mick Jones is better known as the founding member of The Clash, where he was lead guitarist and co-songwriter with Joe Strummer, and even got to sing lead on a few tracks. Don Letts directed the band’s music videos and has also directed the recent documentaries, Westway to the World and This Is Joe Strummer. We met the two of them in a library in Notting Hill, but it wasn’t any old library – it was The Rock & Roll Public Library at 2 Acklam Road, Portobello Green, London W10 5TY

The reason we were there is that John spotted an article in The Guardian about the exhibition. It turns out that Mick Jones has been a collector of pop culture artifacts ever since he was a young fella. During his lifetime he has amassed thousands of books, magazines, films, records and other paraphernalia that he has been collecting since the sixties. For nearly two decades this collection has been housed in a lock-up in North Acton. But, for five weeks from July 18 to August 23, a portion of this vast collection will be available to view in west London. If you intend to visit (and I would highly recommend you do) it runs from Wednesdays to Sundays from 11.00am to 7.00pm and it’s free to enter

It was easy to find Acklam Road, but a little more difficult to find number two. We walked down Ladbroke Grove, which looked quite amazing in the summer sunshine. The buildings are huge and quite beautiful and the area is very clean and tidy. It was obvious that it would cost a few bob to call this place home. It was also very quiet and there wasn’t much traffic on the roads or on the footpaths on this Saturday afternoon. However, as we approached the Portobello Road market all of this changed. The market was taking place and it was very busy, a little messy, and a lot noisier. It was an interesting contrast to what we had seen on the more affluent Ladbroke Grove. The Portobello market goes down most of Acklam Road and so did we. It was only when we reached the end that we realised that number two was at the other end. Finally, we found it and it was certainly worth the journey

The exhibition takes place on the first floor of 2 Acklam Road and each of its half-dozen rooms contains different delights. In the main room, the walls have framed posters of Clash gigs and covers from singles. There are also dozens of 45s hanging from the ceiling ranging in style from rock & roll to country to soul. Behind them, there is a bookcase that contains over a hundred books. Among the wide variety of topics covered are music, film, art, sport and war. One of the rooms has a small television set attached to a VCR that continuously plays a video from the selection that is displayed on the walls of the room. Another room is devoted to magazines and comic books and annuals. The majority of the music magazines on display come from the seventies and include such publications as Creem, Melody Maker and Record Mirror as well as the DIY punk newsletter, Sniffing Glue. The comic books include The Beano and The Dandy and other boy’s favourites such as Tiger, Tornado and 2000AD. In the room next door, Don Letts’ film about The Clash, Westway to the World, was being screened to an audience that came and went as they wished. These are just some of the highlights of the exhibition that I have attempted to capture in the pictures below. And below the pictures I’ve put up a few nice cover versions of Clash songs that originally featured Mick Jones on lead vocals

Promotional poster for the Complete Control single

Promotional poster for the Complete Control single

A selection of music magazines

A selection of music magazines

Concert posters

Concert posters

A selection of comic book annuals

A selection of comic book annuals

A selction of video cassettes

A selction of video cassettes

A closer look at Mick's film collection

A closer look at Mick's film collection

A clip from the screening of Westway to the World

A clip from the screening of Westway to the World

As we came out of one of the rooms, John pointed out to me that Don Letts was in the building. Even though his dreads were concealed under his headwear, it was obviously him. We waited until he was free and we asked him if we could take a photo. Of course, he was delighted to pose with us and we got a couple of pictures with Don. An unexpected bonus we thought. We were about to leave when we heard it through the grapevine that the man himself might be showing up. And, lo and behold, in he strolled just before six. He made his welcomes and shook a few hands while we waited discreetly in the background. Fortunately, he spotted us and we introduced ourselves. Again, he was delighted to have his photo taken and John and I snapped away as we took turns posing with Mick. We even got to chat to him for a while as he answered our questions about his collection. He told us that his mother lived in the States while he was growing up in London and she would send him copies of all the American music magazines that we saw in the room. He told us about buying the first edition of 2000AD magazine and the free flying saucer/frisbee that was attached to it. He even asked us about Limerick and wanted to know if there were any good music venues there. We told him about Dolan’s Warehouse and extended a warm Limerick invitation to him and his fellow musicians to come along some time. By this time other people were lining up to talk to him, so we said our goodbyes. We wished him good luck with the rest of the exhibition, which runs Wednesdays to Sundays until August 23rd. Later, we agreed that he came across as a genuine and down-to-earth guy. In fact, I suppose you could say he’s a diamond geezer

Don Letts and John Devane

Don Letts and John Devane

Don Letts and myself

Don Letts and myself

Mick Jones and John Devane

Mick Jones and John Devane

Mick Jones and myself

Mick Jones and myself

Stay Free (Clash cover) – Pete Wylie

Should I Stay or Should I Go (Clash cover) – Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain

I’m Not Down (Clash cover) – Thea Gilmore

Lost in the Supermarket (Clash cover) – Afghan Whigs

Train In Vain (Clash cover) – Annie Lennox

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “Culture Clash

  1. You should pop down to London and check it out before August 23rd (only from Wednedsays to Sundays and from 11.00am to 7.00pm). Apparently, he tends to pop in towards the end of the evening

Comments are closed.