What if Keith Levene had never left The Clash?

Punk and the politics of novelty

in Working for the clampdown
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This chapter explores the ways in which a band such as The Clash illustrates the tension in popular music between aesthetic judgement and political influence, that is, between making more interesting art and reaching more people. Original member Keith Levene evidently had rather more adventurous musical tastes than the rest of the band. If the guitarist had continued working with The Clash, it is possible that the group may have taken more interesting musical directions. A flavour of what Levene would have added to the band is evident when we consider the composition of the only song for which he receives a writing credit on the debut album, ‘What’s My Name’. While the early departure of the gifted guitarist in all likelihood narrowed the creative range of The Clash, it also perhaps allowed them to have greater political influence. It is unlikely, after all, that the palpably more avant-garde tastes that Levene would showcase in his future work would have allowed the band to reach the mainstream audience that they had always craved.

Working for the clampdown

The Clash, the dawn of neoliberalism and the political promise of punk

Editor: Colin Coulter

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