‘Up and down the Westway’ or ‘live by the river’?

Britishness, Englishness, London and The Clash

in Working for the clampdown
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Few bands are quite so intimately associated with a specific locale as The Clash. The iconography of the band is, of course, closely bound up with a cluster of neighbourhoods in West London and symbolised most dramatically in the form of the Westway urban flyover. This chapter explores the very particular ways in which the band conjure up a certain moment in the history of the British capital, and in doing so how they mediate the ever more complex connections between Englishness and Britishness. While The Clash may have had intimate ties to the neighbourhoods around Notting Hill and Ladbroke Grove, this rootedness was always entirely compatible with a broader view of the world. Indeed, one might be said to have fed into the other. It was in part their connection to specific districts of multiracial London that allowed the band a wider cultural and political palette than many of their peers in the punk scene. In order to explore a world riven with conflict and inequality, The Clash after all simply had to unlock the global politics that existed already on their doorstep.

Working for the clampdown

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

Editor: Colin Coulter

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