It started with Sandinista! (and now it’s in the library)

It took me a long time (about 29 years) to warm up to The Clash.  I never got into punk.  For most people my age, they discovered grunge, alternative, or metal and then when back to punk and found out where it all started. Weezer sent me spiraling into 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s pop and punk was overlooked.

I had always had a mild flirtation with The Clash.  I clearly remember seeing the video for This Is Radio Clash when I was a child and thinking that they looked so cool carrying around boomboxes and how NYC looked like a totally different world from my Pittsburgh, PA childhood.  The music also had some kind of impact on me, but I didn’t really understand what it was.  I just really wanted to dance.

I started listening to the London Calling album in late 2009.  I liked it a lot, but it wasn’t exactly what I was looking for.  Where was the band that I had heard when I was young on This Is Radio Clash? It wasn’t as funky as I knew it could be, so naturally I used my librarian super powers and researched.  And I came across a monster of a triple album…

Sandinista! was everything I was looking for.  It had the energy that London Calling had, the grooves of This Is Radio Clash, and the experimental vibe of just about every goddamn album that I treasure.

The Magnificent Seven starts off Sandinista! and pretty much sums up the sound I was looking for.  The groove and energy are dead on.  I kept listening for all 144 minutes and 29 seconds.  I was impressed.  I didn’t understand the entire album, but like good albums, you learn in time.

I’m not trying to make the album into something that it was not intended to be by its authors, but the album feels like a journey through life to me.  It has ups, downs, weird sideways detours, the feeling of deja vu,  happiness, sadness, dancing, fun, anger, and so on.  I’m adopting that as the reason why I’m enjoying this album so much.

And with that, I’ve found yet another band that I adore.  Hello The Clash.  Welcome to my head.

@hmccormack brings up a good point with her tweet.  How have The Clash affected me as a librarian?  Here’s Joe Strummer.  Watch, listen, and feel.

Let fury have the hour, anger can be power D’you know that you can use it?

I’ve been pretty down on the state of the public library these days.  Our funding is being cut left and right, people are losing their jobs, and the public still thinks we’re old fuddy duddys with buns in our hair telling them to shut up.  We’re still stocking a majority of our shelves with books instead of all forms of media.  We’re not 100% engaged in the technology that is changing the way we live our life.  EBooks?  IPads?  Gee, those are fancy.  Let’s not think about them now.  And we’re still pushing people away by not being flexible with fines.  Blah blah blah, anger anger anger, oh woe is me.

I’ve let these feelings build up in me and the bubble almost burst.  Listen, watch, and feel the video above.  The band has energy, power, and aggression.  Listen to the lyrics.  They sound angry to me.

But what they’re doing is beautiful.  They’re funneling that anger into something positive.  Something that can change the world (unlike misdirected anger, which will always get you in trouble).  That’s what I’ve learned from The Clash.  I’m angry at libraries.  But I’m not gonna get on Twitter and bitch about it.  I’m gonna take some time, focus that anger, and come out with something creative.  Something that can help the library.  What is it?  I don’t know.  Check back in a few years.

For more info on Sandinista!, read this or watch Westway To The World


  1. Building off of Pat’s suggestion, may I also recommend “Our Band Could Be Your Life”. If you pick it up let me know. A friend made me a soundtrack to go along with it and I’ll pass it along–you can listen to the music while you’re reading the book. Multimedia baby!

    • Peter: I just read finished this book like a week ago! I loved it. I’ve never really dug into this genre of music before…just a lot of passing glances, but I must say I am feeling quite inspired by Dinosaur Jr. and The Replacements.

      A soundtrack to the book? Awesome! I’d love to hear it!

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