Book Review by Alisha Amnesia
Culture Clash – Dread Meets Punk Rockers
By Don Letts with David Nobakht
I have always been interested in knowing more about Don Letts. From the time I first noticed his striking iconic image in books and footage surrounding the 77 UK Punk scene, with his dreadlocks and leopard vest, I wanted to know more about this intriguing contributor to early punk.
I knew from my voracious reading appetite of all the punk books I’ve been able to get my hands on in the last two decades, that Don Letts first became known in that scene as a DJ at the early punk gigs, and that he DJ’ed a lot of reggae, which was a prominent parallel force in the early UK punk scene. I also knew that he made The Punk Rock Movie, which was the first of it’s kind, documenting the scene from the beginning, and that he went on to be a member of Big Audio Dynamite with Mick Jones of The Clash. I also knew he made an excellent Clash Documentary called Westway to the World.
That was really all I knew about him, and since I’ve always wanted to know more about him, I was thrilled to discover he has a new book out. The book revealed so much more about him. What I knew was only a mere scratch on the surface of Letts’ contribution to music, videos, and movies in the last three decades.
Letts’ story is unique and riveting—describing his background and experiences as a first-generation British-born black, as well as his stories of what London was like in the early punk days, his experiences visiting Jamaica with different companions and purposes in various time periods, 80s New York with The Clash, and working with a multitude of artists on videos and documentaries. His stories are extremely insightful and interesting; and he seemed to be both an insider and an outsider, both fitting and not fitting in various cultural scenarios. He’s had a truly impressive full life up to this point, and his voice throughout the book is extremely likable and intelligent.
Letts’ has worked with so many artists of varying genres, and accomplished so much as a filmmaker, even winning a Grammy. Personally, as a huge fan of The Clash, it was also really gripping reading about his relationships and experiences with them. He made most of the group’s music videos, which I was previously unaware of.
If you are a fan of Punk Rock, UK fashion, documentaries, self-made men, are interested in the unique racial perspectives of first-generation British-born blacks, Jamaican culture, reggae and its history, or interesting people in general, I highly recommend you read this book!
More on Letts:
Filmography (as director)
- Carnival! (2009)
- Going Home/Made In Sheffield Tony Christie (2008)
- Soul Britannia* (2007)
- Rock It To Rio: Franz Ferdinand (2006)
- Tales of Funkenstein: George Clinton (2006)
- The Making of All Mod Cons: The Jam (2006)
- Brother From Another Planet: Sun Ra (2005)
- The Revolution Will Not Be Televised (Gil Scott-Heron) 2005
- The Right Spectacle: The Very Best of Elvis Costello – The Videos (2005) (V)
- Punk: Attitude (2005) (TV)
- Making of ‘London Calling‘: The Last Testament (2004) (V)
- One Love (2003)
- The Essential Clash (2003) (V)
- The Pretenders: Greatest Hits (2000) (V) (video “Back on the Chain Gang”)
- The Clash: Westway to the World (2000) (V)
- Dancehall Queen (1997)
- Dancing in the Streets:Planet Rock (1997) (TV)
- The Pretenders: The Singles (1988) (V) (video “Back on the Chain Gang“)
- “Pass the Dutchie“* video for Musical Youth (1982)
- The Punk Rock Movie (1978)