"You are the first eyes to see this in the entire world," director Danny Garcia said enthusiastically at the premiere of his documentary, The Rise and Fall of the Clash, on Thursday night at New York's Landmark Sunshine Cinema. The event capped a slate of rock & roll movie screenings – including Color Me Obsessed, the first documentary about the Replacements – to kick off the inaugural CBGB Festival in New York, a four-day celebration of the iconic punk club that was shuttered in 2006.
"I've been a Clash fan since I was nine or 10 years old. I fell in love with them since 'Spanish Bombs,' " added Garcia, a Barcelona native. "They were speaking in Spanish! And I felt like they were speaking to me. But why did they disband the way they did?"
Three years in the making (and not entirely completed), The Rise and Fall of the Clash explores the evolution of the punk icons, from their early days gigging at small clubs in London in the Seventies, to their famed run at Bond's International Casino in Times Square in 1981, to their downward spiral after their legendary Shea Stadium concert in 1982. Mick Jones is the sole original Clash member to be interviewed in the film, while Vince White, Nick Sheppard (Jones' replacement) and drummer Pete Howard all appear to offer their perspectives on the band's tumultuous latter years.
Garcia explained that Paul Simonon refused to take part in the documentary, as did the Clash's "dictating" manager Bernie Rhodes, who is portrayed as the source of tension between Joe Strummer and Jones. "Bernie was worried about this project and he said he was gonna sue me," Garica said. "I sent him the script. Then he said, 'This is wrong, that is wrong, that guy is an asshole.' But then he said, 'Go for it.' I actually like the guy. He's a really clever guy."
Garcia said it was really "fucked up" to find out the real story behind the band after reading White's account in his book, Out of Control: The Last Days of the Clash. "I thought, if I didn't know this, other people don't know this," he explained.
Among those in attendance was Marky Ramone, who spoke to Rolling Stone before the screening about the Ramones' days on tour with the Clash. "We toured with them in 1977 for five weeks, so I got to know them very well and they were great guys – especially Joe."
Pearl Harbor of Pearl Harbor and the Explosions, a personal friend of the band who also appears in the film, discussed the "madness that took over" during the height of the Clash's success and the difficulty Strummer, Jones and Simonon faced after going from working class punks to famous rock stars.
"Punks are poor, and you can't be punk forever, because then you'd be a loser," said Harbor.
After the screening, Harbor told Rolling Stone that she was fortunate to hang out with the band during "such a cool time.
"I don't remember much; I'm old now," Harbor said. "All I remember is that I had a fucking ball."