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Clash Live Album To Chronicle Legendary Punk Rockers' Career

Companion documentary to air on British TV, maybe in U.S. theaters.

A career-spanning live album from influential punk band the Clash, From Here to Eternity, will include 17 of the band's best-loved songs, plus a booklet that will feature fans recounting their stories of seeing the explosive band in concert.

The album's scheduled Oct. 4 release will coincide with a 70-minute documentary, "Westway to the World," slated to run on British television Oct. 3. The band's manager, Tricia Ronane, said she hopes to get the film into U.S. movie theaters this year.

Ronane said she and the founding bandmembers — singer/guitarists Mick Jones and Joe Strummer and bassist Paul Simonon — spent more than a year searching for tapes of the band's best live material; the Clash broke up in 1986. The album will include performances of such Clash staples as "London's Burning" (RealAudio excerpt), "Career Opportunities" and "White Man in Hammersmith Palais."

A 1981 gig at New York's Shea Stadium provides the album's version of the hit "Rock the Casbah" (RealAudio excerpt). That performance came just as the band was about to achieve its greatest success with its fifth album, Combat Rock.

Other cuts come from shows between 1978 and 1982 at London's Victoria Park, Music Machine, Lyceum and Lewisham Odeon, as well as the now-shuttered Bonds club in New York and the Orpheum in Boston.

Lee Zazofsky was an usher at the Orpheum shows on Sept. 7-8, 1982, which spawned the album's versions of "The Magnificent Seven," "Know Your Rights," "Should I Stay or Should I Go" and "Straight to Hell."

"I have a poster signed by all the bandmembers from those shows," said Zazofsky, 47, who has managed the 2,700-capacity venue for the past 12 years. "I would compare them to bands like Rage Against the Machine, because of the energy and political message they had and their reputation for great shows. The [Boston] shows had a very intense, military feel to them, with them wearing military outfits, and red police lights flashing," Zazofsky said.

Among the most blistering performances Zazofsky recalled from the Boston shows was the title track from the group's 1979 album, London Calling, which appears on the new LP and which, Zazofsky said, "made the audience go berserk."

The project was born last year when Strummer was moving and found a tape of the Shea Stadium show, Ronane said. The original idea was to do an entire album of that show, but as more tapes surfaced, the group's members decided to see what other high-quality recordings existed.

"We had every resource looking for them in the UK [and the U.S.]," Ronane said. "Then we had a guy at Sony calling every Sony office around the world to find tapes."

Much of the accompanying booklet will comprise comments and stories solicited from fans over the past year via the band's official website (www.westwaytotheworld.com), according to Ronane. "The guys just thought that would be infinitely more interesting than reading something by some journalist," Ronane said.

Mixing socialist philosophy with punk rock, reggae and rockabilly, the Clash were one of the most distinctive, influential bands to emerge from the late-'70s English punk scene. Anchored by the songwriting duo of Strummer and Jones, the band came out of London in 1976 with a raw, outlaw attitude, drawing inspiration from the punk sound of its peers the Sex Pistols, Jamaican dub music and American cowboy imagery.

After a brief summer tour with the Sex Pistols in 1976, the Clash landed a recording contract; their first single, "White Riot," and eponymous debut album were released in spring 1977. The group gained instant popularity in the UK, but failed to achieve widespread U.S. success until 1982's Combat Rock.

The Clash's other landmark albums include Give 'Em Enough Rope (1978), London Calling (1979) and Sandinista! (1980). Although Jones left the band in 1983 to form the hip-hop-inspired rock group Big Audio Dynamite, the group did not officially disband until three years later.

Don Letts, a member of Big Audio Dynamite, shot the documentary "Westway to the World," which features extensive interviews with all of the bandmembers and some of the earliest images of the group ever discovered. That includes black-and-white footage shot by filmmaker Julien Temple ("Absolute Beginners") of the band's first rehearsals and performances in 1976.

"It's the Clash telling their story themselves," Ronane said, "with no voiceover and nobody else's commentary."

For fans who were too young to see the band in its heyday, the album is the missing piece of the puzzle, according to 30-year-old David Hudson, the Los Angeles webmaster of the unofficial Clash site "London's Burning — The Clash Music Resource."

"The Clash were a phenomenal live act," Hudson said. "The studio albums are fantastic, but as shown by [the 1980 documentary] 'Rude Boy,' the few live tracks released over the years and the many bootleg recordings, their energy and conviction in concert added another dimension to their material."