‘Our Lives in a Museum….’

I remember with fondness the many trips I was taken on as a boy to the various museums in London. Mostly I left each one with an effusive wildly excited mind-set, having been thrilled by the spectacle of dinosaurs, fighter planes, or stars and planets. But one museum that always left me with a slightly hollow feeling was the Victoria and Albert War Museum. There was no shortage of uniforms, rifles, hand grenades and memorabilia on display but hidden behind the glass cases, untouchable and silent, none of it seemed to convey the sense of loss, pain, and futility that is war. It was all made into something  quite prosaic and ordinary. Being a child, I was unable to grasp why the museum always left me quite so underwhelmed.IMAG0186

So it was with a similar emptiness that I felt a distinct lack of interactivity when I visited the Clash popup store on September 21st in Berwick Street. Together with Alex Michon we stared at the lifeless exhibits shuttered behind glass cases, feeling nether vibrancy or energy emanating from the items on display. It was all there – the shirts hung daintily on hangers, the guitars standing in their glass cases, letters, postcards, drumsticks. But given the available technology today and endless possibilities for audience engagement, the store had an almost lackadaisical feel about it – like someone had been hired who had done a thousand of these things and had thrown it together…. quite derivative and hackneyed, just

Don't try to pick that up Baker!

Don’t try to pick that up Baker!

another day at the office.

Even the visitors seemed to be hushed on that afternoon while we were there, like they were in a church or a library. Nobody laughed, nobody talked to strangers. As on NYC sidewalks, eye contact seemed forbidden. It was a reverent but unfriendly atmosphere.

And it was so fucking hot! I almost passed out (or maybe that was the store’s attempt to convey the heat of the Bond’s shows….)

1209304_10151870699645956_168618230_n

Alex and I take time for a spot of tiffin….

For both of us, we already expected that the store may have carried a personal melancholic feeling. But for the visitors, I would have expected more of a ‘Clash’ experience with spontaneity and vibrant ideas. Right off the bat, I thought, “How about a karaoke stage where anyone could have got up and did his/her best interpretation of the ‘electric leg’, the ‘Townsend highkick’, or the ‘Simmo growl.'” Using interactive technology, there’s no reason

A piece of Joe.

A piece of Joe.

why this couldn’t even have been fed live onto the Clash’s own website giving the store a worldwide audience. A quiz could also have been made available at the door with the highest score so far being displayed, and a special prize awarded for the day/week. Given another hour we could have come up with a dozen or more ideas.

IMAG0175In short, there was not a lot of fun and things felt very flat to me. Music is a rewarding subject for a museum/store, especially popular music. I was hoping the event would manage to turn the interest and enthusiasm for the band into something more profound: involvement and engagement, with visitors walking in, and dancing out. I can only hope that the NYC popup store will make more of a creative and imaginative effort for a band that deserves so much more.

As Alex so appropriately wrote in the visitor’s book…..”Our Lives In A Museum….”

The visitor's book.

The visitor’s book.

The Baker.

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24 thoughts on “‘Our Lives in a Museum….’

  1. Banksy

    Thanks for your comment and opinion Baker, however it may be your life in a museum, but for one clash fan, it was the closest I ever got to what remains in the physical exhibition form and not the aural form of the music. I valued the pop up shop for the opportunity it presented, I found the atmosphere great and friendly, lots of chat and banter with the staff.
    For the only band that matters, I thank you.

    Reply
    1. thebaker77 Post author

      Yes Banksy, I was only there on one day, for an hour or two, so the other days could have been entirely diferent. Again is the world better or worse for the pop-up store to have been there…..infinitely better of course!

      Reply
  2. Andy

    I would like to go if/when it does come to NYC, even though I don’t care to go into the city.

    But, regarding a karaoke stage: it might be tempting for those of us (everyone?) who likes to sing along, but I’m not sure I want to hear the results. 🙂

    Reply
  3. Vaughn Martinian

    There isn’t much in Manhattan that resembles the time the Clash were here. The Palladium is long gone. Time Square is not the same, but I would welcome the Pop-Up shop. Here’s hoping we get a chance to view it.

    Reply
  4. jennylens

    Brilliant ideas, a few are being utilized in some museums and events. I often dreamt of multiple slide projectors to display my punk pix at events … and that was during the 70’s. Few ppl envision what could be. Must be many skilled techies and artists who would have gladly volunteered to create this, working hand-in-hand with those who created the store.

    For something like this, I would have lent photos to be part of a mass mural. Imagine gathering photos and plastering the walls and ceiling! They had posters, but cover every inch, just bombard the senses with visuals. Inexpensive inkjet prints, stapled on the wall or a wallboard of some kind, so not to damage real walls. I see so many ah-some pix online. Some are licensed to Corbis, Getty, etc, which incur fees. I’m sure many like myself would send digital files to embellish the walls. And ceiling. I can just imagine that!

    I too felt an emptiness from the various blog/Facebook posts and photos I’ve seen online. Conveying what it was like to see, work with, photograph, dance and experience the only band that mattered is not easy. Of course for some, seeing the authentic gear, clothes, etc is exciting. But indeed, this was a lost op to kick it up a notch by utilizing the great technology we have today.

    It seems that as much as we can do, so few are fulling integrating art and experiences with the many various tech programs and platforms out there. I see the same ol, same ol. YOU are spot on, as always.

    (As for it being hot, I hate that! So difficult to stick a big fan in there? Imagine if it were crowded. But you were dressed rather formally. Smiling, cos I can envision you in my photos, wearing short sleeve shirts minus jacket, onstage or at Topper’s side. My best to you and yours.)

    Reply
  5. Hassan

    Another great entry into the Blog. I was also there that day, and my daughter took that photo of The Baker and Alex, Its piqued her interest in the Clash somewhat, Especially after I explained to her who the two people in the photo were. I agree about the heat, It was extremely hot downstairs. As for the display, It was unlike Micks’s rock ‘n’ roll museum, Where you could pick up and play one of he’s old guitars, Or flick through a copy of sniffing glue (original, at that) without any problem, It was very much an interactive event, Perhaps echoing Mick’s own take on life. The pop up shop being more of a promotional event was still well worth a visit. And to top it off, we got to meet & chat to the Baker & Alex, Now that made my our day.
    On a side note, Please contact me Barry, If you want me to send on the rest of the photos, Take care Until next time. Peace & Love.

    Reply
    1. thebaker77 Post author

      You echo my own thoughts exactly Hassan. Although I never attended Mick Jones’ Rock And Roll Library, I had heard from others that it was so much more personable, accessible, and interactive. History cannot come alive behind glass cases or locked away behind barriers. But then, Sony are only there to make money while disregarding the very consumers that give them their huge corporate profits each year. And like the globalist economy we live in today, they just don’t understand, “Without people, you’re nothing….!”

      Alex and I were so glad that you and your daughter came up to us and introduced yourselves. In many ways, you also made our day with your gracious comments about the effect the band had on your life. When we hear comments like that it vindicates our participation in what up until now, has still been the most singularly humanistic outreach to the downtrodden, dispossessed, and impoverished with a message of courage, motivation, and hope.

      The Baker.

      Reply
  6. Pingback: Back in the saddle again | The Clash Blog

  7. Wonky Drummer

    Thanks for another great post Baker – intelligent and thought provoking. I’m really enjoying your blog. I wasn’t able to get to the shop, but really enjoyed the virtual tour linked to it from the Clash Blog. As a fan I wonder if perhaps your experience is coloured because you know the real people involved. Inevitably the displays can’t reflect the vibrancy of real people. But for someone like me, who doesn’t know the real people, the shop’s displays compliment the vibrancy I gain from their creativity – i.e. listening to their music!!

    Reply
    1. thebaker77 Post author

      Thanks for the input Dan….you are probably right and ultimately when all is said and done, if anyone derived connectivity with the music and their own personal experience of the band was enhanced, that was a very good thing. If I can draw one parallel concept – it’s probably the same with tribute bands (be it Elvis, Beatles, or The Clash), if you saw the real thing back in the day, you might be derisive of a tribute band. But if that is the closest you can ever get to the real thing then I can see how they would serve a real honest need.

      Of course we all have our own viewpoint and whether it be politics, music, sport or personal, one has to call it as one sees it.

      Thanks again for taking the time to post, feedback is the lifeblood of a blog.

      The Baker.

      Reply
  8. Billy Anderson

    Out off all the Clash Family I think you should write a book you were a big part of the story and I have always wondered how you felt about things that happend within the only band that mattered

    Reply
    1. thebaker77 Post author

      Thank you for the generous words Billy – they are both heartwarming and well appreciated. The true story would be a hard one to tell honestly. As Joe once said, “In the history of The Clash, there weren’t many honourable individuals.” (or words to that effect)….and indeed the record is littered with victims and villains. But one never knows-

      The Baker.

      Reply
      1. jennylens

        Wow, methinks you and Joe are being a bit hard on yrselves. Victims and villains? So where in mankind’s history are those without any errors or omissions? We focus on all the great shows, songs, music, memories and how many influenced/inspired by what the Clash their team accomplished! Art isn’t easy. There were so many against what the Clash were doing, even their record company and much of the press. Depending upon POV, some ppl like Bernie, weren’t always on their side. It’s called being human.

        You know how I feel about you writing a book. Just let it flow. Don’t be judgmental nor censor yourself. You’ve got insights no one else has… to share your memories, talk about golden. Do it for us. As I’ve written, it’s healing. For all. But of course, you will do what you wanna do. We gotta respect that. But it won’t stop many thousands wishing you’d write a book.

      2. Billy Anderson

        Thanks for taking time to reply you and I both know that the Clash were more than a band it was and still is a way of life if you flnd yourself in Glasgow look me up it would be a honour to share a beer or two

      3. thebaker77 Post author

        My pleasure Billy,I’m betting I wouldn’t recognise Sauchiehall Street nowadays. If you look on my fb page you’ll see a header photo that you might remember…..

        The Baker.

  9. Dillinger

    This is late to come to this; but I know what you mean about all the glass cases. But it is also special for those of us who are a step or two removed from it all.

    I took my little boy (named Joe – guess who he’s named after?). I said to him; “let’s go in there it might be interesting” and he brilliantly, for a 5 year old, said; “Anything you think will be interesting will be rubbish daddy”. Ha!. Obviously, I scowled and thought ‘Punk Rock!’. Being 5 he was happy to sit on all the flight cases, try and take the cereal boxes and see if he could find out what was behind posters and the like; it was great. I have a picture of him sitting on a flight case which reminds me of the Penny Smith one of you…

    I guess you don’t need to read the histories when you lived it; for the rest of us though it really helps, it matters because the band mattered.

    Thanks

    Al

    Reply

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