The Clash

London, UK
Artist / Band / Musician
SONY BMG/ Legacy Recordings
The Clash at Shea Stadium - with interview

The members of the Clash were drawn together in 1976, at which point 'the insurgent spirit of '60s rock was well and truly dead,' as Gilbert writes. The explosion of the punk scene in England that year gave rise to a rash of bands, 'who channeled the anger and frustration on the streets of gloomy mid-'70s Britain into a new kind of cauterising, anti-establishment rock 'n roll.' The first indictments served by the Clash came in the form of their debut single (on CBS Records/U.K.), 'White Riot,' issued March 1977, inspired by Strummer and Simonon's attendance at the riot during that year's Notting Hill Carnival, London's annual Afro-Caribbean Festival.

'White Riot' set the pattern for the Clash - biting, politically charged lyrics underpinned by a musical bed that owed as much of a debt to the minimalist garage-punk ethic of the Stooges and MC5 as it did to Lee Perry and London's transplanted ska and reggae roots rockers. This sound that dominated their self-titled British debut LP of early, 1977, The Clash ('White Riot,' 'London's Burning,'''I'm So Bored With the U.S.A.,' 'Career Opportunities,' 'Hate & War,''Cheat,' 'Janie Jones,' ''Garageland,' and the cover of Junior Murvin's 'Police & Thieves'). Recorded over the course of three weeks, the LP quickly reached 12 on the U.K. national chart. The Clash was established as a headline act in Great Britain and Europe from their very first tours.

True to British form, the Clash began recording and releasing new non-LP singles in mid-'77. Meanwhile, the debut LP had gone unreleased in America where import sales reportedly topped 100,000 units, making it the best-selling import in history. When Epic/U.S. finally released the album later in 1978, it was resequenced, various tracks were deleted, and several (though not all) of the post-LP U.K. single sides were added, notably Jamaican Lee Perry's one-off production of 'Complete Control,' a cover of the Bobby Fuller Four's 'I Fought the Law,' and the most recent U.K. 45s, the infectious 'Clash City Rockers' and blistering '(White Man) In Hammersmith Palais.'

With an eye and ear cast on America, the Clash was hooked up with producer Sandy Pearlman (of Blue Oyster Cult renown) who worked with his new assignees in London, San Francisco and New York. Give 'Em Enough Rope, issued worldwide (in one version) in November 1978, showed a tougher rock sound. Strummer found an intellectual peer in Pearlman and the band's scope broadened to tackle (in Gilbert's words) 'international terrorism, murderous political regimes, and visions of an imminent English Civil War ('English Civil War,' 'Tommy Gun,' 'Safe European Home,' 'Julie's Been Working For the Drug Squad,' 'Stay Free').

The Americanization of the Clash may have been evident when they invited Bo Diddley along as opening act on their first U.S. tour in early '79. But it reached a peak of sorts with their third album, London Calling, released at the end of the year, produced by Guy Stevens, known for his work with Mott the Hoople. The ambitious double-LP set incorporated rockabilly, soul and R&B, even a taste of jazz ('London Calling,' 'The Guns of Brixton,' 'Clampdown,' 'Rudie Can't Fail,'''Lost In the Supermarket,' 'Jimmy Jazz,' 'Train In Vain'). The Clash's first platinum album would earn Rolling Stone's endorsement years later as 'the greatest album of the '80s.'

In order to accommodate the prolific outpouring of songs from Strummer and Jones, the even-more ambitious triple-LP Sandinista! was issued in late 1980 ('The Magnificent Seven,' 'Ivan Meets G.I. Joe,' 'Police On My Back,' 'Street Parade'). The Clash had become traffic-stopping front-page news by then, whose albums were paced with a flow of non-LP single sides and 10-inch EPs. A number of these sides ('Bankrobber,' 'Stop the World,' 'This Is Radio Clash') would take a decade or more to show up on full-fledged album collections.

The machinations of the rock life caught up with the Clash in 1982, not long after the May 1982 release of their fifth album Combat Rock ('Ghetto Defendant,' 'Rock the Casbah,' 'Straight To Hell,' 'Should I Stay Or Should I Go?'). Ironically, the album gave the Clash its first real Top 10 hit and, at the dawning of MTV, a visual cue as well. 'Rock the Casbah,' though co-written by Headon, could not avert his ouster from the band. A year later, Strummer and Simonon decided it was time for Jones to depart as well (he resurfaced on Columbia in 1985 with Big Audio Dynamite).

The Clash forged on with one last album, Cut The Crap ('This Is England'), but their legend endured with collections and anthologies that wrapped up many loose ends - demos, live recordings, outtakes, non-album single and EP sides and so on - well into the '90s and beyond.

This musical accompaniment to director Julian Temple's biopic of the late Joe Strummer obliterates the traditional soundtrack formula, turning the whole listening experience into an 80-minute radio show, hosted by the inimitable singer/producer/punk rock icon himself. Strummer, a lifelong devotee to the power of radio (he would often bring a transistor on-stage, hold it up to the microphone, and religiously tune in whatever beat-heavy, underground station popped up first), had his own program on the BBC that revolved around his myriad influences and notorious gift for gab. Like Little Steven's Underground Garage program, the music was steeped in its creator's psyche, with old and new favorites inciting rants, raves, and stories that were just as entertaining as the songs themselves. Strummer, a die-hard supporter of world music, filled the airwaves with as many dub, Latin, urban folk, and Middle Eastern dance tracks as he did rare Clash cuts and tracks from rock & roll outsiders like Tim Hardin, the MC5, and Nina Simone, a discipline that's executed perfectly on this lovingly compiled window into the soul of one of popular culture's most inclusive and influential voices.

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The Clash Live: Revolution Rock DVD follows the live transformation of the band, incorporating footage from all phases of The Clash's meteoric career, beginning with live-in-the-studio clips from 1979, through triumphant concerts from clubland (London's The Music Machine, 1978) and theatres (The Lyceum, 1978, 1980), climaxing with a transcendent blow-out performance at New York's Shea Stadium in 1982. The DVD also includes rare footage of the band's performance on The Tom Snyder Show and on ABC's Fridays.

The Clash Live: Revolution Rock DVD Available now at Amazon


Don J Whistance's The Clash Site: For archive Clash concert footage, classic photos, and more!

Blackmarketclash: The complete Clash tour site, Blackmarketclash lists all known Clash gigs with performance reviews, info and gig notes!

Strummervile: The Joe Strummer Foundation for New Music: "Following Joe Strummer's untimely passing, his family and friends have launched Strummerville a charitable foundation for the production of new music. The main aim of Strummerville is to provide rehearsal space and studio time to individuals, groups and organizations to enable the production of music by creative young people who would otherwise be preventing from doing so simply because they lack the necessary funds. Our ultimate aim is to have 'Strummerville' studios in key locations around the world.

The Clash's Official Website

The Clash at Legacy Recordings

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