Posts Tagged ‘CBS Records’

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On this day in 1977, The Clash dropped their self-titled debut album on CBS Records, and it still stands up as one of punk’s most essential releases. With their speedy and reckless yet musically adept political punk rock, The Clash arguably became the most influential punk band of their era. On their debut LP, frontman Joe Strummer took on uncomfortable topics like class warfare and imperialism, and their gritty songs exuded a frantic rage and the spirit of alienated youth.

Released on 8th April 1977 .Written and recorded over just three weeks in February 1977 for a paltry £4,000, Most of the album was conceived on the 18th floor of a council high rise on London’s Harrow Road, in a flat that was rented by Mick Jones’s grandmother, who frequently went to see their live concerts, it would go on to reach No. 12 on the UK charts, and has been included on many retrospective rankings as one of the greatest punk albums of all time.

Songs on the album were composed by guitarists Joe Strummer and Mick Jones, with the notable exception of the reggae cover “Police and Thieves”. Several songs from these sessions, including “Janie Jones”, “White Riot”, and “London’s Burning” became classics of the punk genre and were among the first punk songs to see significant presence on singles charts. The album featured Jones and Strummer sharing guitar and vocal duties, with Paul Simonon on bass and Terry Chimes on drums. The subject of the opening track, “Janie Jones”, was a famous brothel keeper in London during the 1970s. “Remote Control” was written by Mick Jones after the Anarchy Tour and contains pointed observations about the civic hall bureaucrats who had cancelled concerts, the police, big business and especially record companies.

“Career Opportunities”, the opening track of the second side of the album, attacks the political and economic situation in England at the time, citing the lack of jobs available, and the dreariness and lack of appeal of those that were available.  “Protex Blue”, sung by Mick Jones, is about a 1970s brand of condom. It was inspired by the contraceptive vending machine in the Windsor Castle’s toilets.

The version of “White Riot” featured on the album was not recorded for the album; the original demo (recorded at Beaconsfield Studios before the band signed to CBS) was used instead.

“Police & Thieves” was added to the album when the group realised that the track listing was too short. Another cover the band played at these sessions was The Wailer’s “Dancing Shoes”. “Garageland” was written in response to music critic Charles Shaar Murray’s damning review of the Clash’s early appearance at the Sex Pistols Screen on the Green concert – “The Clash are the kind of garage band who should be returned to the garage immediately, preferably with the engine running”

The Clash’s first official recording was the single for “White Riot”, that was released by CBS Records in March 1977. Then in April, CBS released their self-titled debut album, The Clash, in the United Kingdom, but refused to release it in the United States, saying that the sound was not “radio friendly”. A US version of the album with a modified track listing four songs from the original version were replaced with five non-album singles and B-sides—was released by Epic Records in 1979, after the UK original became the best-selling import album of all time in the United States. Terry Chimes left the band for the second time soon after the recording, so only Joe Strummer, Mick Jones and Paul Simonon were featured on the album’s cover, The album’s front cover photo, shot by Kate Simon, was taken in the alleyway directly opposite the front door of the band’s ‘Rehearsal Rehearsals’ building in Camden Market. Chimes was credited as “Tory Crimes”.

In the same month, the band also released an EP single, Capital Radio, which was given away to NMEs readers. In May, CBS released the single “Remote Control” without asking them first, and, in September, “Complete Control, produced by Lee “Scratch” Perry, was Topper Headon’s first recording with the band.

The Rock Machine Turns You On was the first bargain priced sampler album. It was released in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa, The Netherlands, Germany and a number of other European countries in 1968 as part of an international marketing campaign by Columbia Records, who were known in Europe, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa as CBS.

A 1969 dated edition ( Number ASF 1356) bought in South Africa had a different sleeve (yellow with cut outs in the Rock Machine boxes) and psychedelic multicoloured vinyl. It also has a completely different track list with such notable tracks as Big Brother and the Holding Company’s ‘Piece of my Heart’ and Leonard Cohen’s ‘Suzanne’.

The Rock Machine marketing campaign was initiated in the US in January 1968, by Columbia Records under its president Clive Davis. The campaign was seen as a means of promoting its expanding roster of rock and folk rock acts, who included Bob Dylan, The Byrds, Simon and Garfunkel, Leonard Cohen, Moby Grape, Spirit, Taj Mahal, and Blood, Sweat and Tears. Early promotional material in Billboard magazine stated:

The Rock’s the happening sounds of today. Out of it comes the biggest, hottest rock list that ever started off any month. And with our Columbia Rock Machine, the most exciting and meaningful merchandising campaign we’ve ever devised….. It’s all here – the talent, the product and the big concept to make it all happen. Now, doesn’t that turn you on?”

The design of the “Rock Machine” logo, used in subsequent publicity material, including album covers, was by Milton Glaser

As part of its highly successful campaign, CBS Records released The Rock Machine Turns You On, the first budget sampler LP,  in the UK in 1968. The album was priced at 14 shillings and 11 pence (£0.75), less than half the cost of a full priced LP at the time. It entered the UK Albums Chart in June 1969, several months after its first release, rising to no. 18, and was estimated to have sold over 140,000 copies. 

Side 1

  1. “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight” – Bob Dylan – from the LP John Wesley Harding
  2. “Can’t Be So Bad” – Moby Grape – from the LP Wow
  3. “Fresh Garbage” – Spirit – from the LP Spirit
  4. “I Won’t Leave My Wooden Wife For You, Sugar” – The United States of America – from the LP The United States of America
  5. “Time of the Season” – The Zombies – from the LP Odessey and Oracle
  6. “Turn on a Friend” – The Peanut Butter Conspiracy – from the LP The Great Conspiracy
  7. “Sisters of Mercy” – Leonard Cohen – from the LP The Songs of Leonard Cohen

Side 2

  1. “My Days Are Numbered” – Blood, Sweat and Tears – from the LP Child Is Father to the Man
  2. “Dolphins Smile” – The Byrds – from the LP The Notorious Byrd Brothers
  3. “Scarborough Fair / Canticle” – Simon and Garfunkel – from the LP Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme
  4. “Statesboro Blues” – Taj Mahal – from the LP Taj Mahal
  5. “Killing Floor” – The Electric Flag – from the LP A Long Time Comin’
  6. “Nobody’s Got Any Money In The Summer” – Roy Harper – from the LP Come Out Fighting Ghengis Smith
  7. “Come Away Melinda” – Tim Rose – from the LP Tim Rose
  8. “Flames” – Elmer Gantry’s Velvet Opera – from the LP Elmer Gantry’s Velvet Opera

The Rock Machine Turns You On influenced a generation of music fans , At the time, what was then called “underground music” was starting to achieve some commercial success in Europe, bolstered by new radio and TV programmes such as John Peel’s “Top Gear”. CBS competed actively for this new market against other “progressive” labels such as Elektra, Island, Immediate, and the EMI subsidiary Harvest, who followed with similar samplers of their acts. Although some of the featured artists were already stars, others such as Leonard Cohen and Spirit were only starting to become known in Europe, and the album made a major contribution to their success.

CBS released a second, similar, sampler album in the UK in 1968, Rock Machine I Love You. The company followed up these LPs in 1970 with three double sampler albums – Fill Your Head with Rock, Rockbuster,  and Together!.

Some years later, the affiliated company, Epic Records, used a similar format for The Rock Machine Still Turns You On, Vols. 1 and 2, in 1983

The importance of this unassuming album can’t be overstated. It was the first rock sampler album I ever saw or heard, and almost certainly the first such ever released here in the UK. It was in fact the first time I saw the actual term “rock” used to describe the music at all; previously the successive labels “underground” and “progressive” had been coined to cover the diverging (from “pop”) stream of album-based, art-for-art’s-sake music that had started with Dylan and Hendrix. It was the new music’s first budget release; at a time when the standard price of an album was 32/6 (about £1.63), this cost 14/6 (about 73p), just within the average teenager’s weekly pocket-money allocation. And it would spawn a whole new sub-genre of record releases peculiar to, and essential to, progressive rock: the cult of the sampler.

What came over then, and still impresses today, is the sheer quality of this dip into the CBS catalogue of 1969. Each track can be seen to have been carefully cherrypicked from its parent album, no sample being so leftfield as to frighten off the listener, though nobody venturing further into any of the represented albums would have been disappointed. Yet the overall diversity of the collection is astonishing, both in terms of styles and artists, in a way befitting progressive music. Practitioners of jazz-rock, country-rock, folk-rock, blues-rock, psychedelia and simple honest weirdness are all represented, whilst the acts featured include established big-hitters (Dylan, the Byrds, Simon & Garfunkel), contemporary heroes whose days were numbered (the Zombies, Moby Grape, the Peanut Butter Conspiracy, Tim Rose), newcomers who would fall at the first hurdle (the United States Of America, the Electric Flag, Elmer Gantry’s Velvet Opera) and up-and-coming artists who would go on to found dynasties (Leonard Cohen, Spirit, Blood Sweat & Tears, Roy Harper, Taj Mahal).

Two tracks above all left their mark on me. The Electric Flag’s “Killing Floor” induced me to purchase their album straightaway; this powerful number remains my favourite blues-rock AND jazz-rock performance of all time, with Mike Bloomfield on cloud nine and brass work to die for, the standout track from a solid album. By contrast, despite taking a perverse delight in “I Won’t Leave My Wooden Wife For You, Sugar” I somehow didn’t get round to buying the United States Of America’s only album until 2008, when a book review of it re-aroused my interest. This erotically engaging ditty with its homely brass band coda merely hints at the trippy weirdness of its fellow tracks – one to grow into over forty years, now to become a classic .

A steady stream of samplers followed as prog-rock blossomed, including the best of the lot: CBS’s double from 1970, Fill Your Head With Rock. Samplers were considered disposable, and originals are now quite rare and collectable (sadly, I disposed of all mine many years ago when thinning the collection). Whilst retrospectively compiled anthologies covering the whole life of a label are nowadays commonplace, original samplers with their snapshot of a moment in prog-rock’s history are not. The Rock Machine Turns You On is the only sampler ever to be reissued on CD in its original form – and that sadly minus Simon & Garfunkel’s “Scarborough Fair / Canticle”, probably due to some momentary petulance on Paul Simon’s part. It came out in 1996 and is now a rarity in its own right, never having been re-released. Sony could do a lot worse than reissue The Rock Machine Turns You On and Fill Your Head With Rock in their original forms, although licencing problems mean they probably won’t.

Various Artists (Label Samplers) Fill Your Head With Rock album cover

“Fill Your Head with Rock” (1970) was the third release in the successful CBS Records “Rock Machine UK budget sampler album series. It broke new ground, by extending the format to a double album, and also featured far more UK artists than previous samplers.

Compiler David Howell  stated that while the earlier samplers were merely aimed at promoting specific full-price releases, this record was part of a major push to establish the label as “the top label in contemporary music” in the UK, and also to establish the market for double albums

For once a sampler album cover showed the featured artists, and even provided a key for identification. Laura Nyro can be seen at the top left, Taj Mahal next to her, and Al Kooper & Leonard Cohen at the top right. Four of the artists are not shown: Moondog, Amory Kane, Black Widow and Skin Alley. The front cover features Jerry Goodman of The Flock.


“Listen” (R. Lamm) : Chicago (from the LP Chicago 66221)[3] (3:22) “Savour”[4] (Santana) : Santana (from the LP Santana 63815) (2:46) “Give A Life, Take A Life” (California/Adler) : Spirit (from the LP Clear 63729) (3:47) “Passing Through” (K. White) : Steamhammer (from the LP Steamhammer[5] 63694) (5:17) “Smiling Phases” (S. Winwood-J. Capaldi-C. Wood) : Blood, Sweat and Tears (from the LP Blood, Sweat & Tears 63504) (5:10) Side Two “Tired of Waiting” (Flock[6]) : Flock (from the LP Flock 63733) (4:35)[7] “Come To The Sabbat” (Clive Jones-Jim Gannon) : Black Widow (from the LP Sacrifice 63948) (4:55) “Dance In The Smoke” (R. Argent-C. White) : Argent (from the LP Argent 63781) (6:10) “Gunga Din” (G. Parsons) : The Byrds (from the LP Ballad of Easy Rider 63795) (3:02) “Living In Sin” (James) : Skin Alley (from the LP Skin Alley 63847) (4:35) Side Three “Gibsom Street” (L. Nyro) : Laura Nyro (from the LP New York Tendaberry 63410) (4:30) “You Know Who I Am” (L. Cohen) : Leonard Cohen (from the LP Songs from a Room 63587) (3:22) “Stamping Ground”[8] (L. Hardin) : Moondog (from the LP Moondog 63906) (2:36) “The Inbetween Man”[9] (A. Kane) : Amory Kane (from the LP The Inbetween Man 63849) (5:22) “The Garden of Jane Delawney” (T. Boswell[10]) : Trees (from the LP The Garden of Jane Delawney 63837) (4:05) “A Small Fruit Song” (Al Stewart) : Al Stewart (from the LP Zero She Flies 63848) (2:00) “Driving Wheel” (T. Rush[11]) : Tom Rush (from the LP Tom Rush 63940) (5:22) Side Four “Try (Just A Little Bit Harder)” (J. Ragavoy-C. Taylor) : Janis Joplin (from the LP I Got Dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues Again Mama!) (4:13) “One Room Country Shack” (Mercy Dee Walton) : Al Kooper (from the LP Kooper Session 63797) (3:35) “Six Days On The Road” (C. Montgomery-E.Greene) : Taj Mahal (from the LP Take A Giant Step 66226) (2:55) “Don’t Think About It Baby” (M. Bloomfield) : Mike Bloomfield (from the LP It’s Not Killing Me 63652) (3:34) “Bluesbuster” (C. Allen) : Pacific Gas & Electric (from the LP Pacific Gas and Electric 63822) (2:56) “I Love Everybody” (J. Winter) : Johnny Winter (from the LP Second Winter) (3:50)

The Clash’s first album came out in 1977, the same year the Sex Pistols historic album “Never Mind The Bollocks”  debuted — though the Clash self-titled LP was delayed two years in the U.S., where it was given a revised track listing and a release after their second album came out in the States.

It was an exciting time for rock ‘n’ roll. The politically potent and emotionally charged songs on The Clash represented a new era. “No Elvis Beatles or the Rolling Stones” as one of their songs memorably declared.

On this day (April. 8th) in 1977: The Clash released their debut, self-titled LP on CBS Records in the UK (& a thousand new punk bands were born!); it reached number 12 on the UK albums chart, but would not be released in the US until 1979 (with a modified track listing); the album’s front cover photo, shot by Kate Simon, was taken in the alleyway directly opposite the front door of the band’s ‘Rehearsal Rehearsals’ building in Camden Market; drummer Terry Chimes did not appear in the picture as he had already decided to leave the group – he was credited as ‘Tory Crimes’ on the sleeve…Recorded between three weekend sessions 10th-27th February at the CBS studios 3 in London and the National Film School studios in Beaconsfield, By the third of these sessions the album was recorded and mixed to completion, with the tapes being delivered to CBS at the start of March. It cost £4000 to produce.

The subject of the opening track, Janie Jones, was a famous brothel owner in London during the 1970s. Remote Control was written by Mick Jones  after the Anarchy Tour and contains pointed observations about the civic hall bureaucrats who had cancelled concerts, the police, big business and especially record companies. CBS decided to release the song as a single without consulting the band. I’m So Bored with the USA, developed from a Mick Jones song, entitled “I’m So Bored with You”, condemns the Americanization of the UK. White Riot was The Clash debut single. The song is short and intense, punk style of two chords played very fast (5 chords in total song). Lyrically, it is about class economics and race. Career Opportunities, the opening track of the second side of the album, attacks the political and economic situation in England at the time, citing the lack of jobs available, and the dreariness and lack of appeal of those that were available.

“Protex Blue”, sung by Mick Jones, is about a 1970s brand of condom. It was inspired by the contraceptive vending machine found in Windsor Castle toilets. The song ends with the shouted phrase “Johnny Johnny!”, “johnny” being a British slang term for a condom.


The version of “White Riot” featured on here was not recorded for the album. Instead, they used the original demo version, recorded at Beaconsfield Studios before the band signed to CBS.

Junior Murvin’s Police & Thieves was added to the album when the group realised that the track listing was too short. Another cover the band played at these sessions was Bob Marley’s “Dancing Shoes”. Garageland was written in response to NME writer Charles Shaar Murray’s damning review of a Clash early appearance at the Sex Pistols Screen on the Green concert – “The Clash are the kind of garage band who should be returned to the garage immediately, preferably with the engine running”It was the final track recorded for the album.


Janie Jones
Remote Control
I’m So Bored with the U.S.A.
White Riot
Hate & War
What’s My Name
London’s Burning
Career Opportunities
Protex Blue
Police & Thieves
48 hours

Released in May 1982, “Combat Rock” is The Clash’s fifth studio album, their best selling album and the last to include guitarist/vocalist Mick Jones and drummer Topper Headon. It was indeed their most polarizing work to date, within the band and among their fan base. I remember hearing hardcore Clash devotees refer to “Combat Rock” as their sell out album. They could not have been more wrong.

The album displayed The Clash as a band that made impassioned statements about the times we were living in and how we got there. With this album, they somehow managed to limit the amount of anarchy and chaos pouring out of your speakers without compromising their message. The Clash toned down the excesses of their previous release Sandinista (1980), a three album opus that vacillated between brilliance and a muddled mess. They hired veteran producer Glyn Johns to produce the album, his steady hand and experience leading them to cut “Combat Rock” down from a double album called Rat Patrol from Fort Bragg to a single album.

After two albums of increasing ambition (the two-LP ‘London Calling‘ was followed by the triple ‘Sandinista!’), and a two-year recording break, the Clash’s classic line-up returned with their final album, a lean, song-centered effort. ‘Combat Rock’ which made them MTV stars, thanks to the hit singles “Rock the Casbah” and “Should I Stay or Should I Go.” But the album goes deeper than that, finding inspiration in some new corners, despite the increasing tensions among band members during recording. This was the last hurrah for guitarist Mick Jones and drummer Topper Headon … and the Clash. 

It was the fifth studio album from the Clash and the penultimate album, Released on CBS records in May 1972 and spent 61 weeks in the charts, recorded at Ear Studios in London between September 1971 and january 1972 and Electric Lady studios in New York, originally planned as a double album with a working title of “Rat Patrol from Fort Bragg” with mixing done by Mick Jones the band were dissatisfied with the result and internal wrangling within the band bought in Glyn Johns and reduced the running order to a single album major tracks were Should I Stay , Should I Go, Straight To Hell and Rock the Casbah, during promotion for the album Joe Strummer sported a Travis Bickle Mohican haircut.

The Clash were never shy about making political statements and “Rock the Casbah” is no exception. It was intended to be a song about the banning of rock music by Muslim fundamentalists in Iran, but like all really cool things, it got co-opted by people who completely missed the message. “You know the U.S. military played this song in the first Gulf War to the troops and now are using it again as they prepare for war,” Strummer shared “this is just typical and despicable.” Also, in 2006, “Rock the Casbah” was named one of the 50 Greatest Conservative Rock Songs by the National Review.

The biggest triumph of Combat Rock was that The Clash were able to sell tons of records with an album that was complex and more different than anything else on the charts at the time.

Combat Rock is so much more than just “Should I Stay or Should I Go” and “Rock the Casbah.” The band were big fans of the movie Apocalypse Now and they had a great fascination with the Vietnam War. As a result, several of the album’s songs are meditations on the war and its impact on society. “Straight to Hell” tells the story of Vietnamese women and their children whose fathers were American soldiers who eventually abandoned them. “Sean Flynn” is another Vietnam-themed tale about the son of actor Errol Flynn who was a photojournalist who disappeared in 1970 while in Vietnam.

The Clash spent much of 1981 and some of 1982 in New York and many of the songs on Combat Rock have a very distinct New York influence and feel to them. One of these songs is “Red Angel Dragnet,” a tune that was inspired by the shooting death of Frank Melvin, a member of the Guardian Angels. The song incorporates quotes from Martin Scorcese’s Taxi Driver with The Clash’s longtime associate and sometimes manager Kosmo Vinyl imitating the voice of the movie’s main character, Travis Bickle.

“Overpowered By Funk” is a song that illustrates the heavy influence that hip-hop (then referred to as rap) had on the band. Joe Strummer recalled in 2002, “When we came to the U.S., Mick stumbled upon a music shop in Brooklyn that carried the music of Grand Master Flash and the Furious Five, the Sugar Hill Gang…these groups were radically changing music and they changed everything for us.” The song features a rap vocal by legendary graffiti artist Futura 2000. It captured the mood and feel of New York City in 1982 and it gave us a glimpse into Jones’ musical future with his band Big Audio Dynamite. The dark side of New York is on display in “Ghetto Defendant,” a reggae dub track featuring Beat poet Allen Ginsberg. It’s an ominous tale about heroin addiction and despair. Ironically, it was heroin addiction that forced the band to fire drummer Topper Headon after the album’s release.

The various styles of music on Combat Rock were emblematic of the drifting apart of Strummer and Jones. “Know Your Rights” is Joe Strummer personified and one hell of a way to kick off an album. The song exemplified the direction he wanted the band to go. Strummer thought they needed to get back closer to their punk roots. The stylistic tug of war on Combat Rock works with the heavy subject matter. Unbeknownst to us at the time, it was the last great statement from The Clash as we knew them. When the Combat Rock tour ended, Strummer and the band’s manager Bernie Rhodes forced Jones out of the band. Strummer confided in 2002, “I committed one of the greatest mistakes of my life with the sacking of Mick.”

Combat Rock’s legacy lives on years after its initial release, with the most notable example being “Straight to Hell”, which was sampled in M.I.A’s 2007 song “Paper Planes.” Combat Rock may be one of the most misunderstood albums of all time. The band’s hardcore fans wanted more of what “London Calling” was and The Clash wanted to grow and explore. In the long run, I think we were the better for it.

The Band were Joe Strummer, Mick Jones, Topper Headon and Paul Simonon,