Posts Tagged ‘Paul Simonon’

Image result for the clash

Martin Scorsese once described “Janie Jones” by The Clash as the greatest British rock’n’roll song. One of the many wonderful things about that statement, not lost on Clash fans, is that however charged-up-and-ready-to-blow the opening track of the band’s eponymous 1977 debut album is, it’s not even the greatest Clash song; hell, it’s not even the greatest opening track on a Clash album. There’s serious competition for that accolade on each of their studio albums, but the title track of London Calling fights off all comers. Its ringing apocalyptic alarm announced the most extraordinary album of the late Seventies, which, almost unbelievably, was released 40 years ago next month on 14th December. It’s even being celebrated in its own exhibition at the Museum of London.

London Calling landed at the close of an extraordinary year in Britain. In 1979, Margaret Thatcher had won her first Tory majority, ending the era of post-war consensus politics, and replacing it with a no-compromise, anti-protectionist, monetarist regime that would preside over denationalisation and the decimation of Britain’s traditional industries. The class warfare that had simmered below the surface of British society since 1945 would be openly waged by the Thatcher government, which would mobilise the state against its people and let free-market economics do what it would. The echo of its mantra – “a price to be paid” (three million unemployed) – can still be heard today in talk of “short-term pain” (watch this space). In 1977, The Clash had demanded “a riot of our own”; Thatcher was ready to respond with mounted police, truncheons, and the army if necessary. “Where there is discord, may we bring harmony” indeed.

But all that was still to come (as was The Clash’s musical response to it): 1979 was aberrant in other ways. A sitting MP – Airey Neave – was blown up and killed by an Irish republican bomb as he drove out of the Houses of Parliament; another, the former leader of the Liberal Party, Jeremy Thorpe, was on trial for incitement to murder. The Yorkshire Ripper was at large. Sid Vicious, on bail awaiting trial for the murder of his girlfriend Nancy Spungen, died of a heroin overdose. Had punk’s promise come to this?

The Clash, meanwhile, had lost their standing as the movement’s most resolutely anti-commercialistic band when they had Blue Öyster Cult producer Sandy Pearlman drape their second album Give ‘Em Enough Rope in the power-chord sheen of American rock. Whether or not it was an attempt to crack America, it was a long way from “we’re a garage band” and “I’m so bored with the USA”. The band felt “bruised by the experience” and by the criticism they had faced, says filmmaker Don Letts, who documented what happened next in his compelling The Last Testament – The Making of London Calling (2004). Singer Joe Strummer himself said “We’ve had our fill of bullshit, and now we’re back to the drawing board. We’re really f***ed, but I don’t think we’re f***ed enough to quit. We’re way beyond that!”.

“Their backs were against the wall,” says Letts. There was a sense, he adds, that they needed to “hunker down” and redefine what The Clash should sound like. The result was “London Calling” which would prove beyond doubt that trying to sound like a big US rock band was a waste of time, because, in 1979, the greatest rock’n’roll band in the world sounded like The Clash.c

“London Calling” celebrates the romance of rock’n’roll rebellion in grand, epic terms…” wrote Rolling Stone, “…it digs deeply into rock legend, history, politics and myth for its images and themes. Everything has been brought together into a single, vast, stirring story.”

It was a double album: 19 tracks. Not all were classics (does anyone really love “Lover’s Rock” or “Wrong ’em Boyo”?), but almost all demanded to be included. And from track two, the deranged psychobilly cover of Fifties British rock’n’roller Vince Taylor’s “Brand New Cadillac”, it was clear that London Calling wasn’t going to be quite like anything else. By the time you reached the jazz guitar and whistling that leads into track three, “Jimmy Jazz”, all bets were off. That side one ended with the exuberant ska pop of “Rudie Can’t Fail” showed that this wasn’t an album that opened with its one great song; they were just going to keep on coming.

Side two signalled a step change in Strummer’s lyrical concerns. “Spanish Bombs” introduced spotty teenagers across the world to the Spanish Civil War: “The freedom fighters died upon the hill/ They sang the red flag/ They wore the black one”. “Lost in the Supermarket”, sung by guitarist Mick Jones, showcased one of The Clash’s secret weapons, that high, girlish, heartfelt voice of Jones, which mixes ardour with the pang of something lost. It gave The Clash a soulful instrument other punk bands didn’t have. And, ironically, it helped The Clash break America, when it was put to use on “Train in Vain” – not listed on the album, except for where it was scratched on the run-off groove – which had a run at the US Billboard chart.

For Letts, though, the album isn’t about the greatness of individual tracks, though he has a place in his heart for “London Calling” and bassist Paul Simonon’s “The Guns of Brixton”. It’s about the juxtaposition of musical styles from far and wide.

Letts had first come into contact with the band in west London in the mid Seventies, when he noticed two lone skinny white boys [Simonon and Strummer] in a basement reggae club. He recalls thinking it was pretty brave at the time. He recognised them later when they wandered into the clothes shop he ran on the King’s Road in Chelsea, Acme Attractions, but it was his then girlfriend Jeanette Lee – later to join PiL – who first took him to see them play at an out-of-the-way venue in northwest London. The energy of the band on stage was like nothing he had ever seen before.

From then on, their careers would be intertwined. Letts was the DJ at the Roxy in Covent Garden, where The Clash played on New Year’s Day 1977, and was an early chronicler of the band on Super-8. He shot the videos for “White Riot”, “Tommy Gun” and, in 1979, the famous promo for the “London Calling” single (which went to No 11 in the UK).

The album, Letts notes, was a rejection of what other people thought the band should play or sound like, and signalled they were just going to play what they liked, whether that was rock or reggae, pop or blues. This was no three-chord wonder. There was piano, acoustic guitar, many different drum signatures. “They couldn’t have made that album without [drummer] Topper Headon,” says Letts. “He could play anything.”

White shirt and leather jacket worn by The Clash, on display at the Museum of London (The Clash)

In some ways, London Calling was not even the most radical UK album of 1979. The Slits released Cut, PiL’s experimental Metal Box ,The Pop Group set off a post-punk chain reaction with Y, while Joy Division subtly tilted rock on its axis with Unknown Pleasures. London Calling only just made the top 10 albums of the year, at number eight. Meanwhile, in Coventry, the 2-Tone movement was producing multiracial bands that did more than just pay homage to Jamaican music like the punks.

But London Calling had something unique. It was lightning in a bottle. All the shades of The Clash’s music – anger, passion, swagger, political fury, romantic heroism, anguish, dread, hope, innocence, humour and exhilaration – had been caught by producer Guy Stevens. It had street smarts and grandeur. In The Last Testament, Clash guitarist Mick Jones was at pains to point out that the songs had already been written, the arrangements already worked out, during a sustained period of intense writing and rehearsing at Vanilla Studios, behind a garage in Pimlico, before Stevens arrived on the scene. But the producer, a famously erratic alcoholic, whose techniques, as Letts’ film shows, were unconventional to say the least, wanted something more. Smashing chairs, pouring wine over a piano as Strummer played, swinging a ladder violently around his head, Stevens captured the spirit of The Clash. As the band’s former manager Kosmo Vinyl puts it in a quote from the Museum of London exhibition: “Guy Stevens wanted to make a record that sounded like scoring a goal at a Wembley Cup Final.”

The curator of The Clash: London Calling exhibition, Robert Gordon McHarg III, remembers hearing the album as a teenager growing up in Canada. The track that spoke loudest to him then was “Clampdown”, with its anti-establishment, anti-nine-to-five ethos, although these days, he says, he is drawn to “The Card Cheat” from side three. McHarg moved to London in 1983, met Simonon at the Notting Hill Carnival in 1989, and Strummer shortly after. He now looks after the 20,000 items in the Joe Strummer archive, from which treasures such as the original lyrics written for “Ice Age” before it became “London Calling” will be on display, alongside items such as Simonon’s smashed bass from the album cover shot by Pennie Smith. The cover’s graphic design, incidentally, based on Elvis’s debut album from 1956 was the last straw for some punks, who had taken the “no Elvis, Beatles or The Rolling Stones” line from the B-side of “White Riot” to heart.

The photos chosen by designer Ray Lowry for the sheet inside the original sleeve have been blown up so they can be viewed properly for the first time – they were sourced, says McHarg, from the negatives of nearly 40 rolls of film. “Those alone, I think, would make it worth coming to the exhibition,” agrees senior curator Beatrice Behlen. There are 150 artefacts, she tells me, confiding that it was a stipulation that none of the labelling could be construed as bragging, as “The Clash don’t brag”.

A 1979 preliminary sketch by Ray Lowry for the ‘London Calling’ album art, on display at the Museum of London (Samuel Lowry)

The exhibition, McHarg adds, “is a pretty fun experience”, and includes a mixing desk where you can listen to the individual guitar, bass, drum and vocal tracks that make up the songs.

Does he feel that punk became restrictive for the band – and Strummer in particular, who adopted its speech mannerisms and attitude in a way that completely belied his son-of-a-diplomat, boarding-school upbringing, and even his years as a hippie squatter? “I’ve worked so much with Joe’s archives,” he says, “that [I can tell] there was never a change in attitude within his spirit. His sense of integrity was [the same] throughout, whatever music he was into. If you listen to his lyrics throughout his lifetime, he was always a passionate rebel.

I ask Letts if he thinks Strummer, who died in 2002 at the age of 50, had a sense of his own musical legacy and whether he had a favourite album. “Joe was very hard on himself,” he says, softly. “I don’t think he was ever satisfied with anything he’d done.”

The Clash: London Calling, Museum of London, 15th November – 19th April 2020, admission free. The London Calling Scrapbook, released to mark the 40th Anniversary of the album, is available now

81ayql6ugtl. sl1499

4CD digipack set that includes shows from the Palladium New York, 21st Sepetember 1979, the Capitol Theatre, Passaic NJ, 8th March 1980, the Nakano Sun Plaza, 28th January 1982, and the US Festival San Bernadino, 28th May 1983. One of the greatest live bands ever at the peak of their powers. These are live broadcasts from the time so quality is variable.

Disc 1-New York, 1979 Safe European Home I’m So Bored With The U.S.A. Complete Control London Calling (White Man) In Hammersmith Palais Koka Kola I Fought The Law Jail Guitar Doors The Guns Of Brixton English Civil War Clash City Rockers Stay Free Clampdown Police And Thieves Capital Radio Tommy Gun Wrong ‘Em Boyo Janie Jones Garageland Armagideon Time Career Opportunities What’s My Name White Riot

Arguably among the most famous concert in the history of The Clash; the night of the ‘ultimate rock photo’ and cover of London Calling and the source of probably the most widely circulated Clash bootleg from the FM radio broadcast. Critical acclaim following the gig was also significant in pushing further the band’s profile in the US.
WNEW FM recorded the complete concert and this high quality stereo broadcast is the source of all the recordings in circulation. This was the second of the two concerts at the seated and sold out Palladium on New York’s 14th Street.

The 3,800 seater Palladium was an old converted theatre, as ornate as London’s Lyceum but sleazier with drug pushers plying their trade outside.

Disc 2-Passaic NJ, 1980 Clash City Rockers Brand New Cadillac Safe European Home Jimmy Jazz London Calling Guns Of Brixton Train In Vain White Man Koka Kola/I Fought The Law Spanish Bombs Police and Thieves Stay Free Julie’s Been Working For The Drug Squad Wrong ‘Em Boyo Janie Jones Complete Control Armagideon Time English Civil War Garageland Bank Robber Tommy Gun

Disc 3-Tokyo, 1982 London Calling Safe European Home (White Man) In Hammersmith Palais Brand New Cadillac Charlie Don’t Surf Clampdown This is Radio Clash Armagideon Time Jimmy Jazz Tommy Gun Fujiyama Mama (w/ Pearl Harbour) Police On My Back White Riot

Disc 4-San Bernadino, 1983 Somebody Got Murdered Rock The Casbah Guns Of Brixton Know Your Rights Koka Kola Hate & War Armagideon Time The Sound Of Sinners Safe European Home Police On My Back Brand New Cadillac I Fought The Law I’m So Bored With The U.S.A. Train In Vain The Magnificent Seven Straight To Hell Should I Stay Or Should I Go Clampdown

91f vppcbul. sl1500

Bored With The USA

The final concert the Clash played with Mick Jones, and just after Combat Rock had made them into platinum selling world stars. Recorded on 28th May, 1983 at San Bernadino’s US Festival. Tracks include Rock The Casbah, Magnificent 7, I’m So Bored With The USA (you gotta love them!), and plenty more.

The Clash came to a rather sad ending in May 1983. The group had every reason to be on the top of the world by this point: their previous LP, Combat Rock, was an enormous hit and their singles “Rock the Casbah” and “Should I Stay or Should I Go” were all over radio and MTV. But drummer Topper Headon was kicked out of the group for drug abuse in 1982, and Mick Jones and Joe Strummer were barely speaking.

They took a six-month break after the Combat Rock tour ended in November 1982, but a $500,000 offer from Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak to headline New Wave Day of the US Festival proved impossible to turn down. To warm up for the huge festival, the group went on a four-date tour of Texas and Arizona. Founding drummer Terry Chimes (who rejoined the band in 1982 after Headon got the boot) was once again out of the group by this point, so they took out an ad in Melody Maker and recruited 23-year-old Pete Howard.

By the time they got to San Bernardino, California for the festival, they were in complete disarray. Things got worse when they learned fans were paying $25 to attend the show. They had been told previously that prices would be set at $17, and shortly before they went onstage, they held a press conference. The band announced they wouldn’t go on unless Apple gave $100,000 to charity. It was chaos. Some later claimed the real cause of their rage was the knowledge that Van Halen were getting a million dollars for their set.

The band eventually went onstage two hours late and played a sloppy, 80-minute set in front of a banner that read “The Clash Not for Sale.” Joe Strummer taunted the audience from the stage and afterward, the band got into a brawl with security. The group still walked away with a half-million dollars; four months later, they announced that Mick Jones was leaving the group. The chaotic US Festival was his final appearance with the band.

A1pb7dljshl. sl1500

Guns From Brixton

Legendary cable broadcast recorded at the Capitol Theatre, Passaic, NJ on March 8th 1980, and featuring the classic line up of Strummer, Jones, Simonon, Headon. Tracks include London Calling, Guns of Brixton, Police and Thieves, Complete Control etc.

We can be very grateful that this very enjoyable Clash 16 Tons performance is unusually well documented by not only a good audience recording, but an excellent soundboard source too and even complete black and white video recording of the whole show.

This documentary evidence reveals a typically of this tour, super-tight and professional show. Although, inspired in places it does not really catch fire until Clampdown through to the encores. The Clash tired no doubt after their high profile Palladium show the night before (TV crews, New York press and glitterati) needed the feedback of energy from the audience, but that was not going to happen from this all seated venue. The result as can be seen from the video is that The Clash this night are largely on auto-pilot and real inspiration is only there on certain songs.

91pq7jgnvol. sl1500

The Only Band That Matters

Compilation of live broadcast tracks dating from 1977 to 1983. Tracks include all the favourites – White Man, Tommy Gun, Train In Vain, Should I Stay and more.

Screen shot 2019 04 20 at 10.55.29

Radio Clash From Tokyo

Legendary live broadcast from Nakano Sun Plaza, Tokyo recorded on 28th January 1982, and around the time of the release of Sandinista. Tracks include London Calling, White Man, Brand New Cadillac, Armagideon Time, White Riot etc.

The Clash were burning down the Nakano Sun Plaza in Tokyo as part of their Far East tour in early 1982, playing some pre-release versions of songs that would eventually appear on “Combat Rock” three months later. In terms of quality, this set is hit and miss . . . But even in its muddied glory, you can still hear the power and musicianship of the band shining through. You can even sense some remaining rapport between the band members here – probably the last of it, as the band was touring in the midst of the contentious recording of that album. Mick Jones was unhappy with the rest of the band rejecting his Rat Patrol From Fort Bragg mix, and Glyn Johns was about to be brought in at the end of the tour to remix the album in London. Jones was especially pissed at Joe Strummer; their acrimony would lead to Jones leaving the group less than eighteen months later .

Crlvny008lp

White Riots In New York: Broadcast Live From The Palladium, NYC, 1979

The classic line up of The Clash lasted for five years from 1977 to 1982 and featured lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist Joe Strummer, lead guitarist and vocalist Mick Jones, bassist Paul Simonon and drummer Nicky “Topper” HeadonGive ‘Em Enough Rope, the second studio album, was released on 10th November 1978. The album was a huge success and by 1979 The Clash had begun to make serious inroads into the US market.

White Riots in New York City is the legendary Clash broadcast from The Palladium NYC on 21st September 1979. This powerful recording captures The Clash at the peak of their form performing material from Give ‘Em Enough Rope and The Clash and their soon to be released third album, London Calling.

Featuring cover illustrations by Ray Lowry, the official Clash “War Artist”, who toured with The Clash and sketched them on stage and in rehearsal.

The_Clash_-_Combat_Rock

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