Wednesday, June 27, 2007

All The Young Punks: The Story of The Clash Part One...Show #151

The Clash started out in 1976 with members Joe Strummer (vocals/guitar), Mick Jones (guitar/vocals) and Paul Simonon (bass). The band emerged out of a group of musicians that were involved in a new emerging music scene in the UK, punk rock. The intial startings of punk can be traced as far back as the late 60's with bands such as The Stooges and MC5. Joe Strummer (real name John Mellor) came from a pub rock group called the 101'ers (named after a place he and some friends were squatting in - it was a different time back then in the UK). Mick Jones and Paul Simonon would go to see 101'ers shows and after seeing Sex Pistols, Joe Strummer wanted to become a punk rocker. The Clash came together due to a series of events. One being the assembling of Sex Pistols by Malcolm McClaren. The Clash were in part put together by Malcolm's friend Bernie Rhodes, (who would serve as their manager, giving them direction in the early days of the band), and also by Mick and Paul who were always looking for people to play with, but never really finding the right front man. Mick and Joe would become song writing partners similar to the style of Lennon and McCartney and Jagger and Richards.

After quitting 101'ers Joe would go on to play with Mick, Paul, and Keith Levene (he would go on to play guitar in the post-punk/new wave group Public Image Limited) who was another guitarist in the early days of The Clash. The Clash always had problems finding a drummer in the early days, but eventually they got Terry Chimes to play for them. After playing for a few months and writing some songs, the band got better. The band would focus on the current happenings of Britain, and things of a political nature, as well as various other non-political topics. Labels started to get interested in the group as they did with other punk groups such as Sex Pistols and The Damned. The Clash signed to CBS Records in September of 1977.

The first Clash album would come out in 1977. The Self titled album was loud and energy fueled. The band also experimented with reggae on this album (Reggae was all over Britian during the time of punk). The song in particular was known as "Police & Thieves" (originally by Lee Scratch Perry), the song was reworked by Mick Jones and the band to have a Clash feel. The album also featured the song "Protex Blue" a song about a condom wrapper. Other songs included "White Riot", a song written after Joe Strummer and Paul Simonon were involved in the Noting Hill Carnival riot of 1976. The song is not racist, but a song about class economics. Other great tracks include "Career Opportunities", "I'm So Bored With The USA", "London's Burning", and "What's My Name", the only song in which Keith Levene is credited for (he left the group shortly before the album was recorded). Another fact about the first clash album is that drummer Terry Chimes is credited as Tory Crimes. The album also inspired Bob Marley to write the song "Punky Reggae Party". The album would not see US release until 1979, and featured a different track listing.

After the release of the bands first album, Terry Chimes would leave the group due to differences in the band. This move would turn out to be better then The Clash expected because they would get Nicky "Topper" Headon to take over on drums. Topper would become the bands more permanent drummer until he would be kicked out (in the late 1980's). Topper brought a different drumming style to the band. Having background in jazz and soul, he was also able to play reggae quite well. The bands next album which would be titled Give'em Enough Rope would come out in 1978. It would be produced by Sandy Pearlman, who is known for his work with Blue Oyster Cult. The album would contain ten tracks and would have a different sound than the bands previous effort, also it was their first official album to be released in the USA. The album contained tracks such as "Tommy Gun", a political song about how Strummer thought terrorists liked to read about their deaths as movie stars liked to read about their movie reviews. The song itself is a cleverly paced track featuring not only Strummers political yet sarcastic lyrics, but also drumming sounding similar to gun shots. "Safe European Home" was a song written by Jones and Strummer after going to Jamaica and wanting to be back in England. "Stay Free" stands out on the album as well. The track penned by Mick Jones is a song containing lyrics pertaining to his childhood friend; The music is similar to David Bowie with reggae/ska rhtythms. Regardless of how the album did chart wise (#2 in the UK, #128 in the USA), it is often overlooked by Clash fans as not their best work but, it does contain some great tracks and a different feel than the first album. Other good tracks included "Last Gang in Town" , "Julie's Been Working for the Drug Squad", and "All the Young Punks". The album also featured "English Civil War", a re-working of the classic war tune "When Johnny Comes Marching Home" with new lyrics concerning Britain. Nevertheless the band would keep evolving and keep getting better. The Clash who would record singles as well as albums, had quite a collection of material going by 1978.

Shortly after this album was recorded and in the middle of touring, the band would record The Cost of Living EP, which would come out in 1979. It would feature a cover song titled "I Fought the Law" (originally by The Bobby Fuller Four), "Groovy Times" an acoustic, melodic track, "Gates of the West" a reworking of a Mick Jones song originally called "Ooh Baby, Ohh", and "Capital Radio Two". "Capital Radio Two" was a reworking of a previous song that was recorded for a single about the radio station in London, that only played safe music. This version was faster and more energy fueled than the previous one. It also featured not only a new intro written by Topper Headon, but also different lyrics and fantastic drumming which outweighs the original. After this release the Clash would begin working on what is arguably their best album ever, London Calling. I will discuss the London Calling Years as well as the remainder of the bands history in next weeks post on The Clash..

here what was played:

1. The Jam – all around the world
2. Hollywood Brats – sick on you
3. Eddie & The Hotrods – 96 tears (live)
4. Sonic’s Rendezvous Band – city slang (original 1978 mix)
5. Zero’s – beat your heart out
6. The Gruesomes – get outta my hair
7. Ugly Ducklings – nothin’
8. Collectors – we can make it
9. Northwest Company – hard to cry
10. The V.I.P.'s - Jeanie
11. New York Dolls – trash
12. Sex Pistols – satellite
13. The Damned – fish
14. David Bowie – queen bitch
15. The Stooges – no fun (full version)
16. Black Sabbath – fairies wear boots
17. Ramones – have you ever seen the rain
18. The Saints – (I’m) stranded
19. Teenage Head – take it
20. The Sturgeons – punk rock virgins
21. Wire – a field day for the Sundays
22. Wire - EX lion tamer
23. Gore Gore Girls - sweet potato
24. The Beat – rankin’ full stop
25. The Clash – i'm so bored with the USA(1977 beaconsfield demo)
26. The Clash – complete control
27. Young Canadians - i hate music
28. The Vibrators - jumping jack flash (live)

Here's some cool early Clash vids:

Complete Control
Live In Munich 1977 (The Prisoner, Janie Jones, Garageland)
Tommy Gun (Live 1978)
(Whiteman) In Hammersmith Palais from Rude Boy
English civil War from Rude Boy

A series of two radio specials I did on The Clash can be found here:

The Clash (1976-1979)
The Clash (1980-1985)

No comments: