Disc 5 is Clash City Rockers.

The time in and around the release of Complete Control had seen the band out on the road for a fair bit, and is often the case in such situations, there was a bit of a fall-out with Mick and Paul not on speaking terms for a bit.  Part of this came from the fact that Mick and Joe had been given the opportunity to go to Jamaica to absorb some of the culture on offer in the hope it would have a positive effect on the songs that were going to be needed for the second album – Paul being the biggest reggae fan in the band was understandably annoyed at having to stay in the cold and damp UK while his mates went in search of inspiration (forlornly as it turned out as later captured on the album track Safe European Home).

While the two songwriters were in Jamaica, manager Bernie Rhodes pulled a trick that caused yet another rift in Camp Clash.  The band had gone into the studio to record a new single – an anthemic number that partly mythologised all that The Clash considered they stood for while incorporating, in part, a section of a tune from a 17th century children’s nursery rhyme about church bells in London.

The thing is, Rhodes thought the final recording was a bit flat sounding and so he convinced producer Mickey Foote to increase its speed marginally thus making it slightly higher in pitch.  All this was done while Joe and Mick were away and the single had been pressed before they heard the results.  They were appalled and angered and Foote was sacked on the spot.

mp3 : The Clash – Clash City Rockers (single version)

All subsequent releases of the song on compilation albums etc have featured the original version of the song (at the proper speed)

mp3 : The Clash – Clash City Rockers (original recording)

The b-side was an update of one of Joe’s old pub rock songs but the vocal gifted to Mick:-

mp3 : The Clash – Jail Guitar Doors

It’s long been a popular song among fans and indeed was deemed worthy of inclusion on the track-list of the band’s debut LP when it was finally released in the USA in a form almost unrecognisable from its UK counterpart.

Jail Guitar Doors is also the name of a charity, set up by Billy Bragg, whose aim is to aid rehabilitation by providing musical equipment for the use of inmates serving time in prisons and funding individual projects such as recording sessions in UK prisons and for former inmates.  A similar scheme was later established in the USA.

The single reached #35 in the charts and again they declined an opportunity to promote it via an appearance on Top of The Pops.

CLASH CITY ROCKERS : Released 17 February 1978 : #35

The opening chopped guitar riff, executed with such abrupt power and precision, immediately arrests you and informs you you’re in the presence of true greatness.  Punk was primarily a male youth culture, and the song audaciously kicks over the previous statues of lad iconicism – Bowie (and the pre-nonce) Gary Glitter.  It was saying that it wasn’t wearing make-up and pretending to be camp that made us shocking; it was because we were obnoxious, spotty, angry, bored young cunts.

This was one of the songs that made me leave home and go to London, then underscored my early years in the city. It was always on at all hours in the Shepherd’s Bush squat and Queensbridge Road pads, and it was our national anthem. I became an insomniac because of this song. There was never a centre-half at Hibs who got up as high for corner kicks as I did when this bastard blasted out.

Every time you put it on you were making a statement: this is our time and we will not be denied. A lot of water, beer, amphetamine and music has flowed under the bridge since then. But under the right conditions – for example, blasting out from a Stoke Newington stereo on a hot London summer’s day – I feel a shiver down my spine and nearly 30 years seems to have been shed. I love it so much.

Irvine Welsh, novelist (Trainspotting, The Acid House, Filth)

4 thoughts on “THE CLASH ON SUNDAYS (5)

  1. The one bit of programming of the US version of The Clash, when it was finally released by Columbia/CBS in The States was putting Clash CIty Rockers as the opener. You can’t really argue with this decision since the track was availabe to include by the time the album was finally released. Keep in mind that Columbia decided to release it only as an import and then as their second official US release in ’79. The UK import was the best selling import of 1978 – mor than 100,000 units, as is the lore. I have one, as well as the US release. In either form, The Clash was the best album of the 1970’s – I’ll always stand firm on that.

  2. I knew CCR was speeded up but didn’t know the slower version was on the compilations…even though I’ve probably got it somewhere!

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