Disc 11 is Bankrobber

A double album at the end of 1979 had taken the world by storm and lifted the profile of The Clash to new heights.  Columbia Records were desperate for something to maintain the momentum and the executives must have been highly frustrated that it took a full eight months into 1980 before there was any product to put on the market.

Bankrobber was a real surprise.  Where the rock side of things was where most expected he band to go, they brought out a single that delighted those who had fallen for the charms of their reggae covers.  It didn’t however, find favour with a few critics who were looking for any reason to turn on the band (after all, the whole ethos of music journalism has always been to tear down those you spent time building up).

In this instance, while it was OK for the band to cover reggae numbers, how dare they, as white musicians, try to do their own thing.  Oh, and while the journos were on the soap boxes, they of course took delight in reminding Joe that his daddy, far from being a villain and a thief, was in fact a career diplomat whose meanderings around the world saw him live in fine opulence at the expense of taxpayers……….

Although there were tracks recorded for a 12″ release to follow the success of that format with the London Calling single, the tensions between band and label saw it only appear in 7″ form with these two tracks:-

mp3 : The Clash – Bankrobber
mp3 : The Clash (feat Mikey Dread) – Rockers Galore….UK Tour

It reached #12 in the singles chart, which was just one place below that of London Calling.  Again, an appearance on Top of the Pops (or even allowing the promo video to be aired) might have seen it reach the Top 10.

What had been intended for the 12″ release would eventually find its way out via inclusion on Black Market Clash:-

mp3 : The Clash – Bankrobber/Robber Dub

BANKROBBER : Released 8 August 1980 : #12 in the UK singles chart

I was there at the recording of ‘Bankrobber’.  Me and my mate Pete Garner were walking down Granby Road in the middle of Manchester one day and we could hear these drums coming through the walls. Pete was a proper Clash fan and he was convinced it was them.  Then Topper Headon walks out onto the street right in front of us!

He invited us downstairs into the studio to see what was going on.  Mikey Dread was there and we got chatting. They were dead cool.  Joe Strummer was sitting in the corner with a big, wide-brimmed hat on beneath this big grand-father clock, clicking his fingers in time to it. Paul Simonon asked us what our favourite film was and then said (affects authentic West London drawl) ‘mine’s ‘Death Race 2000’! Funny the things you remember.

Afterwards we showed Johnny Green, their tour manager, the way to the record shop and he bought two copies of ‘London Calling’ – one for each of us.  I’ll never forget it.

Ian Brown,  The Stone Roses

8 thoughts on “THE CLASH ON SUNDAYS (11)

  1. Great Clash single and moment and like you say a real sidestep of expectations. The press had it in for them much of the time didn’t they. This is the real deal though and the point from which you could spot Paul’s improvement as a player and his influence on the bands music.

  2. I saw them play ‘Bankrobber’ live a few times before they recorded it. The song changed significantly and for the better in the studio, after Mikey Dread got hold of it.

  3. Ian Brown’s story is awesome. I remember having an argument with a mate of mine who took an instant dislike to Audioweb’s version of ‘Bankrobber’ because “they’ve made it reggae”. He was convinced the Clash’s original was a loud, brash punk version and wouldn’t listen to me telling him otherwise. I played it a few days later, when he was in the room. I said nothing, just waited for hs reaction. He said nothing, but I knew he accepted he was wrong, even if he was never going to admit it…

  4. Ian Brown’s story is just amazing. Bankrobber is just amazing and it was a song that confounded alternative and college radio where I lived in NYC. They played it and Armagideon Times when they toured London Calling in March of 1980. That is still one of the greatest show’s I’ve ever seen. They came on to the stage to Sixteen Tons and flew right into Clash CIty Rockers – at which point I blocked everything else going on around me and it was must me and The Clash in the hall as far as I was concerned.

  5. My memory is fading but I think it was only available as a Dutch import for a while (I’ve got one somewhere) with a sleeve with them jumping in the air like A Hard Days Night.

    Oh here we go, a bit more memory dredging, but I’m fairly certain that the import sales alone were enough to get it the charts (if allowed)


    Ps the first word is “her” so wasn’t about Strummer anyway despite what the neersayers said.

  6. You’re on the money with that call Jules. CBS only got round to releasing the single in the UK after fans had started buying an inport singlr that had ‘Train In Vain’ on the a-side and ‘Bank Robber’ as the flip side. Don’t think though that the import sales were quite enough to get it into the charts.

  7. The import sleeve was a Mick Jones live shot possibly from the same concert as the one used for the London Calling album cover with similar Elvis style lettering.
    I had the pleasure of buying it in Stockholm when I was there on “the school cruise” on the SS Uganda and was able to return to school and brag that I had imported it myself.

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