Three extracts from ICA 12 which is the third and last of the posts that were originally scheduled for last month.

The Clash evolved and diversified like no other band that I’ve ever known in my lifetime and so the idea of dipping into their extensive catalogue and suggesting ten songs as the definitive collection – and putting them in a semblance of order that makes for great listening – is a task which, when complete, will inevitably lead to very legitimate questions about those that have been left off.

Complete Control

You’ve got to open any imaginary compilation album with a killer tune…something of an anthem which epitomizes the band or singer being featured….and I can’t think of anything better than this. One of punk rock’s greatest songs, written and recorded in frustration as the penny dropped for the band, and in particular Joe Strummer, that being a fully fledged, ideologically driven punk at the same time as being a core part of the mainstream music industry was an uncomfortable and some would say impossible position. Anger as an energy…..

White Man In Hammersmith Palais

Another song fuelled by disappointment and anger. The song title may have been derived from being let down at the dearth of talent performing at an all-night reggae gig, but the most meaningful attacks come later on as Joe delivers his very own state-of-the-nation address and in doing so outlines what was so wrong with the UK at that time. Little did he or any of us know that social disorder, racial disharmony, unfair distribution of wealth and the increasing lurch to the right-wing of the political spectrum by all mainstream parties would get a lot worse over the next decade.

This is my favourite Clash song of all time. It is one of those once-in-a-lifetime tunes that comes along and embeds itself permanently in your subconscious with a lyric that educates and raises your social and political awareness. I turned 15 years of age the day after this 45 was released….it struck a chord with me then and given that, almost 37 years on*, I  still hold many of those values that forged my outlook on life, this song hasn’t dated….nor will it ever.

Stay Free

The second album is considered by many to be a weak record, but here am I going with a second successive track from it (NB – the ICA at this point was preceded by Safe European Home) and there’s no sign of the two cracking 45s that were lifted from it. It just demonstrates that Give ‘Em Enough Rope had plenty of moments to be declared as a decent and solid record rather than weak.

At 15 years of age, I was gravitating to the lyricists who were telling stories via the songs – Paul Weller was already a huge favourite and the tale of Down In The Tube Station At Midnight was, in my young mind, the greatest song lyric of all time. But not far behind was Mick Jones‘ heartfelt tribute to his best mate, who had gone spectacularly off the rails while Mick was working tirelessly to make it as a musician. This has more than stood the test of time as a great love song….

*the post was originally published on 1 May 2015.  It’s now 44 years since the songs appeared, and I like to think, that even now I’m an old fogey who is retired from working life, I still hold the same values.  Oh, and what I’d give for a Joe Strummer for the modern age.


PS : I was sure that The Clash would have been victorious in the first edition of the ICA World Cup, but were beaten 22-18 in the semi-final by The Jam.  The songs up against one another were Capital Radio 2 and Man In The Corner Shop.

7 thoughts on “NOSTALGIA IN OCTOBER (3)

  1. Three timeless classics obvs. I am the same age as JC and can concur with the sentiment that “I still hold many of those values that forged my outlook on life”. When I was growing up in a backwater dump infested with substantial numbers of racists and Tories, the Clash gave teenage me a brisk political education. Sandinista! in particular was the equivalent of a Masters in international struggle, inequality, and the exuberant joy of multiculturalism. Many derided their sloganeering and pose, but it’s amazing to think what an influence they had (and are still having) on that generation.

  2. Difficult to argue against any of those three. Still the most important band in my life, musically, politically and personally.
    Don’t know the Jam song, but despair of voters who could possibly have vorted against it. As much of a travesty as Cruyff’s Dutch team not winning in ’74, Argentina somehow managing to beat the Dutch in ’78 or the failure of Brazil’s ’82 team to at least make the final.

  3. Coincidentally watched ‘The Future Is Unwritten’ last night and, yes, we could really use a Joe Strummer for current times. It would be interesting to hear the thoughts of the now 70 year old man himself. I remember that soon after this ICA the phrase ‘Clash Problem’ entered the TVV vernacular to mean the difficulty in selecting 10 songs from a great catalog. *sighs*

  4. Yeh, timeless greats. I was more into The Jam than The Clash in 77 and 78, but The Clash were one of the first live bands I saw, on the tour supporting that 2nd album. I too came to think of it as substandard a few years later and actually flogged my copy, but realised my mistake and re-bought it, happily picking up another flimsy CBS first pressing. I wrote about that gig in my first guest post for JC (‘PURE UNCONTROLLED MAYHEM!’) and it was, of course, epic – one of the great, enduring memories of my life.

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