ALL OUR YESTERDAYS (10/22)

Album : London Calling by The Clash
Review : Rolling Stone, 3 April 1980
Author : Tom Carson

By now, our expectations of the Clash might seem to have become inflated beyond any possibility of fulfillment. It’s not simply that they’re the greatest rock & roll band in the world — indeed, after years of watching too many superstars compromise, blow chances and sell out, being the greatest is just about synonymous with being the music’s last hope. While the group itself resists such labels, they do tell you exactly how high the stakes are, and how urgent the need. The Clash got their start on the crest of what looked like a revolution, only to see the punk movement either smash up on its own violent momentum or be absorbed into the same corporate-rock machinery it had meant to destroy. Now, almost against their will, they’re the only ones left.

Give ‘Em Enough Rope, the band’s last recording, railed against the notion that being rock & roll heroes meant martyrdom. Yet the album also presented itself so flamboyantly as a last stand that it created a near-insoluble problem: after you’ve already brought the apocalypse crashing down on your head, how can you possibly go on? On the Clash’s new LP, London Calling, there’s a composition called “Death or Glory” that seems to disavow the struggle completely. Over a harsh and stormy guitar riff, lead singer Joe Strummer offers a grim litany of failure. Then his cohort, Mick Jones, steps forward to drive what appears to be the final nail into the coffin. “Death or glory,” he bitterly announces, “become just another story.”

But “Death or Glory” — in many ways, the pivotal song on London Calling — reverses itself midway. After Jones’ last, anguished cry drops off into silence, the music seems to scatter from the echo of his words. Strummer reenters, quiet and undramatic, talking almost to himself at first and not much caring if anyone else is listening. “We’re gonna march a long way,” he whispers. “Gonna fight — a long time.” The guitars, distant as bugles on some faraway plain, begin to rally. The drums collect into a beat, and Strummer slowly picks up strength and authority as he sings:

We’ve gotta travel — over mountains
We’ve gotta travel — over seas
We’re gonna fight — you, brother
We’re gonna fight — till you lose
We’re gonna raise —
TROUBLE!

The band races back to the firing line, and when the singers go surging into the final chorus of “Death or glory…just another story,” you know what they’re really saying: like hell it is!

Merry and tough, passionate and large-spirited, London Calling celebrates the romance of rock & roll rebellion in grand, epic terms. It doesn’t merely reaffirm the Clash’s own commitment to rock-as-revolution. Instead, the record ranges across the whole of rock & roll’s past for its sound, and 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 — one that, as the Clash tell it, seems not only theirs but ours. For all its first-take scrappiness and guerrilla production, this two-LP set — which, at the group’s insistence, sells for not much more than the price of one — is music that means to endure. It’s so rich and far-reaching that it leaves you not just exhilarated but exalted and triumphantly alive.

From the start, however, you know how tough a fight it’s going to be. “London Calling” opens the album on an ominous note. When Strummer comes in on the downbeat, he sounds weary, used up, desperate: “The Ice Age is coming/The sun is zooming in/Meltdown expected/The wheat is growing thin.’

The rest of the record never turns its back on that vision of dread. Rather, it pulls you through the horror and out the other side. The Clash’s brand of heroism may be supremely romantic, even naive, but their utter refusal to sentimentalize their own myth — and their determination to live up to an actual code of honor in the real world, without ever minimizing the odds — makes such romanticism seem not only brave but absolutely necessary. London Calling sounds like a series of insistent messages sent to the scattered armies of the night, proffering warnings and comfort, good cheer and exhortations to keep moving. If we begin amid the desolation of the title track, we end, four sides later, with Mick Jones spitting out heroic defiance in “I’m Not Down” and finding a majestic metaphor at the pit of his depression that lifts him — and us — right off the ground. “Like skyscrapers rising up,” Jones screams. “Floor by floor — I’m not giving up.” Then Joe Strummer invites the audience, with a wink and a grin, to “smash up your seats and rock to this brand new beat” in the merry-go-round invocation of “Revolution Rock.”

Against all the brutality, injustice and large and small betrayals delineated in song after song here — the assembly-line Fascists in “Clampdown,” the advertising executives of “Koka Kola,” the drug dealer who turns out to be the singer’s one friend in the jittery, hypnotic “Hateful” — the Clash can only offer their sense of historic purpose and the faith, innocence, humor and camaraderie embodied in the band itself. This shines through everywhere, balancing out the terrors that the LP faces again and again. It can take forms as simple as letting bassist Paul Simonon sing his own “The Guns of Brixton,” or as relatively subtle as the way Strummer modestly moves in to support Jones’ fragile lead vocal on the forlorn “Lost in the Supermarket.” It can be as intimate and hilarious as the moment when Joe Strummer deflates any hint of portentousness in the sexual-equality polemics of “Lover’s Rock” by squawking “I’m so nervous!” to close the tune. In “Four Horsemen,” which sounds like the movie soundtrack to a rock & roll version of The Seven Samurai, the Clash’s martial pride turns openly exultant. The guitars and drums start at a thundering gallop, and when Strummer sings, “Four horsemen …,” the other members of the group charge into line to shout joyously: “…and it’s gonna be us!”

London Calling is spacious and extravagant. It’s as packed with characters and incidents as a great novel, and the band’s new stylistic expansions — brass, organ, occasional piano, blues grind, pop airiness and the reggae-dub influence that percolates subversively through nearly every number — add density and richness to the sound. The riotous rockabilly-meets-the-Ventures quality of “Brand New Cadillac” (“Jesus Christ!” Strummer yells to his ex-girlfriend, having so much fun he almost forgets to be angry, “Whereja get that Cadillac?”) slips without pause into the strung-out shuffle of “Jimmy Jazz,” a Nelson Algren-like street scene that limps along as slowly as its hero, just one step ahead of the cops. If “Rudie Can’t Fail” (the “She’s Leaving Home” of our generation) celebrates an initiation into bohemian lowlife with affection and panache, “The Card Cheat” picks up on what might be the same character twenty years later, shot down in a last grab for “more time away from the darkest door.” An awesome orchestral backing track gives this lower-depths anecdote a somber weight far beyond its scope. At the end of “. — “from the Hundred Year War to the Crimea” — that turns ephemeral pathos into permanent tragedy.

Other tracks tackle history head-on, and claim it as the Clash’s own. “Wrong ‘Em Boyo” updates the story of Stagger Lee in bumptious reggae terms, forging links between rock & roll legend and the group’s own politicized roots-rock rebel. “The Right Profile,” which is about Montgomery Clift, accomplishes a different kind of transformation. Over braying and sarcastic horns, Joe Strummer gags, mugs, mocks and snickers his way through a comic-horrible account of the actor’s collapse on booze and pills, only to close with a grudging admiration that becomes unexpectedly and astonishingly moving. It’s as if the singer is saying, no matter how ugly and pathetic Clift’s life was, he was still — in spite of everything — one of us.

“Spanish Bombs” is probably London Calling‘s best and most ambitious song. A soaring, chiming intro pulls you in, and before you can get your bearings, Strummer’s already halfway into his tale. Lost and lonely in his “disco casino,” he’s unable to tell whether the gunfire he hears is out on the streets or inside his head. Bits of Spanish doggerel, fragments of combat scenes, jangling flamenco guitars and the lilting vocals of a children’s tune mesh in a swirling kaleidoscope of courage and disillusionment, old wars and new corruption. The evocation of the Spanish Civil War is sumptuously romantic: “With trenches full of poets, the ragged army, fixin’ bayonets to fight the other line.” Strummer sings, as Jones throws in some lovely, softly stinging notes behind him. Here as elsewhere, the heroic past isn’t simply resurrected for nostalgia’s sake. Instead, the Clash state that the lessons of the past must be earned before we can apply them to the present.

London Calling certainly lives up to that challenge. With its grainy cover photo, its immediate, on-the-run sound, and songs that bristle with names and phrases from today’s headlines, it’s as topical as a broadside. But the album also claims to be no more than the latest battlefield in a war of rock & roll, culture and politics that’ll undoubtedly go on forever. “Revolution Rock,” the LP’s formal coda, celebrates the joys of this struggle as an eternal carnival. A spiraling organ weaves circles around Joe Strummer’s voice, while the horn section totters, sways and recovers like a drunken mariachi band. “This must be the way out,” Strummer calls over his shoulder, so full of glee at his own good luck that he can hardly believe it.” El Clash Combo,” he drawls like a proud father, coasting now, sure he’s made it home. “Weddings, parties, anything… And bongo jazz a specialty.”

But it’s Mick Jones who has the last word. “Train in Vain” arrives like an orphan in the wake of “Revolution Rock.” It’s not even listed on the label, and it sounds faint, almost overheard. Longing, tenderness and regret mingle in Jones’ voice as he tries to get across to his girl that losing her meant losing everything, yet he’s going to manage somehow. Though his sorrow is complete, his pride is that he can sing about it. A wistful, simple number about love and loss and perseverance, “Tram in Vain” seems like an odd ending to the anthemic tumult of London Calling. But it’s absolutely appropriate, because if this record has told us anything, it’s that a love affair and a revolution — small battles as well as large ones — are not that different. They’re all part of the same long, bloody march.

mp3 : The Clash – London Calling
mp3 : The Clash – Death or Glory
mp3 : The Clash – Spanish Bombs
mp3 : The Clash – Train In Vain

JC adds :  And here was me thinking that the NME was the sole outlet for overly-long and overly-descriptive album reviews back in the day.  There is no doubt that Tom Carson really liked London Calling, but with the benefit of hindsight over the past 40 years (certainly since its UK release), you can look back and argue that what he homed in on for particular attention was either inconsequential or unmerited.

Death or Glory is an important song, but is it worthy of taking up so much of the review?  Spanish Bombs is far from the album’s best or most ambitious song. And there’s more then a few remarks on various songs that feel straight out of Psued’s Corner. Having said all that, his view that Train In Vain seems an odd ending to the album is one that I’ve long shared, but as we’ve since learned from the story behind the album, this was really just the most  practical way of getting a new song out there to fans than any considered attempt to find an ending that was to provide an alternative to some of the anthemic stuff – indeed, there’s a body of thought that, outside of the title track, Train In Vain, has become the most anthemic song on the album.

I really did enjoy reading this particular review, for nothing else that it has a different tone and feel to those which came later when the album was remixed/re-released/re-packaged for certain anniversaries.  It also felt like the perfect way to close out the blog for 2019.

 

TODAY I FEEL LIKE LISTENING TO THIS LOT

Normal service is resumed after the holiday.

They’ve had the singles treatment over 19 consecutive weeks, an ICA and a handful of songs featuring on other postings. So here’s an imaginary 4-track EP with stuff I’ve not played here before:-

mp3 : The Clash – What’s My Name (live at Belle Vue, Manchester 1977)
mp3 : The Clash – Guns On The Roof
mp3 : The Clash – Brand New Cadillac
mp3 : The Clash – Rock The Casbah

Track 1 is lifted from a TV clip that was filmed for inclusion on So It Goes, the weekly music programme devised and presented by Anthony H Wilson (or plain Tony as he was known in those days). That’s why you get the added lyric of ‘here we are on TV…..‘in the middle. It’s a far more raw and energetic version than appears on the debut album.

Track 2 takes the riff from Clash City Rockers, which itself ripped off the 1965 single, I Can’t Explain by The Who, and has Joe pontificating on state-sponsored terrorism while taking its title from an incident closer to home when Paul, Topper and a bunch of hangers-on ended up in trouble for shooting at pigeons from the roof of their rehearsal rooms having been mistaken for terrorists shooting at passing trains.

Track 3, lifted from London Calling, is the well-known and well-loved cover of the 1959 song by Vince Taylor which The Clash considered to be one of the first and best British rock’n’roll records

Track 4. Nope, this version hasn’t been featured before. It’s lifted from the album that never was – Rat Patrol From Fort Knox – recorded by the band and fully produced by Mick Jones over a three-month period between November 1981 and January 1982. It would likely have been a double album, which coming on the back of London Calling and Sandinista was too much for CBS to accept, but even worse was that the rest of the band, along with newly re-instated manager Bernie Rhodes, rejected it feeling some songs were too long and others had too many overdubs and samples.

The songs were then given to Glyn Johns to rework and remix into what became Combat Rock….it was only years later when the Rat Patrol sessions were released in bootleg form did many folk come to the realisation that the strive for commercialism had been at the expense of the beginning of the break-up of the band with Mick Jones utterly devastated by what had happened.

Bonus Track

mp3 : The Clash – The Beautiful People Are Ugly

This would have been the opening song on Rat Patrol if it had been allowed to see the light of day. A touch on the pop side perhaps, but again it was Mick trying to prevent the band from pigeon-holed by critics and fans alike.

JC

TRAIN IN VAIN

From the BBC news website yesterday….

ScotRail has apologised for major disruption after severe damage to overhead wires just outside Glasgow Central station.

Services to and from the station’s high level were affected.

Ten trains travelling on high level routes lost power at about 21:15 on Saturday and passengers had to wait to be led to safety by ScotRail staff.

The train company said it was now almost back to running a full service, after knock-on disruption on Sunday.

Some passengers, commenting on social media, said that they had been stuck on trains for several hours on Saturday night and had to be helped off by engineers with ladders.

ScotRail said all passengers were removed from the affected trains by 00:45.

They were then advised to find alternative transport home, with some offered taxis.

Glasgow Central high level was closed completely at 22:45 with no services running for the remainder of Saturday evening.

I was on one of the ten trains that were stuck outside the station when the power went down.  It ground to a halt at around 21:30 and about 30 minutes later, after the on-train back of power had been drained, it plunged into complete darkness which is how it stayed for almost three hours…on the most basic of trains without a toilet or washroom. And yes. the evacuation method was by ladder down from the stricken train and then up another ladder to a diesel-powered set of carriages for onward transfer to a station in the opposite direction of Glasgow Central and into a taxi.

The annoying thing was that I was only on the train as a last-minute decision to head into town for no more than an hour or so to head to the final ever Strangeways night where a few friends were hanging around – all in an effort to cheer myself up after watching Raith Rovers blow their season in the most miserable manner imaginable.

As Aldo said to me, there are some days it just isn’t worth getting out of bed.

mp3 : The Clash – Train In Vain

JC

CALL ME STAR-STRUCK, UNCLE SAM

new-york

I’ve always been fascinated by New York City.

As a young kid I thought it was the most famous place in the world thanks to it being the backdrop to so many films and TV shows. Hell, it even was the setting for one of my favourite cartoons – Top Cat – while there was no mistaking that my favourite comic book hero’s home of Gotham City was the just a different name for NYC.

It was, in my young eyes, everything that America stood for where everything was bigger and better than you could wish for while growing up amidst the monochrome or at best faded-beige UK of the mid 70s. If someone had asked me, as an 11 or 12 year old why I wanted to see New York they would have got the 11 or 12 year old’s classic answer…….just because!

If pushed I would say it was all to do with the fact it seemed to be the best place for sport with the best known names such as the Jets, the Yankees and the Harlem Globetrotters (little did I realise the last of these was showbiz and not sport!). In ‘soccer’ you had the phenomenon of the New York Cosmos and I was desperate to be given the chance of seeing Pele and Franz Beckenbauer take to the field amidst pomp, pageantry and cheerleaders.

Boxing was another sport I watched – particularly the exploits of Muhammad Ali – and it seemed that every other month there was a world championship fight taking place in NYC at Madison Square Gardens. I wanted to be part of such a loud and raucous crowd (albeit years later my first experience of a live boxing match put me off for life)

Oh and then there was the fact that I was fascinated by the idea of hot dogs, hamburgers and milk shakes, none of which you could get in Glasgow at the time (well you could, but you knew that they were all fifth-rate and not a patch on the real things).

Then I got slightly older and began to fall in love with pop music. NYC began to loom even larger as all the best bands in the world constantly talked about how it was the greatest city to play in and how the energy and vitality of the place brought so much to the performances. It also appeared to be where some of the best new music was coming from. And it seemed as if all the women were as gorgeous as Debbie Harry.

But the sheer cost involved meant that visiting NYC in my truly formative years was always going to be an unfulfilled dream. It was difficult enough finding the money to go and visit London far less get on a plane and cross the Atlantic. I didn’t even know how to go about obtaining a passport……

The idea of visiting in later years did come up – myself and Mrs Villain talked about going there for my 30th in 1993 but in the end we went for a beach holiday in the Caribbean. Her 40th in 1998 was another possibility but again the lure of the sand and the sun proved too much.

By now I was in a job that had me seeing a fair bit of the world as I was a senior aide to the equivalent of the Mayor of Glasgow and accompanied him on a number of occasions, especially when he was to deliver a keynote speech at a conference or event.

I had always hoped the opportunity to do so in NYC would occur and so when he received and accepted an invitation to be part of a conference on Waterfront Regeneration, taking place at the Brooklyn Marriott, the dream of so many years was set to some true.

I began to plan everything in terms of how I would spend my free time at the conference and before long I had arranged to stay on for a few extra days at my own expense. Greenwich Village, Central Park, Times Square, Madison Square Gardens, Yankee Stadium, the Chelsea Hotel, Empire State Building, Brooklyn Bridge, the Guggenheim and the Statue of Liberty were all on the list as was a ride in a yellow cab. I’d find small and bohemian record and book stores and have the time of my life. I was counting down the days to the conference which was taking place from September 20-22 2001.

It’ll soon be 15 years to the day that the Twin Towers came down and changed everything we thought about the world in the proverbial blink of an eye. It’ll soon be 15 years to the day that I made my first ever visit to NYC as incredibly enough, the conference wasn’t postponed.

It’s true that more than half of the delegates cancelled, including I would reckon 90% of those scheduled to come from Europe as travel plans were predictably chaotic and uncertain.

As it turned out, I was a passenger on the first Glasgow-Newark flight after 9/11. What I experienced during my stay will stay with me for ever. There’s an entire book can be written about my experiences over the following seven days – understandably it wasn’t what I ever imagined NYC to be in my long-held dreams. But if anything, I fell in love deeper and harder than I thought possible.

I’ve returned a couple of times since and seen more of the ‘real’ New York and thoroughly enjoyed myself. But everywhere I look there seems to be a haunting and chilling memory of my first time…..

I was hopeful of returning to NYC this year, on my 53rd birthday no less, to fulfil the ambition of attending a gig at Madison Square Gardens as The Twilight Sad were supporting The Cure that day. But some months out I knew that events close to home would mean I had to be in Scotland for something important the day after my birthday and so the plan was shelved.

I almost set myself up to head over this past weekend with today being Labor Day at the end of a long holiday weekend in the USA with my beloved Toronto Blue Jays playing at Yankee Stadium. But I chose instead to head to Toronto later this month and enjoy an extended break of a week rather than a few days.

Maybe NYC will be on the agenda for next year. Or maybe I’ll wait a while longer and go over when I have as much time on my hands as possible and do things properly and not in a rushed way, hopefully with Mrs V in tow.

There’s a reason for these particular paragraphs appearing today which will reveal itself in 24 hours’ time. For now, here’s some music from UK and Irish bands just as equally fascinated with the city, including the song from which I stole the title of todays’ posting:-

mp3 : Prefab Sprout – Hey Manhattan!
mp3 : The Clash – Broadway
mp3 : The Frank & Walters – Fashion Crisis Hits New York

Enjoy.

A LAZY STROLL DOWN MEMORY LANE : 45 45s AT 45 (2)

ORIGINALLY POSTED ON TUESDAY 17 JUNE 2008

(and re-posted on 7 November 2013)

palais

(As mentioned when this was featured in The Clash singles back in February, I held back then to this anticipated appearance to give my own take on the 45……)

I’ve repeatedly said that I was never a punk, but just someone who loved an awful lot of the punk-sounding records. However, the early singles and debut LP by The Clash weren’t things that I was initially fond of – they were just too raw and raucous for my tastes, which at that time were still evolving.

As with most teenagers, I got some money from my mum and dad and aunties and uncles for my 15th birthday, and so I traipsed up the road to the record shop. I can’t actually remember everything that was bought…there’s every chance I bought a bundle of disco stuff as Saturday Night Fever was all the rage and all the girls wanted someone who danced like John Travolta.

I do distinctly remember buying my first ever single by The Clash with some of the money – it was on prominent display in the shop having just been released a couple of days previously. The reason I remember all this is down to a sort of hero-worship of a guy called Mick. Not only did he work in a record shop, he also had his own mobile disco with lights and everything….and Mick said that day that if I wanted to buy something special for my birthday then it should be this new single called (White Man) In Hammersmith Palais.

When I told him that I didn’t really like The Clash, he asked me if I had ever really listened to them. I had to admit that I hadn’t other than what I had sometimes heard on the radio. He then offered to play the single for me there and then. Of course in order to retain any degree of coolness, I was always going to say it was fantastic…..

So I took the record home, but I was nowhere near convinced. This certainly was nothing like love at first sight. But like all new records, it continued to get spins on the turntable all the time, and within a week or so, after a number of listens, I realised, in a sort of Road To Damascus conversion moment, the song was something really different and special. And with that I felt I could classify myself as a Clash fan – one of the best decisions I ever made as the band and their music became a sort of secret password for getting on so well with people in the years to come.

The first example of this was a year later when I took on my first ever summer job, over a period of six weeks or so, at the age of 16. It was in a city-centre store that sold car accessories. I was easily the youngest member of staff – the rest of them were dead old being at least 19, while the store manager was ancient at the age of 25. I wasn’t able to do the sort of things they did, such as go out to the pub after work on a Friday night. But one other worker was interested in the fact I bought Melody Maker every week – although his own preference was for the NME.

That’s when I learned his taste was for punk/new wave, his favourite being The Clash. The fact that I liked the band was a big factor in me being accepted in the workplace.

A few years later, the time had come to move out of the family home and into a student flat. It was a case of trying to find folk you would be compatible with, and the deal with the two lads who I was eventually to move in beside was sealed when we all said that White Man…was our favourite Clash single. So much so in my case, that by this time (1983) I had learned to play it note-for-note on a Casio keyboard which I demonstrated one evening in a drunken stupor while another of the flat mates played bass and the other sang. The girls we had back that night were far from impressed.

I always thought I was in a minority with my love for this single over all others by The Clash. I was certain that White Riot, London Calling or even the cover of I Fought The Law would win out in any popularity contest. But no, there was some sort of poll a few years back which revealed that the most popular and enduring song was the one released in June 1978:-

mp3 : The Clash – (White Man) In Hammersmith Palais
mp3 : The Clash – The Prisoner

It was unusually slow and melodic for a punk/new wave band. You could even make out a whole lot of the words without the need for a lyric sheet. It was also a song that lended itself to the use of your badminton racquet masquerading as your guitar….and it’s a song that has aged magnificently, sounding every bit as fresh, exciting and vibrant today as it did 30 years ago.

It’s hard to recall that all those years ago, the release of White Man… caused a bit of an uproar among the hardcore fans of the band. It was a radical departure from the short, sharp, loud and angry songs that had symbolised everything punk/new wave was supposed to be. It was, looking back, the earliest indication (notwithstanding Police & Thieves) that The Clash were no one-trick pony but in fact a quite extraordinary band capable of producing top-quality songs influenced by all sorts of genres.

I no longer have this single in the collection – another victim of the Edinburgh debacle of 1986, but by then it wasn’t a bit of vinyl that could have safely gone on the record player.

It was a record that had been played to within an inch of its life – it was worn out, full of scratches and jumps courtesy of it being shoved on more than once in a drunken stupor in which I bumped against the turntable. And because I imagine that’s how everyone who ever owned the single behaved with it, I’ve never pursued a copy via e-bay as the vinyl will be in a far from pristine condition. Instead, I’ve relied on an antiseptically clean copy that I have within the 3-CD box-set of Clash on Broadway.

And so next time round will finally reveal the choice at #1….

THE CLASH ON SUNDAYS (19)

Thisisengland_single

Disc 19 is This Is England. The last in the series and a bit of an anti-climax. Sorry.  But I can’t re-write history.

Topper Headon had been fired post the recording of Combat Rock and then Mick Jones was sensationally kicked out of his band (and not for the first time in his life) in 1983.  What’s also mostly forgotten is that Terry Chimes, brought in for Topper to tour Combat Rock, had also left under a cloud some eight months before Mick got the boot.

This isn’t the place to go over the rights and wrongs of all the turmoil, and besides, depending on whose versions you most believe you’ll come to a different conclusion on who was most to blame.

This Is England was written in late 1983 but wouldn’t be released for the best part of two years.  It’s a state-of-the nation diatribe with the lyric detailing much of what was wrong with the country under a right-wing government although many of the topics, such as inner-city violence, urban alienation, life on council estates, high unemployment and racism weren’t new to The Clash.

The critics savaged the songs and subsequent album Cut The Crap.  To them, and indeed to many, you had no right to call it a release by The Clash with just Joe and Paul on board, backed by some rock musicians and aided by a drum machine. Despite this, it did make #24 in the UK charts which wasn’t all that shabby a performance – indeed it is a higher position than was ever managed by Rock The Casbah.…..

It was originally released only in the UK on 7″ and 12″ vinyl and in years to come was initially disowned by all concerned not appearing on any compilation LPs., not showing up again until 2003 and then again being included as the 19th and final reproduced 45 in the The Singles box set which has provided the foundations for this series.

7″ release:-

mp3 : The Clash – This Is England
mp3 : The Clash – Do It Now

12″ bonus track:-

mp3 : The Clash – Sex Mad Roar

THIS IS ENGLAND  : Released 30 September 1985 : #24 in the UK singles chart

When I arrived back in this country Friday, June 29th 2006, having been away for several years, all I saw were St George crosses displayed everywhere.

After the awful England game on the 30th and ever since, these white and red displays look like yesterday’s tired fashion and are now a figure of fun; likewise the silly songs that were offered to go with the stupid team.

‘This Is England’ reflects this immense national fuck-up.

Bernard Rhodes, former manager of The Clash

And that, dear readers, brings this particular Sunday series to an end. Huge thanks for all the comments that have been left behind over the past four and a bit months, and in particular to echorich and JTFL for their wonderfully unique and indeed first-hand account of life in the USA with The Clash.

As hinted at a few weeks ago, the Sunday slot will now be taken up with a look back at the 45s and EPs of Belle and Sebastian.

Cheers.

JC

THE CLASH ON SUNDAYS (18)

R-550566-1299670760.jpeg

Disc 18 is Straight To Hell/Should I Stay Or Should I Go.

Released just three months after Rock The Casbah, a lot had changed for The Clash in the summer of 1982, not least the fact that they had ‘cracked’ America.  Combat Rock was proving to be an enduring album, going on to spend almost six months successively in the UK charts which was well beyond the time expected of any album by the band. They were now determined to get their music across to as wide an audience as possible, hence the decision to accept the task of opening for The Who at a series of outdoor stadium gigs in October 1982, although it is worth recalling that the band continued to headline at much smaller venues in the States at the same time.

The days of standing up to record company wishes to milk albums dry were also over as seen by the fact that the release of a double A single meant that exactly one-third of  Combat Rock had been put out on the 45rpm format.  But in saying this, there’s no argument that it is one of the band’s finest 45s.

My own preference is for Straight To Hell.  As I wrote when I included it in the ICA this time last year, my view is that it an extraordinary piece of music. The very idea that one of the world’s foremost punk bands would, within just five years of their explosive and noisy debut, end up recording and releasing a song that leaned heavily on a bossa nova drumbeat devised by Topper Headon and a haunting violin sound would have been laughable.

It has a stunning and thought-provoking lyric delivered by a resigned-sounding Joe Strummer who seems devastated by the fact that musicians cannot make the world’s problems disappear.

Radio stations and the general public however, preferred the charms of Should I Stay Or Should I Go. It has a great riff, a sing-a-long and infectiously catchy chorus and the most ridiculously yet charming backing vocals in some strange version of Spanish.  What’s not to like???

It famously became a huge hit all over again some nine years later after it was used in an advert to promote Levi Jeans.  It went to #1 in the UK as well as Top 5 in just about every singles chart in Europe.

 

mp3 : The Clash – Straight To Hell (edited version)
mp3 : The Clash – Should I Stay Or Should I Go

SHOULD I STAY OR SHOULD I GO  : Released 17 September 1982 : #17 in the UK singles chart; #1 on its re-release in 1991

My favourite Clash song is ‘Train In Vain’. My favourite of their singles is in that vein – ‘Should I Stay Or Should I Go’.  I thought I’d heard it somewhere before (I’m not trying to be ironic). I had to buy all my Clash records until ‘Combat Rock’ which was produced by longtime Who producer Glyn Johns.  I got a free one of those . It makes me feel like I’m 34 again and Spring is in the cocaine.

We had a junior manager called Chris Chappel who was a huge Clash fan.  I invited them onto the US tour after Chris convinced our senior manager they would be good.  By the end of the tour, they had broken the USA.  We were playing huge stadiums on that tour and they really handled the shows well, and convinced the crowd they were real.

I adore The Clash, as I adored the Sex Pistols.  Different, incompatible, not really comparable, they both felt to me like bands who (like The Jam a little later) had travelled a route laid by The Who more than any other band.  The New York Dolls and the Ramones influenced British punk rock, of course, but it was our simultaneous exaltation of rock, and indifference to it, that both bands emulated, though they each had different reasons for using that particularly tortured formula.  So, I have a personal pride in The Clash as I do in the Sex Pistols and The Jam.

I feel bad that I have outlived Joe Strummer, but delighted that Topper is alive, against the odds: he is an absolute sweetheart. I really admire Mick Jones and Paul Simonon too, for remaining true to their individual artistic theses. These guys made a troubled and druggy period of my life in the late 1970s and early 1980s so much happier.  The Who just played at the Brighton Centre and all I could think of while we played was that I had once played with The Clash on the same stage in 1981.

Pete Townsend, The Who