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

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Disc 12 is Rock The Casbah.

Combat Rock had not turned out to be a return to the punk origins as many had thought might be the case based on its lead off single.  It was also clear that the record company were now, for whatever reason, calling more of the shots as Rock The Casbah was issued just seven weeks after Know Your Rights when there had previously been considerable gaps between the singles.

The move was as much a response to the reception given to the album, particularly in America.  There is no doubt that Rock the Casbah was always going to be a single, as evidenced by the promo video being made.  I’m not sure how many of you have noticed however, that the drummer in the video is none other than Terry Chimes and not Topper Headon….the irony of course being that we would later learn Rock The Casbah was mostly written by the now departed drummer who had left the band on the eve of the tour to promote the album, with exhaustion being cited.

This is a single like no other in the history of The Clash, at least during their time together as a band.  It didn’t do all that brilliantly in the UK, stalling at #30 and perhaps providing evidence that long time fans were finding it hard to come to terms with the new sound.  But elsewhere, where The Clash hadn’t really enjoyed huge success before, the single brought fame and fortune – Top 5 in both Australia and New Zealand, Top 20 across much of Europe and most crucially, Top 10 in the USA in both mainstream and dance charts.

It’s a song driven along in the main by the disco beat and piano playing, but there’s some decent contributions from Mick on guitar while Joe’s lyrics are among the catchiest he ever penned.  It’s a terrific and enduring pop song that, if written and recorded in that style by any other band of the era, would equally have proven to be a hit.  It’s the one song by The Clash that just about everyone aged 45-60 nowadays can easily recall.

It was released in the UK on 7″ and 12″ vinyl. The former contained a decent sounding and poppy b-side albeit it does on for maybe a minute too long)  which we would later learn was written by Paul Simonon about issues he was having in a long-term relationship but unlike Guns Of Brixton the vocal was taken on by Joe.  The latter had an instrumental remix of the a-side on offer:-

mp3 : The Clash – Rock The Casbah
mp3 : The Clash – Long Time Jerk
mp3 : The Clash – Mustapha Dance

ROCK THE CASBAH  : Released 11 June 1982 : #30 in the UK singles chart (#15 on 1991 re-release)

I was aware of The Clash when punk happened because that was what started us going, although I don’t think Joy Division were punk like that.  I think we were something else that came after that didn’t have a name.

‘Rock The Casbah’ is my favourite track. I heard it in New York when we first started going there in the early 80s after the demise of Joy Division. We were struggling a bit because Ian’s death meant we couldn’t go in that direction anymore, we’d peaked in that sound.

Clubs in NY were ‘new wave’ and the music was infinitely better than in England. For a start they were often in big warehouses.  There was the Peppermint Lounge, Danceteria, Hurrah’s, AM-PM…tons of them. They weren’t playing commercial dance music, but club tracks by English groups…and the two absolute classics were ‘Tainted Love’ by Soft Cell and ‘Rock The Casbah.’

It broke form. I believe it was written by the drummer. It really cut it in a club and showed me you can make club music that’s not cheesy – like nightclub music was in England at the time.  Here was a proper group, making proper music, but they were using traditional rock’n’roll instruments to make music that dominated a New York club scene.  That was a massive inspiration for me.

The song has great rhythmic content and a great hookline. It’s The Clash at their best.  OK, it’s not slashing guitars and a 190bpm tempo – but it’s a fucking great, really, really good song.

Bernard Sumner, Joy Division & New Order

THE CLASH ON SUNDAYS (16)

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Disc 16 is Know Your Rights.

April 1982.  And just when you thought that The Clash were incapable of any new surprises, they hit hard with the release of what turned out to be the first of three singles that would be lifted from Combat Rock.

Maybe they were just fed up of not being able to articulate their message properly with a music press that were no longer fans (for the most part) or maybe it was just a bit of piss-taking from Joe aimed at those who had dismissed This Is Radio Clash as sloganeering even before hearing a single note.  But it takes a big set of balls to scream out that what follows on record is ‘a public service announcement………………..WITH GUITARS!!!!!’

Yup, it’s time to throw away the funk, disco and reggae and get back to some good old-fashioned noise to what is suspiciously akin to a rockabilly beat.  But it was exactly what we were needing.

I’m a big fan of this song, and think it is one of the most underrated of the singles.  It was a throwback to the angry, disenfranchised band of old. It only came out on 7″ vinyl – no extended remixes for this track – and it even had a b-side that name-checked London just like so many songs of old.  The infatuation with America was seemingly over and it made me believe that the forthcoming album was going to be 45 minutes of pent-up aggression unleashed on a listening public.

Got that wrong didn’t I?

mp3 : The Clash – Know Your Rights
mp3 : The Clash – First Night Back In London

Years later, the early versions of the songs that made it onto Combat Rock became available in bootleg form.  It is interesting to hear how the lyric is delivered with a far more cynical rather than angry tone.  It’s also a couple of minutes longer than the version that was eventually publicly issued…

mp3 : The Clash – Know Your Rights (early version)

KNOW YOUR RIGHTS  : Released 23 April 1982 : #43 in the UK singles chart

For me it’s all about the first ten seconds of ‘Know Your Rights’.  The way Mick Jones bashes his guitar  and then Strummer shouts “This is a public service announcement/With guitars!” That’s the whole reason why The Clash existed right there. It’s a massive influence on what we’re going with Radio 4.

As a kid growing up in America, ‘Combat Rock’ was everywhere. MTV had just started and the video for ‘Rock the Casbah’ was on all the time. All the kids at school loved it but ‘Know Your Rights’ was the one for me. It’s the ultimate synthesis of all their influences, from reggae to punk through R&B to soul.  Musically, it sounds really urgent, as if they were keen to tighten things up.

Maybe they were conscious that they’d lost a few people en route with ‘Sandinista’ and wanted ro strip the sound back to bare bones.  The lyrics are spot on: “Murder is a crime/Unless it is done by a politician or an aristocrat”.  Someone could release ‘Know Your Rights’ next week and it would still sound relevant.  It’s timeless.

Anthony Roman, Radio 4

THE CLASH ON SUNDAYS (15)

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Disc 15 is This Is Radio Clash.

By late 1981, The Clash were not getting much positive press in the UK.  This was in part down to the continued backlash against what many critics and journalists considered to be a folly (or even worse a vanity project) of the triple-album but also because the band were no longer as accessible as they had been just five years previous when the debut album and singles had been unleashed.

Word came through that the band were reverting to old practices and releasing a one-off 45 that hadn’t been on any previous albums nor would it feature on any future recordings.  Word then came through that the title of the new 45 was to be This Is Radio Clash, and before anyone had heard a single second of music, it had been dismissed by a number of writers on the title alone on the basis that they’d had enough of the Joe’s sloganeering.

As such, the new single was on a hiding to nothing.  The reviews were mixed to say the least, and there was a further backlash when it was revealed that the 7″ single was the same tune with slightly altered lyrics and the 12″ only had remixes.  As someone wrote at the time, it was as if the band had used up all their creative talent in making Sandanista! and now had the equivalent of writer’s block.

All of which is very unfair on the single.  Yes, it was another surprise in terms of its sound being akin to a dance number that was more funk than punk, but it was far from awful.  Indeed, it is easy to look back now and see that they were laying down a marker for what was to be their next album – the one that really would propel them to fame and fortune in the USA which had been such a goal in recent times.  As one of those new wavers who liked his disco music, I was at the time and have continued ever since to be a fan of this single and can look back with pride that I helped it reach the giddy heights of #47!! Although I have to admit that the 12″ mixes are a bit on the dull side.

mp3 : The Clash – This Is Radio Clash
mp3 : The Clash – Radio Clash
mp3 : The Clash – Outside Broadcast
mp3 : The Clash – Radio 5

Worth noting that at the time of its release, there were only Radios 1,2,3 and 4 broadcasting nationally on the BBC in the UK. Radio 5, which became the news and sports channel, was launched in 1990.

THIS IS RADIO CLASH  : Released 20 November 1981 : #47 in the UK singles chart

The thing with ‘Radio Clash’ is it’s got that great ‘dan-daan-daan-dandaaaah’ introduction, almost as if saying ‘Here comes the villain’, the the riff comes in.  It’s pretty much like listening to the future if you consider what they were doing with sampling and remixing but without all the modern technology.

I wasn’t around for punk but you didn’t have to be to realise it was way ahead of its time. Also, it’ still got the attitude in there, even now, many years on. Joe’s lyrics hit home.  If you compare it to ‘White Riot’, they are so far apart stylistically, and that to me is what makes The Clash great. The mixing of styles, the lack of fear of experimentation, the way they’d get on and make records they wanted to, regardless of what anyone thought.  Not being afraid to try musically different styles has influenced Hard Fi,

I’m from a satellite town where the cultural arena was pretty sparse so The Clash were one of the ways to actually find out about stuff, whether it was dub, ska or Jack Kerouac.  They talked about what was going on in the world, we took that from them, they dealt with global issues but we’ve kept it to a local level. My older brother, Steve, got me into them.  Then I read Nirvana talking about them in interviews, and then Mick produced my first band.

Fast forward to a couple of months ago when he joined us on stage at Brixton Academy and it sums up how so much has changed in the last few years.  You couldn’t ask for any more. When I hear their songs it makes my heart beat faster, and I just want to pick up my guitar and get on stage.

Richard Archer, Hard Fi

(I’m thinking today’s author won’t be too well-known outside of the UK – here’s wiki )

THE CLASH ON SUNDAYS (14)

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Disc 14 is The Magnificent Seven.

For all that I’ve never fallen totally for the charms of Sandinista!, the opening track on Side A was one that I loved on first play and have never since tired of it.  Yes, it was a total curve ball as it was not what any of us were expecting from The Clash.  Rap music was something us British new wave post-punkers only really read about tucked away in obscure parts of our music papers and up until this point I can’t say that outside of the Top 3 hit Rapper’s Delight by The Sugarhill Gang (a single I had bought as a 16-year old) was a genre I was unfamiliar with.  But as I’ve mentioned in previous postings looking at times in my life, dancing and dance music has always been important to me.  And everything about the track insisted you moved your limbs to the best of your ability.

mp3 : The Clash – The Magnificent Seven

As wiki accurately reports, it was was inspired by hip hop acts from New York City, like the aforementioned  Sugarhill Gang and Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five, both of whom were having an impact on all members of The Clash.

It was recorded in April 1980 at Electric Lady Studios in New York City, built around a funky bass loop played by Norman Watt-Roy of The Blockheads with Joe Strummer writing the words on the spot. It is probably the first time a rock band had tried to record a rap song – it predated the much more famous and successful Rapture, the #1 hit for Blondie, by some six months.

It’s a remarkable song in so many ways, not least the lyric which deals with the humdrum of everyday life (especially the need to work to survive) but also has an incredible stream of consciousness fashion that takes in shopping, the media and famous people in history. And cheeseburgers. And vacuum cleaners. And budgerigars.

It was released on 7″ vinyl with highly edited versions and an instrumental on the b-side:-

mp3 : The Clash – The Magnificent Seven (edit)
mp3 : The Clash – The Magnificent Dance (edit)

The 12″ versions were slightly longer but still shorter than the album version:-

mp3 : The Clash – The Magnificent Seven (12″ mix)
mp3 : The Clash – The Magnificent Dance (12″ mix)

The US 12″ version also contained The Cool Out, the remix of The Call Out as featured two weeks back.

A cracking essay is in the booklet for this one….

THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN : Released 10 April 1981 : #34 in the UK singles chart

I bought Sandanista and I played the first and second sides loads and I think ‘The Magnificent Seven’ is the leading track.  At the time I had a job in a print factory, and the lyrics were pretty true to my life, “Ring Ring 7am, got to get up and start again”.  Most of the time I wanted to commit suicide, so the song portrayed that experience correctly. It made it funny as well..the “cheesburger” line. I heard he was making an order, and they kept it on the track.

The song’s about the futility of work and that’s what I felt, it voiced the experience I was going through. Living in a cage, imprisoned with no real future, that song gave me the courage to give up work. I always remember the lyrics because of that.

I loved Chic and this sounded like ‘Good Times’, but I liked it.  I didn’t know Joe was doing rap, I do in retrospect but at the time I never knew that. It sounded like a punk version of Chic.

It’s a rebel song you can really dance to.  One of the best, really brave, the album before was ‘London Calling’ which everyone was saying was a rock masterpiece, then they come out with a triple album full of disco, psychedelia, country, dub, everything.  I probably bought it at Soundtrack Records in Mount Florida, Glasgow. For some reason he always had punk records.  I was 18 years old, living at home with my dad. It’s an amazing record, great energy, great remixes, a truly wild record with some of Strummer’s greatest lyrics.

Bobby Gillespie,  Primal Scream

PS from JC…………………

The one thing I will say about the bass line from The Magnificent Seven, is that it bears more than a passing resemblance to this hit single from 1978:-

mp3 : The Rolling Stones – Miss You

Doesn’t it?

 

THE CLASH ON SUNDAYS (13)

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Disc 8 is Hitsville UK.

An unashamed tribute to Tamla Motown, from the opening few bars that rip off You Can’t Hurry Love through a bass line that Holland/Dozier/Holland and Smokey Robinson would equally be proud of, to the title which apes the Hitsville USA marketing slogan closely associated with the Detroit years of the label.

Trouble is, it’s not really very good is it?  It’s certainly not worthy of most of the other singles that had gone beforehand and in many ways represents much of what was wrong with Sandinista, the triple album that had been released at the end of 1980.  I know I’m probably in a minority, but I was never a fan of the album, albeit it does contain a reasonable number of decent songs.  It was almost as if the band wanted to put out six sides of vinyl at minimal cost as a two-fingered salute to CBS and also to demonstrate to their fan base how little the idea of making money appealed to the greatest of rock’n’roll bands.

Hitsville UK features a vocal from Ellen Foley, who was Mick’s girlfriend at the time.  It’s hard to imagine nowadays the furore this caused at the time (the vocal…..not the relationship!!) as she was best known, in the UK at least, for being the co-vocalist on one of Meat Loaf‘s epic numbers which back in 1977 has been seen as one of the defining moments as to why it was important to embrace the short and sharp sound of punk/new wave.  The thought of such an out-and-out rocker, as she was being portrayed in the press, becoming part of The Clash was a hard one to absorb.

mp3 : The Clash – Hitsville UK

The single bombed.  It’s strange as the lyric is a good one, with Mick acknowledging just how influential the indie labels in the UK were starting to become with the likes of Small Wonder, Fast, Factory and Rough Trade all getting name-checked in some shape or form as is the joy of the three-minute single (another link to the really heady days of Motown).  The logos of many of indie labels (including Postcard) are reproduced lovingly on the sleeve. But it all gets lost in a sadly anodyne production – but maybe that was the band’s plan all along.   It’s not one I go to very often.

The b-side also didn’t offer any succour for those looking for the punky sound of the band, as it was a Mikey Dread number that developed further the sound offered up on Bankrobber a few months back:-

mp3 : The Clash – Radio One

HITSVILLE UK : Released 16 January 1981 : #58 in the UK singles chart

Every film I’ve made I’ve tried in vain to get ‘Hitsville UK’ into it. This stab of post-punk and Motown would elevate any British film. It’s also the perfect blueprint of how to make a British film. For a long time it was on the end of ’28 Days Later’ but mutants, creeps and musclemen persuaded me to replace it with something else.

A couple of months later, Joe Strummer died and although I’d helped to shower him in spit and beer, I’d never met him or any of the group. Now I felt in some stupid way that I’d let him down. Finally, I got it into ‘Millions’ – and will never again delay paying dues.

Danny Boyle,  film director (Trainspotting, A Life Less Ordinary, Shallow Grave)

THE CLASH ON SUNDAYS (12)

The+Clash+The+Call+Up+165860Disc 12 is The Call Up.

It was just a three-month wait for the next single.  But for many people it was the first hint of the band being a disappointment.  It’s not that The Call Up is a bad single, but it just felt, when set against the run of 45s in recent times, to be a tad less than essential. It also fell back to the sort of chart positions that the earlier singles, barely scraping into the Top 40. It was only years later that we’d recognise it as a partial template for the sound of Big Audio Dynamite

It’s clearly an anti-war song, or more precisely, an anti-Army/military service song urging those 18-25 year olds who were, thanks to a new bill passing through the US Congress, facing a requirement to register themselves under a system where circumstances could lead to them having to carry out service in ‘defence’ of their country.  The sentiments were very noble given it was only a decade after Vietnam where, as a later hit song would remind us, the average age of a casualty had been 19.

The b-side was another song with an anti-war message, highlighting the fear of a nuclear holocaust….a situation that was growing ever more likely with the impending elevation of Ronald Reagan to the presidency.

Both sides also indicated how America and its way of life was becoming more interesting as subject matters in terms of songwriting to Joe Strummer and Mick Jones.  Things had really moved on from the London-centric debut LP just three years earlier where it was deemed acceptable to be bored with the USA.  Some journalists actually used that as a stick with which to metaphorically beat the band around the head with. Again.

mp3 : The Clash – The Call Up
mp3 : The Clash – Stop The World

It was originally released only in the UK on 7″ vinyl, but the following year  a cracking instrumental remix of the song was made available on a 12″ single released in the USA, and given that the author of the accompanying essay in the box set makes reference to that (and to a later single in this series), it makes sense to feature it here:-

mp3 : The Clash – The Cool Out

THE CALL UP  : Released 21 November 1980 : #40 in the UK singles chart

‘The Cool Out’ is a mix of ‘The Call Up’ and is really important because they show the versatility The Clash went for in terms of incorporating different kinds of music. The thing about The Clash that stood out is they were massive fans of music themselves, they were always looking for what was happening, what was coming up from the street. They took what was new and hadn’t broken through, mixed it with something accessible and made it The Clash.

They changed music completely by showing they can take a band with bass and guitars and drums to a whole new place.  You can take Chic or rap or whatever and mix it.  They were probably hanging out in clubs and discos in New York at the time. Those mixes still influence a lot of bands now. It took the fear away of gay disco music, back then I guess you were either a rock’n’roll band or disco was for women.  Most bands would have feared this type of music but not The Clash.

My all-time favourite single by The Clash was ‘Rock The Casbah’ because I was convinced they were singing “Sharleen don’t like it”.  Later, I used to book into hotels as Janie Jones until someone rumbled me.

Sharleen Spiteri, Texas

THE CLASH ON SUNDAYS (11)

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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

THE CLASH ON SUNDAYS (10)

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Disc 10 is London Calling.

So we come to the point when The Clash to all intent and purposes stopped being a punk/new wave band and moved beyond any sort of meaningful classification thanks to their ability to turn their hand to just about any sort of genre and make it sound their own.

It is quite incredible that a double album, widely recognised and acknowledged as one of the best of all time, only ever had one single lifted from it. (I’m talking in broad terms here as I know that a separate song was lifted and released in the USA).  It is also quite incredible that more than 35 years since it was first broadcast over the airwaves that it has since become one of the most immediately identifiable opening to any song ever written.

It was released at the beginning of December 1979 in 7″ and 12″ form, the latter being something new for the band and as such was the version I bought.  I was blown away right away, particularly for the booming bass notes that blared out of my speakers in an almost distorted manner.  And the ending with its S.O.S.call just added a wow factor.

The other three songs on the 12″ were equally jaw dropping, albeit it was one cover and two remixed dub versions of said cover.  I actually thought that the lyrics and sentiments of White Man (In Hammersmith Palais) meant that the Clash wouldn’t go back to reggae for any material choosing to leave the majesty of Police and Thieves as their calling card in that respect.  But Armagideon Time and the dub versions blew that notion away.

My 12″ copy of the single was, alas, damaged beyond repair a few years later when put into use at a party in the flat and someone dropped burning ash onto it.  I’d later get the songs back via their inclusion on the compilation album Black Market Clash.

It’s worth noting that the single didn’t sell all that well in the run up to Christmas  – I’m guessing most fans would have spent their money initially on the album which came out just seven days later.  But it was a real slow burner of a 45 and six weeks after its release it hit its peak of #11….just think how high it would have got if the band had been interested in appearing on Top of The Pops to boost sales.

This was the UK top 10 on the week of 19 January 1980:-

1. The Pretenders – Brass In Pocket
2. Billy Preston & Syreeta – With You I’m Born Again
3. KC & The Sunshine Band – Please Don’t Go
4. Madness – My Girl
5. Pink Floyd – Another Brick In The Wall
6. The Nolans – I’m In The Mood For Dancing
7. Abba – I Have A Dream
8. The Beat – Tears Of A Clown/Ranking Full Stop
9. Fiddler’s Dram – Day Trip To Bangor
10. The Tourists – I Only Want To Be With You

A mixed bag to say the very least, and surely a missed opportunity to hit #1.

mp3 : The Clash – London Calling
mp3 : The Clash – Armagideon Time
mp3 : The Clash – Justice Tonight
mp3 : The Clash – Kick It Over

Bit of a surprise as to the author of the main essay in the booklet. I also think he’s talking bollocks, but never mind.

LONDON CALLING : Released 7 December 1979 : #11

I love The Clash.  I liked their first album even though the production was not too good. As you know they were formed because of seeing the Pistols, so it was never seen as a threat, the Pistols were number one and The Clash were number two, even if it was perceived to have changed further along the road.

I like the way they played because it was the same style as I’m from, the same school of glam, the tunes very similar to what I was brought up with.  The structures and blueprint Mick Jones gave them were coming from the same place I was.  I went up to Birmingham, to the Music Machine and played with them. There was no animosity, it was all good in my book.

“London Calling” was their “Anarchy In The UK”. I thought it was a depressing song but significant, because of the lyrics. The best time I ever saw them was early on, when they were rehearsing, Keith Levine was still in the band, and I watched them rehearse at the Roundhouse and they didn’t change much from then on. 

You know history gets twisted by those that weren’t there.  The Clash, they were there, we were there. I’ve had Mick on the blower for the radio show.  Joe: I’d get weird messages when he was alive, at 5am, saying how he thought I was his fave guitar player, they were great guys.  I Liked them.

Steve Jones, the Sex Pistols and Indie 103.1FM, Los Angeles

There’s so much drama in this tune, it feels like you are in the middle of a dream.

Damon Albarn, Gorillaz, Blur.