The Clash

Hi this is Gary: I will tell you about Bruce. I hired Bruce to upgrade our computers at my home to windows 10. During the process we talked and found we both had a love of music. I introduced Bruce to the Blog, which he loved, and then we discussed vinyl recordings. OK, so long story short, his music tastes are different because he is 20 years younger, we talked about all of the concerts he had been to and especially the Clash. I invited him to write for our Blog and the result, in my opinion, is great and I hope you all agree.

By Bruce Durward

I am around 20 years younger than Russ & Gary and therefore got my rock n roll roots near the end of 70’s and early 80’s. I also attended many concerts from 1980-84. One of my favourite groups was The Clash having seen them 3 times in Detroit Michigan at three different venues.

1982 Grand Circus Theater

1982 Pontiac Silverdome, opening for the Who

1984 The Fox Theater


The Band Members

Classic lineup (1977–1982)
Joe Strummer – lead and backing vocals, rhythm guitar 
(1976–1986; died 2002)
Mick Jones – lead guitar, lead and backing vocals 
Paul Simonon – bass guitar, backing and lead vocals 
Nicky “Topper” Headon – drums, percussion 

Other members
Terry Chimes – drums 
(1976, 1977, 1982–83)
Rob Harper – drums 
Pete Howard – drums 
Keith Levene – guitar 
Nick Sheppard – lead guitar, backing and lead vocals 
Vince White – lead guitar 

Joe Strummer – lead and backing vocals, rhythm guitar (1976–1986)

John Graham Mellor (21 August 1952 – 22 December 2002), better known as Joe Strummer, was a British musician, singer, songwriter, composer, actor, and radio host who was best known as the co-founder, lyricist, rhythm guitarist, and co-lead vocalist of The Clash.

Joe Strummer
(John Graham Mellor)

Strummer was born John Graham Mellor in Ankara, Turkey on 21 August 1952, the son of a Scottish mother and English father.

Strummer developed a love of rock music listening to albums by Little Richard, the Beach Boys and Woody Guthrie. Strummer would even go by the nickname “Woody” for a few years. He would later refer to the Beach Boys as “the reason [he] played music”.

Strummer’s other career highlights included stints with the 101ers, Latino Rockabilly War, the Mescaleros, and the Pogues, as well as solo music. His work as a musician allowed him to explore other interests such as acting, scoring television shows and films, hosting radio shows, and as a radio host on the BBC Radio show London Calling. Strummer and the Clash were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in January 2003. In his remembrance, Strummer’s friends and family established the Joe Strummer Foundation a non-profit organization which gives opportunities to musicians and support to projects around the world that create empowerment through music.

Mick Jones – lead guitar, lead and backing vocals (1976–1983)

Mick Jones

Michael Geoffrey Jones (born 26 June 1955) is a British musician, singer and songwriter best known as the lead guitarist, co-lead vocalist, co-founder and songwriter for The Clash until 1983. When he was 21, he and Paul Simonon were introduced to Joe Strummer by Bernie Rhodes in Shepherd’s Bush, a busy, multicultural neighbourhood in London with a mix of houses and offices. The band rehearsed in a former railway warehouse in Camden Town and The Clash was formed. Jones played lead guitar, sang, and co-wrote songs from the band’s inception until he was fired by Strummer and Simonon in 1983. One of the songs he wrote, “Train in Vain,” was allegedly about Jones’ relationship with Viv Albertine, guitarist of The Slits. Jones’ lack of punctuality played a major role in his dismissal from the band.

In 1984, he formed Big Audio Dynamite with Don Letts. Jones has played with the group Carbon/Silicon along with Tony James since 2002 and was part of the Gorillaz live band for a world tour in 2010–2011. In late 2011, Jones collaborated with Pete Wylie and members of the Farm to form the Justice Tonight Band.

Paul Simonon – bass guitar, backing and lead vocals (1976–1986)

Paul Simonon

Paul Gustave Simonon (born 15 December 1955) is an English musician and artist best known as the bassist for The Clash. He met Mick Jones in 1976, and six months later the Clash was formed when Joe Strummer joined, with Jones on lead guitar. Simonon learned his bass parts by rote from Jones in the early days of The Clash and still did not know how to play the bass when the group first recorded. He is credited with coming up with the name of the band and was mainly responsible for the visual aspects such as clothing and stage backdrops.  Simonon was shown on the front cover of the band’s double album London Calling: The image of him smashing his Fender Precision Bass guitar during a 1979 concert in New York City; the image has become one of the iconic pictures of the punk era.

More recent work includes his involvement in the super group The Good, the Bad & the Queen and playing on the Gorillaz album Plastic Beach in 2010, which saw Simonon reunite with The Clash guitarist Mick Jones and Blur front man Damon Albarn – and which also led to Simonon becoming the live band’s touring bassist for Gorillaz’s Escape to Plastic Beach Tour.

Nicky “Topper” Headon – drums, percussion (1977–1982)

Nicky “Topper” Headon

Nicholas Bowen “Topper” Headon (born 30 May 1955) is an English drummer, best known as the drummer of the Clash. He joined the Clash in 1977 and became famed for his drumming skills. He was dismissed in 1982 because of his drug use. He received his nickname owing to his resemblance to Mickey the Monkey from the Topper comic. Clash singer/guitarist Joe Strummer is quoted as saying Headon’s drumming skills were a vital part of the band. Tensions rose between Headon and his fellow band members due to his addiction, and he left the band on 10 May 1982, at the beginning of the Combat Rock tour. The band covered up the real reason for Headon’s departure, the apparent growing use of heroin, claiming Headon’s exit was due to exhaustion.

The Clash

On 3 April 1976, the then-unknown Sex Pistols opened for the 101ers at a venue called the Nashville Rooms in London, and Strummer was impressed by them. Sometime after the show, Strummer was approached by Bernie Rhodes and Mick Jones. Jones was from the band London SS and wanted Strummer to join as lead singer. Strummer agreed to leave the 101ers and join Jones, bassist Paul Simonon, drummer Terry Chimes and guitarist Keith Levene. The band was named The Clash by Simonon and made their debut on 4 July 1976 in Sheffield, opening for the Sex Pistols at the Black Swan (also known as the Mucky Duck, now known as the Boardwalk). On 25 January 1977, the band signed with CBS Records as a three-piece after Levene was fired from the band and Chimes quit. Topper Headon later became the band’s full-time drummer.

During his time with The Clash, Strummer, along with his bandmates, became notorious for getting into trouble with the law. On 10 June 1977, he and Headon were arrested for spray-painting “The Clash” on a wall in a hotel. On 20 May 1980, he was arrested for hitting a violent member of the audience with his guitar during a performance in Hamburg, Germany. This incident shocked Strummer, and had a lasting personal impact on him. Strummer said, “It was a watershed—violence had really controlled me for once”. He determined never again to fight violence with violence.

Debut Album

Mickey Foote, who worked as a technician at their concerts, was hired to produce the Clash’s debut album, and Terry Chimes was drafted back for the recording. The band’s first single, “White Riot”, was released in March 1977 and reached number 34. The album, The Clash, came out the following month. Filled with fiery punk tracks, it also presaged the many eclectic turns the band would take with its cover of the reggae song “Police and Thieves”. “Amidst the Sex Pistols’ inertia in the first half of 1977, the Clash found themselves as the flag-wavers of the punk rock consciousness”, according to music journalist and former punk musician John Robb.  Though the album charted well in the UK, climbing quickly to number 12, CBS refused to give it a US release, believing that its raw, barely produced sound would make it unmarketable there. A North American version of the album, with a modified track listing, was eventually released in the US two years later in 1979, after the UK original became the best-selling import album of the year in the United States rising to 126 on US Billboard Charts.

1977 / White Riot / #38


1977 / Remote Control / #51


Second Album

Before the Clash began recording their second album, CBS requested that they adopt a cleaner sound than its predecessor in order to reach American audiences. Sandy Pearlman, known for his work with Blue Öyster Cult, was hired to produce the record. Simonon later recalled, “Recording that album was just the most boring situation ever. It was just so nitpicking, such a contrast to the first album … it ruined any spontaneity.” Strummer agreed that “it wasn’t our easiest session.” Although some listeners complained about its relatively mainstream production style, Give ‘Em Enough Ropereceived largely positive reviews upon its November release.  It hit number 2 in the UK, but it was not the American breakthrough CBS had hoped for, reaching only number 128 on the Billboard chart. The album’s first UK single, the hard rocking “Tommy Gun”, rose to number 19, the highest chart position for a Clash single to date. In support of the album, the band toured the UK supported by the Slits and the Innocents. The series of concerts—there were more than thirty, from Edinburgh to Portsmouth—was promoted as the Sort It Out Tour. The band subsequently undertook its first, largely successful tour of North America in February 1979.

1979 / Tommy Gun / #19


1979 / English Civil War / #25


Third Album

In August and September 1979, the Clash recorded London Calling. Produced by Guy Stevens, a former A&R executive who had worked with Mott the Hoople and Traffic, the double album was a mix of punk rock, reggae, ska, rockabilly, traditional rock and roll and other elements possessed of an energy that had hardly flagged since the band’s early days and more polished production. The title of the track also happened to be heavily influenced by the BBC World Service call signal and the panic that resulted in the Three Mile Island nuclear scare. It is regarded as one of the greatest rock albums ever recorded. Its final track, a relatively straightforward rock and roll number sung by Mick Jones called “Train in Vain”, was included at the last minute and thus did not appear in the track listing on the cover. It became their first US Top 40 hit, peaking at number 23 on the Billboard chart. In the UK, where “Train in Vain” was not released as a single, London Calling’s title track, stately in beat but unmistakably punk in message and tone, rose to number 11—the highest position any Clash single reached in the UK before the band’s break-up.

Released in December, London Calling hit number 9 on the British chart; in the United States, where it was issued in January 1980, it reached number 27. In Canada it made it to number 12.  The cover of the album, based on the cover of Elvis Presley’s self-titled 1956 debut LP, became one of the best known in the history of rock. Its image, by photographer Pennie Smith, of Simonon smashing his bass guitar was later cited as the “best rock ‘n roll photograph of all time” by Q magazine.  During this period, the Clash began to be regularly billed as “The Only Band That Matters”. Musician Gary Lucas, then employed by CBS Records’ creative services department, claims to have coined the tagline. The epithet was soon widely adopted by fans and music journalists. 

1980 / London Calling / #11


1980 / Train In Vain


Sandinista! The album

The Clash had planned to record and release a single every month in 1980. CBS balked at this idea, and the band came out with only one single—an original reggae tune, “Bankrobber”, in August—before the December release of the 3-LP, 36-song Sandinista!

The album again reflected a broad range of musical styles, including extended dubs and the one of the first forays into rap by a major rock band, following Ant Rap by Adam and the Ants which was released a month earlier. Produced by the band members with the participation of Jamaican reggae artist Mikey Dread, Sandinista! was their most controversial album to date, both politically and musically. Critical opinion was divided, often within individual reviews. Trouser Press’s Ira Robbins described half the album as “great”, half as “nonsense” and worse. In the New Rolling Stone Record Guide, Dave Marsh argued, “Sandinista! is nonsensically cluttered. Or rather seems nonsensically cluttered. One of the Clash’s principal concerns is to avoid being stereotyped.” The album fared reasonably well in America, charting at number the US and 3 in Canada.

1980 / The Call Up / #40 / #21


1980 / Police On My Back / AUS only


1981 / Hitsville U.K. / #56 / #53


1981 / The Magnificent Seven / #34 / #21


Combat Rock Album

Before the album Combat Rock was released in 1982, Strummer went into hiding and the band’s management said that he had “disappeared”. Bernie Rhodes, the band’s manager, pressured Joe to do so because tickets were selling slowly for the Scottish leg of an upcoming tour. It was planned for Strummer to travel, in secret, to Texas and stay with his friend, musician Joe Ely. Uneasy with his decision, Strummer instead decided to genuinely disappear and “dicked around” in France. During this time, Strummer ran the Paris Marathon in April 1982. He claimed his training regimen consisted of 10 pints of beer the night before the race. For this period of time, Joe’s whereabouts were a mystery not only to the public, but to the band’s management as well. Joe said later that this was a huge mistake and that you “have to have some regrets”. This was in spite of the popular success of the single “Rock the Casbah”. During this time, band members began to argue frequently, and with tensions high, the group began to fall apart.

Production duties were handed to Glyn Johns, and the album was reconceived as a single LP, and released as Combat Rock in May 1982. Though filled with offbeat songs, experiments with sound collage, and a spoken word vocal by Beat poet Allen Ginsberg, it contained two “radio friendly” tracks. The leadoff single in the US was “Should I Stay or Should I Go”, released in June 1982. Another Jones feature in a rock and roll style similar to “Train in Vain”, it received heavy airplay on AOR stations. The follow-up, “Rock the Casbah”, put lyrics addressing the Iranian clampdown on imports of Western music to a bouncy dance rhythm. (The singles were released in the opposite order in the UK, where they were both preceded by “Know Your Rights”.) The music for “Rock the Casbah” was composed by Headon, who performed not only the percussion but also the piano and bass heard on the recorded version. It was the band’s biggest US hit ever, charting at number 8, and the video was put into heavy rotation by MTV.

This album was the band’s most successful, hitting number 2 in the UK and number 7 in the US with Canada it hit #12.

1982 / Know Your Rights / #43


1982 / Rock The Casbah / #30 / #6


1982 / Should I Stay Or Should I Go / Straight To Hell / #17 / #13


Cut the Crap Album / 1985

In September 1983, Strummer issued the infamous “Clash Communique”, and fired Mick Jones.  Topper Headon had earlier been kicked out of the band because of his heroin addiction, and Terry Chimes was brought back temporarily to fill his place until the permanent replacement, Pete Howard, could be found. This left the band with only two of its original members, Strummer and Simonon. Rhodes persuaded Strummer to carry on, adding two new guitarists.

Under this lineup, they released the album Cut the Crap in 1985. The album was panned by fans and critics alike and Strummer disbanded the Clash. The recording sessions for Cut the Crap were chaotic, with manager Bernard Rhodes and Strummer working in Munich. Most of the music was played by studio musicians, with Sheppard and later White flying in to provide guitar parts. Struggling with Rhodes for control of the band, Strummer returned home. The band went on a busking tour of public spaces in cities throughout the UK, playing acoustic versions of their hits and popular cover tunes. The Album hit #16 in UK, 88 in the US and 59 in Canada.

After a concert in Athens, Strummer went to Spain to clear his mind. While he was abroad, the first single from Cut the Crap, the mournful “This Is England“, was released to mostly negative reviews. “CBS had paid an advance for it so they had to put it out”, Strummer later explained. “I just went, ‘Well fuck this’, and fucked off to the mountains of Spain to sit sobbing under a palm tree, while Bernie had to deliver a record.” However, critic Dave Marsh later championed “This Is England” as one of the top 1001 rock singles of all time. The single has also received retroactive praise from Q magazine and others.

The track “This Is England“, much like the rest of the album that came out later that year, had been drastically re-engineered by Rhodes, with synths and football-style chants added to Strummer’s incomplete recordings. Although Howard was an adept drummer, drum machines were used for virtually all of the percussion tracks. For the remainder of his life, Strummer largely disowned the album, although he did profess that “I really like ‘This Is England’ and [album track] ‘North and South’ is a vibe.”  In early 1986, the Clash disbanded. Strummer later described the group’s end: “When the Clash collapsed, we were tired. There had been a lot of intense activity in five years. Secondly, I felt we’d run out of idea gasoline. And thirdly, I wanted to shut up and let someone else have a go at it.

1985 / This Is England / #24


At the band’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Clash was said to be “considered one of the most overtly political, explosive and exciting bands in rock and roll history”.

Their songs tackled social decay, unemployment, racism, police brutality, political and social repression, and militarism in detail. Strummer was involved with the Anti-Nazi League and Rock Against Racism campaigns. He later also gave his support to the Rock Against the Rich series of concerts organized by the anarchist organization Class War. The Clash’s London Calling album was voted best album of the 1980s by Rolling Stone magazine (although it was released in late 1979 in the UK, it was not released until 1980 in the US).


One response to “The Clash

  1. Pingback: Song Louie Louie | Russ & Gary's "The Best Years of Music"

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