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Having recently just completed a review on the Clash album Combat Rock I thought I might try my hand at the other albums I own and so thought it logical to start where it all began with their debut album - The Clash. At the forefront of punk in the 1970s the Clash opened themselves up to the world and boy am I sure glad they did.
Janie Jones - A song which deals with a famous pop singer and 'madam' at the time, Janie Jones opens up the album and does not disappoint. A very gritty song with typical Joe Strummer vocals and Mick Jones back up the song makes for a very energetic undeniably very 'punk' song. The drums are a constant heart beat throughout the track matched with quite aggressive lead guitar and a strong bass line throughout. The song is relatively short at only a little over 2 minutes but makes for a nice introduction to the album that sets up what is yet to come.
Remote Control - Next comes remote control which is a song that focuses on inequality and conformity as many of the Clash's lyrics take a political stance. Although 40 years on it may be difficult for the younger generation to understand the context of the lyrics, it is still translatable and obvious they seek to highlight failing police, bureaucrats and even record companies. The song is said to have been released without the band's consent which sparked much anger and resentment between record company and them and was subject to later songs where the incident was referenced.
I'm So Bored With the USA - Strummer takes the lead here as opposed to a duel lead as in the previous track. The song was apparently originally called I'm so bored with you and was a kind of love song about Mick Jones' then girlfriend and later renamed due to a mishearing of the original title. This track has quite a basic repetitive bass line which highlights how Paul Simonon (the band's bassist) was still learning bass as he had joined the band as a kind of style consultant rather than astute musician. You can hear the grinding guitar sound which was used only in earlier songs and mainly on Strummer songs. Here the drummer was the drummer was Terry Chimes not Topper Headon which is why the drums are also somewhat more simple (as Headon was a well known highly skilled drummer). Overall its a general punk song and from a time before the band started to branch out into experimenting with other genres such as reggae.
White Riot - This song is often mistakenly confused with a kind of anthem to insight racial hatred or to start some kind of race war but the reality is far different. The lyrics suggest JOINING in with protest against social and racial inequality rather than to fight against. The song is based on the Nottinghill Riots which occurred a year before the album's release, an series of incidents which involved fighting against a corrupt and unfair establishment. In fact the song established itself from Strummer and Simonon's own involvement in the riots where they chose to join in as a point of protest. Lyrics are not wholly negative as you might expect and include supposed-to-be-motivating lines such as "Are you taking over / Or are you taking orders? / Are you going backwards / Or are you going forwards?". A great and catchy song that is so often overlooked and should really be given a second chance.
Hate & War - A love the intro of this song which is so full of gusto and then meets with Mick Jones whining voice with back up from Strummer. The song shows that the band do not solely focus on music but are clearly very invovled and concerned with their lyrics and the song is pretty poignant if you can get past the shouty, rough sound of the guitars and volume of Mick Jones who sings with constant passion. This track is perhaps one of the first obviously non-punk songs the band ever produced and most importantly includes two of the bands most important themes which were t feature in the majority of their songs: hate and war.
What's My Name - Starting with a whining almost siren like sound, the song continues with a thick mist of sound throughout where there doesn't ever seem to be a break. The chorus continues in this fashion and features long drawn out notes from both Strummer and Jones. The bass of the chorus is particularly impressive, especially considering Simonon's limited talent at bass at this time and shows how innovative and creative the band could be so as to overcome restraints such as this.
London's Burning - Not to be confused with the later perhaps more famous London Calling, this track begins with "London's Burning" sung twice and Strummer takes the lead here and is then joined on the Chorus by Jones. The song focuses on riots and issues with London at the time and also the band's own boredom at the time. As many of the other tracks do the band discusses racial issues also and the need for racial unity although more briefly and this is not an instrumental theme.
Career Opportunities - An ironic title for a song who's lyrics discuss unemployment and opportunities that never come to fruition: "Career opportunities are the ones that never knock/ Every job they offer you is to keep you out the dock". The song is relevant even today as it attacks the political and economic situation in England at the time where there was a significant lack of jobs particularly for the youth. Punk as a genre was very concerned with social and political issues and as such is a bit more important and revealing than more popular mainstream songs, particularly those of today where having a boyfriend is one's main concern!
Cheat - A very energetic and quick to start song with a lot of repetitive lyrics particularly of the chorus where the word "cheat" is simply said over and over. This is the same with the music itself where the bass is very prominent and cyclical with accents of rhythm guitar that soften a very angry harsh sounding song especially after one's first listen of it. I think the lead guitar in this song is particularly excellent and really makes me want to listen over and ever and as always the guitar provides a nice beat throughout. Another quick track which gradually fades off and leaves you wanting more.
Protex Blue - This song always makes me laugh because I remember a time when my group of friends/acquaintances were hoping to set up a band and my boyfriend suggested this as a band name, knowing full well the title referenced condoms mind you! They however didn't get it and seemed to consider it for a while much to my enjoyment. The intro which is met by a quick paced battle of guitars and Jones' voice is very enjoyable and the lyrics too make me smile with their light hearted topic. A pretty decent track with a nice composition and continues the album's successful theme.
Police & Thieves - I may be a little biased but I love this song and also love the original. This is perhaps a hint at what is yet to come in terms of other genres especially reggae as it is a remake of Junior Murvin's well-known reggae song released the year before sung in a Jamaican style. The Clash increase tempo and simultaneously the aggression within the lyrics which can be seen in lines such as 'Police and thieves in the streets/ Oh yeah/Scaring the nation with their guns and ammunition ' which highlights tensions that were very much prevalent at the time and not necessarily just in our culture/country. I must admit I enjoy both versions and for their stark differences as it means I can enjoy a particularly punk song that possesses all elements required to call itself so, and then again a slow paced relaxing and yet poignant track which is perhaps a little more cryptic.
48 Hours - Strummer begins with a very gruff and non-melodic voice that fits in tune with the brash riffs and powerful drum beat throughout. The song is very short at only 1.30ish and the majority of it is an excellent guitar solo piece and repetition of "48 hours" that shows off the bands flourish in experimentation.
Garageland - Finally Garageland ends the album and is again another song with a solid meaning. The song is said to have been written by Strummer following on from a review written about the band which claimed "The Clash are the kind of garage band who should be returned to the garage immediately, preferably with the engine running, which would undoubtedly be more of a loss to their friends and families than to either rock or roll". This song is a kind of declaration that the band would continue as they were and were not likely to be put off by criticism. A tongue in cheek attempt to combat an off hand remark such as this, this song shows the band's sense of humour and is a nice way to round off the album. Unlike other tracks it also features harmonica which makes for a nice addition and is a track that again isn't identical to their other tracks which is refreshing. Strummers vocals are particularly interesting as he sings perhaps a little softer and loses the accent for much of the song (however it makes a sneaky return in the chorus).
Overall this is a great debut album all by itself but the fact it is the Clash makes it even better for me. A varied and perfect introduction to a punk band full of originality and talent, there isn't much to fault in this album. There is the perfect mix of political snarky lyrics and great music that mean neither is too overwhelming without the over being let down. An excellent album which set up the band for a good few years of great music and many more years of popularity that exists even today.
This album was released in 1977, and as such, in the very beginnings of the punk rock album. It has huge significance historically for this reason as well as it having a lot of relevance in the subject matter covered in its songs. The 70s were beginning to see more liberal expression in music, but some of this was pretty radical even then.
In 2008, it still sounds fresh, punchy, catchy, energetic and enthusiastic, as it always did, and it still stands its ground and the band has a whole generation of new fans who were not there the first time around (myself included).
Everyone will know White Man In Hammersmith Palais for sure, and I think a fair few other tracks are pretty recognisable. The album provides a powerful socio-political commentary of the time and has paved the way for many other acts since as well as helping to develop and shape the new genre of music that we know as punk rock.
When Joe Strummer first saw the Sex Pistols at the 101 club, little did he know that he would later form one of the most influential punk rock bands ever! Strummer recruited Mick Jones, Paul Simonon and Terry Chimes and formed The Clash, releasing their debut self-titled album in 1977.
The Clash were know for creating a more diverse sound of punk rock and this album sets the tone for future releases. More varied and musically ambitious, this album delves into multiple genres of music. "Police And Thieves", a cover of Bob Marley's infamous song shows The Clash's influences and is an early sign of an even more diverse side they would explore later on in Sandinista!. "I'm So Bored With The USA", with it's introduction borrowed from the Sex Pistols "Pretty Vacant", and "Remote Control" are both classic straight-to-the-point punk rock songs and are typically 'Clash'. "Career Opportunities" details the woking class struggle at this time, and "White Riot", the album's masterpiece is a punk rock classic, fast and no messing about!
Two versions of the album were released. The UK version and the later released US version, including more songs that would later become fan favorites. "Complete Control", a personal favorite, just shows how talented the Clash were with their song writing. "(White Man) In Hammersmith Palais", another Clash favorite, and their infamous cover of the Sonny Curtis classic "I Fought The Law".
This is a classic punk rock album that still influences many bands to this day as well a staple album in punk rock history. Buy this album!!!
When Joe Strummer, Paul Simonon, Mick Jones and Terry Chimes first started, they drew inspiration from the Sex Pistols, little did they know that they would produce an album that towers over the pistols record both lyrically and musically.
Formed out of the remnants of a band called The London SS, lead guitarist and sometime singer Mick Jones, bassist Paul Simonon and drummer Chimes approached the frontman of a much respected pub-rock act named the 101ers who called himself Woody Mellors to see if he wanted to join their group, under the management of Sex Pistols svengali Malcolm McLarens friend-cum-rival Bernie Rhodes, who were going to join the Pistols in spearheading a musical movement, known as Punk, that would change music forever. Woody Mellors, a competent rhythm guitarist and electric frontman, became Joe Strummer, the competent rhythm guitarist, electric frontman and legendary street-poet. The name-change wasnt all symbolic, Strummer wanted to escape his past as a son of a diplomat, which severely hampered his credentials as a punk.
After some non-stop touring across the UK, the band were due to sign for Polydor, before Rhodes negotiated a better deal with CBS at the last minute, and it wasnt long before the band were ushered into a London studio, to Micks delight, in the same building Iggy & The Stooges recorded Raw Power, to record their debut album. When the band signed for CBS, punk chronicler and Sniffin Glue writer Mark Perry famously declared PUNK DIED THE DAY THE CLASH SIGNED FOR CBS how wrong he was proven to be when the album finally arrived on the shelves. The Clash would be the album that defined Punk like no other, packing in more classics than 3 copies of Never Mind the Bollocks Here's the Sex Pistols.
The album wasn't made without it's share of troubles. Mick was still teaching Paul how to play Bass, so some of the basslines in the record were actually rumoured to be Mick, although producer Simon Humphries rubbishes this notion, and also Terry Chimes left the band before they signed to CBS. He did, however agree to play on the record, although his credit was slightly ruined by the band tacking the name 'Tory Crimes' on him in the sleeve.
The album comprises of 14 songs, some sung by Strummer, some by Jones. The fact that the two have very different and distinctive voices adds to the variety of the songs. Strummer snarls his lyrics like a fearsome lion, his fearsome exterior betrayed only later in his career by his fantastic ability with words. Even here, the signs were clear that Strummer was smarter than the average man with words, even when dealing with street-talk. Indeed, some of the lyrics in The Clash are politically incorrect, such as Hate & Wars reference to wops, but as with many songs of the time, this wasnt done with racism in mind, it was instead how people spoke on the streets of London, where these lads were from.
Jones however, sported a more vulnerable and high voice. His lyrical ability when the band began left some to be desired, with much of his writing pre-Clash consisting of simple love-song ditties. However, time with Strummer treated him well, as anyone who has heard the song Complete Control will testify, but Jones talent lay in the music. His guitar skills were never exactly on par with Steve Vai, but Mick new how to use the playing he could to work together some fantastic songs.
Rounding off the front 3 was Paul Simonon, Punks Pin-up and the most stylish fan of the scene. When he joined The Clash, Paul had never touched a bass in his life, but unlike his friend Sid Vicious, Paul persevered with Micks help, and while never on par with his punk contemporaries Jean-Jacques Burnell or Tony James, Paul became a competent bassist as The Clash went on.
Album opener Janie Jones is a Mick Jones classic, a simple tale of a working class Londoner, starts out just a drumbeat, one guitar kicks in, Strummers singing begins, other guitar and bass kick in, whole band chorus blasts. Simple, brilliant. Both Terry Chimes and the album's producer have both said recently that it was a deliberate act to make this the first song on the record because of the way it starts, the build up making it a better opener than White Riot, which throws everything at the listener right away.
What the album specialises in though, is the 3-Minute venomous assaults on authority, complacency of Britains white population, Americanisation, trips to the brew and the downsides to a youths life in Britain. White Riot, Im So Bored With The U.S.A., Career Opportunities, Hate & War and Londons Burning all come under this description, and its where the band excel.
Im So Bored With The U.S.A. is so venomous and brilliant an attack on the Americanisation of Britain that it makes you forget the band themselves got a little caught up in Americana late in their career. Career Opportunities and unbelievably catchy attack on the dead-end jobs that were the only options for youth in the late 70s, set to a rather upbeat musical track, but the jewel in the bands crown was easily White Riot. Not, as many misunderstood, a song with racist sentiment at all, and was, in fact, spurned on by black Londoners refusing to give in to police harassment at the Notting Hill carnival. When released as a single, there was too much studio tampering, and the song lost much of its venom. It was still quite good, but this is the only place to hear the song as it was meant to be heard; raw, primal and snarling punk rock at its most pure and brilliant form.
Britains weekend culture takes a lampooning in the frenetic rocker 48 Hours, cheap condoms get it in Protex Blue, and the critics take it hardest in album closer Garageland, an interesting, somewhat melancholy track which implements a harmonica into its sound. The rather taboo Remote Control, a track the band didnt want released as a single, so subsequently disowned when CBS released it, takes a more sedate pace, but its militaristic rhythm and cries of repre-shun make for a more effective song than it often gets credit for. Indeed, only recently, when The Libertines Carl Barat included it in his NME Under The Influence CD did the song garner any real respect from a lot of fans.
When The Clash started, they were actually a 5-piece, with future Public Image Ltd. Guitarist Keith Levene being a second lead guitarist. Drug issues caused a rift between he and the rest of the band, and his only credit comes for the song Whats My Name, a fantastic song which opens with a wailing guitar riff, has a slightly menacing tone, with Joes lyrics about life moonlighting as a criminal combines with Mick and Pauls oh-ooh backing vocals to eerie effect.
While he may have only contributed to 1 song, Levene is believed to be the inspiration for Deny, which, on the surface, chronicles a relationship torn apart by drugs, but upon further inspection, there is little to indicate the relationship was that of 2 lovers. Still, no matter what the subject matter is, the song works decently for the opening, but really comes alive 2 minutes in when Strummer delivers an absolutely god-like ad-lib verse backed by Paul and Micks refrain of whatta liar.
If I were pushed to pick a song that rivals White Riot for the title of the best song on the album, the main contender is, ironically, the song that is the polar opposite of it. One of the true masterpieces of not only the band's career, but in music history. A cover of a Junior Murvin song, Police And Thieves would become one of the band's most iconic numbers, and was even loved by the original track's co-writer Lee 'Scratch' Perry, who played it to Bob Marley, providing the inspiration for Punky Reggae Party.Paul had grown up in an area of London where Reggae was popular, so it was only natural that reggae would be one of the first genres to feature in the melting pot that was the Clash musical style.It was a stepping stone to the epic (White Man) in Hammersmith Palais, which many regard as the band's best track, but part of me prefers Police And Thieves. Everything from the two guitars, the pounding bass and Jones backing lyrics is just so...perfect. Making cover versions that were at least slightly better than the originals would become a hobby of the Clash as the years went on.
If there is one weakness the album has, it comes in the form of Cheat. While the majority of the tracks on the album are 3 minute, rough, guitar driven punk rock, something about Cheat just sounds so lacklustre, slightly diluted. Possibly the problem it encounters it that it is basically a line from Hate & War (I cheat if I cant win) stretched out to attempt to write an entire songs lyrics. The tune isnt one of the more memorable either. I mean, the song isnt bad, but it definitely pales in comparison to the rest of the record.
The only other real flaw I can think of isnt with regards to the 14 songs that comprise The Clash, but the CD reissue. The fact that the singles and their B-sides released in the time of the first album werent included. However, at the time this was done with a reason. The band did not want any of the singles to be on the album, so their fans wouldnt be buying records with the same songs on them. But seeing as the singles were released in a time before CD, surely Sony/Columbia could have included a bonus CD of the singles and their B-Sides, they did it with all of The Stranglers albums after all. Mind you, then they wouldn't be able to flog off the US version of the album (which includes all the non-album singles like Complete Control and (White Man) In Hammersmith Palais...two tracks that make owning it just as essential) as a separate release, however the fact the two releases have such similar sleeves could mean a lot of fans actually go unaware of any difference.
Mick Jones has been quoted as saying that he believes this is the best Clash album. I have to say I agree with him. The band are young and angry on this album, yet the lyrics are probably their best.
The album also has made in Britain stamped all over it. The songs bleak imagery of how the UK was is awesome, and scarily some of it still applies. The sound quality is pretty poor, but this actually makes the record better, as the muddy sound suits the style of the album perfectly. To cut a long story short, the album is disenchanted British youth captured on record. It's truly one of the greatest records ever to go on sale, and towers above any other album which could be classified as 'punk'.
Sadly, this would be the only album appearance of Chimes, although he did return to tour when Topper Headon was thrown out shortly after
's release. In fact, that is a fault. Terry never received the credit he was due for some sublime drumming, the front cover only shows Strummer, Jones, Simonon. Even if he wasnt actually in the band, he helped them get there, so it would have been nice to see him on the front.
They don't make records like this anymore. Come to think of it, they never made records like this beforehand either. The album that defined The Clash, and one they could never truly live up to.
If you only buy one punk album, make it The Clash, in its original UK version. Ive never heard an album that I think commanded me to give it full marks as much as this.
Review also posted on Epinions.com
IN 1977 I HOPE I GO TO HEAVEN COS I BEEN TOO LONG ON THE DOLE AND I CAN'T WORK AT ALL DANGER STRANGER YOU BETTER PAINT YOUR FACE NO ELVIS, BEATLES, OR THE ROLLING STONES IN 1977 IN 1977 KNIVES IN WEST 11 LENT SO LUCKY TO BE RICH STEN GUNS IN KNIGHTSBRIDGE DANGER STRANGER YOU BETTER PAINT YOUR FACE NO ELVIS, BEATLES OR THE ROLLING STONES IN 1977 Now, they may have deplored the Stones (or claimed to do so) when they first emerged but The Clash quickly emerged from the shadow of The Sex Pistols to become both the darlings of the intellects of the New Wave and the true heirs of Mick Jagger and Co with their ballsy, big band rock and roll and outrage. They discovered the States and high fashion and suddenly found the big time very much to their liking. But when they first emerged they were vicious in their denuncia
tion of what came before, and their debut album released in 1977 brought them very much centre stage as the punk revolution took hold in the UK. The recent death of lead singer and guitarist Joe Strummer was a poignant reminder of exactly how good the band were when they first burst on the scene with their high energy combination of thoughtful words and razor sharp rock and roll. Formed by the merger of R'n'B guitarist Joe Strummer when he split the 101'ers and joine dup with the snotty young brats guitarist Mick Jones and bass player Paul Simonon, the Clash quickly got out their eponymously titled debut album with drummer Terry Chimes (credited as Tory Crimes on the brash album cover), although the nondescript skinsman was soon replaced by the jazz-influenced Nicky Topper Headon. That album will always be one of the classic debut albums with its rage and noise and thoughtful anger, but has been reissued in a number of versions since its original release in 1977. The track listing on the CD re-release which came out in January 2000 read: Clash City Rockers I'm So Bored With The USA Remote Control Complete Control White Riot (White Man) In Hammersmith Palais London's Burning I Fought the Law Janie Jones Career Opportunities What's My Name Hate & War Police & Thieves Jail Guitar Doors Garageland While it was good to have a set that added in many of the early blistering singles, it was undoubtedly a shame to find that they'd decided to dispense with Protex Blue and Deny among others, and I always think it's a real shame when peop
le mess about with the original masterpieces in this way. I can understand it, but still don't appreciate the trick. That gripe aside, however, The Clash is a wonderful album, a real belter of rebel rock, one which never lets up from beginning to end, although the mellow bump and grind of Junior Murvin's sublime Police And Thieves provides a welcome change of pace and a chance for the band to show a bit more control than elsewhere on a rather rough and ready album. That said the abrasiveness and fearsome amphetamine rush of the band's playing is what mad ethem so special and the magic is all about raw energy and fierce amateurism. The Clash feels like a live show, a barbaric blast of two minute classics designed to punch you in the guts and punctuate your brain, it's a brilliant statement of all that was best about punk rock and should be in the homes of all right thinking adults everywhere ... it certainly brings back cherished memories to hear Strummer snarling and Mick chopping out those orthodox rock licks ... perfect and timeless rock and roll.
The Clash's debut album is one of the finest punk albums of all time. Despite the fact that the band isn’t quite the group of adventurous artists they were to become, they still started out as great songwriters. There are a barrel-load of great songs on here. My favourite song on this album is for the moment "Career Opportunities" with Strummer pretending he's stupid and unemployable when of course he probably could have become an up-and-coming businessman or banker quite easily. Anyway he still manages to sound brilliantly disaffected and the lyrics are a brilliant dismissal of the British employment system. The bit where he sneers "I hate the army, I hate the RAFFFFFFFFFF" is probably my favourite moment on the whole album. After "Career Opportunities" the second half of the album seems to trail off slightly due partially to the embedded sameness of the songs and also the fact that they placed all the hit singles at the start. Of course it is necessary that I mention that I ended up owning the British version of this album. The American version (which is more commonly available) was released a couple of years later (due to the idiocy of the record companies) but with the hit singles of the time thrown on. Thus my version lacks the brilliant trio of "Clash City Rockers", "White Man in Hammersmith Palais" and "I Fought the Law" plus some others. Instead I get the tracks "Deny", "Cheat", "Protex Blue" and "48 Hours". None of those are bad songs and "Deny" is really pretty good but I can't help but think maybe the American version might have been a bit better. The Americans go on about the inclusion of the singles spoiling the flow of the album but, for goodness sake, this isn’t Dark Side of the Moon! It's a punk album, all the songs sound the same so surely it is better to have the better songs? Well, a
nyway there are enough great songs on here for this to be a great album. Like I said a few sentences earlier most of the best songs are thrown on the first half. The opening foursome of "Janie Jones", "Remote Control", "I'm So Bored with the USA" and "White Riot" are all but the four best tracks on the album. If we're talking strictly the best four I'd probably include "Career Opportunities" ahead of "I'm So Bored with the USA". The first two in particular, "Janie Jones" and "Remote Control", are almost pop songs if it weren't for Strummer's abrasive vocals and guitar tone. "White Riot", on the other hand, is more a primal scream of punk aggression. You can barely make out the words as Strummer slurs his vocals to sound like a drunk looking for a fight. Less than two minutes of pure punk aggression. "I'm So Bored with the USA"'s main strength lies in its powerhouse chorus although I'd like to think it wasn't a rant against the American punks as everyone knows the New York scene at the time was superior to the British one. Mick "Jonesy" Jones still manages to get in on the act with the melodic "Hate and War", which is another great pop song while Strummer again perfects the disaffected youth persona on "What's My Name". Showing that this band were more than your typical bunch of punk is the six minute reggae cover of "Police and Thieves", sowing the seeds of London Calling. I really appreciate the diversity and all, but I just don't think the song is quite that brilliant. It is very good, particularly the complicated rhythm (which most punk bands presumably couldn't handle), but, for me, it isn't one of the best moments on the album. Speaking of rhythm you should take note of the album cover. It only features thr
ee members of the band as Topper Headon hadn't joined yet and therefore Terry Chimes (or "Tory Crimes" as he is humorously called in the sleeve-notes) was on the drum-stool. Anyway, this album certainly deserves its reputation as one of the best of the "classic" albums of the punk explosion of 1977.
... and then become part of the machine. The Clash were like that, a band full of paradoxes. They complained about being "so bored with the USA," yet had little compunction with becoming BIG IN AMERICA. They pleaded, "No Elvis, Beatles or the Rolling Stones," then rapidly become the punk rock version of the Stones. They refused to comply with establishment ethics, yet swiftly sold their souls to the bloated media corporation, CBS, eventually becoming so dissatisfied with the establishment lackey results that they penned the vociferous and very, very wonderful 'Complete Control', striking out at the Big Brother mentality of the major. Yet through it all, The Clash shone through with amazing sincerity and credibility - they were totally OUR BAND, living with us and amongst us and revelling in the things that made us happy. People had a yearning, deep seated desire to believe in The Clash and for a while at least they were the biggest band in the world, in our hearts if not the charts. They emerged, kicking, snarling and screaming in 1976-77 in the wake of The Sex Pistols, yet instantly more knowing, more worldly wise and more talented and acceptable than ever the Pistols were. Ah yes, 1977, a special time for rock music as the punk rock explosion born of the Pistols' cussing and barely disguised drunken venom at the cynical posturing of Bill Grundy on the Today came to the fore and swept all before it in a tidal wave of resentment at the bloated, boring farce of rock music as perpetuated by the 'boring old farts' who held sway in the charts at the time. Dangerous times, and yet such exciting, hopeful days, and The Clash were at the heart of it all, holding high the banner for a nation's disaffected youth with their clothes, their attitude, their energy and their songs... The Clash came into being in that sultry summer of 1976, the summer of hate as Joe Strummer, a singer and
guitarist with the London r'n'b band, The 101'ers, who had a single called 'Keys To Your Heart' out on the independent Chiswick label, saw the future when he watched the Pistols live and instantly consigned his band to the dumper, declaring wildly, "I knew then r'n'b was dead." Strummer's real name was John Mellors and he was almost 24. Strummer knew he wanted something like the Pistols had shown was possible and he started looking around for something else. He came upon it when he met 21 year old guitarist Mick Jones and his friend, 20 year old bass player Paul Simonon. The duo had met when Simonon briefly joined Jones' band, London SS, the previous year, and broke that band up to start a new combo. During that August the three of them, now managed by Bernie Rhodes, a would be Malcolm McLaren, formed The Clash, named after reggae band Culture's single 'Two Sevens Clash', which revolved around the supposedly ominous double seven of the year to come. The first, then five piece, line up was completed by drummer Terry Chimes, who had been in London SS for a while, and guitarist Keith Levine, who was not around for long, but later re-emerged as part of Johnny Rotten's next band, Public Image Ltd. They signed with CBS and embarked as support act on the Pistols' ill fated Anarchy tour in theautumn of 1976, although the show was rarely allowed to appear. Then in April 1977, the band released an amazing debut alnum on CBS, called quite simply 'The Clash'. It had been preceded by the strident 'White Riot' single with its wonderful '1977' b-side and the interview disc given away with the NME which featured the excellent chops of 'Capital Radio'. From album cover to music, The Clash were undeniably DIFFERENT and bucked the mainstream easy option. The front cover depicted Simonon, Strummer and Jones staring sullenly out from a wall
ed back street in a mocked up torn newspaper stylee with the pinky orange proclamation 'The CLASH' slashed across it in bold and defiant style. They wore regulation punk gear with Jones sporting a Red Army armband and Strummer's ill fitting suit a barbed dig at the uniform of the establishment. The back cover had the same ripped newspaper imagery with running policemen racing to deal with a riot. The whole image screamed "I hate you and I do not accept my lot" in an implied scream of defiance. But the cover is nothing to the rush of brilliant, strident music contained on the album, a piece of work for which the phrase "scorched earth" could have been invented. From the opening drum intro to 'Janie Jones' to the fade of the anthemic closer 'Garageland', The Clash proclaims a different way of life, a different outlook, a refusal to accept that this is the way it has to be. It was amazing way back then and still stands as one of the most amazing debut albums of all time, one that captured the mood of the times to perfection. I LOVE THIS ALBUM and I struggle to be objective about it. It was recorded in double quick time with the band's live sound engineer Mickey Foote giving it a raw, ragged, rough as a bear's arse 'production' that provided the perfect vehicle for the blazing sound of The Clash. They were in full flight and this is, in the most literal sense of the word, a record, a permanent reminder of a moment in history, of a band still not polished, still raw and seething. From first to last, sheer perfection... Nodding the head in the direction of anorak-itis, I'll do the detail stuff and give you the rundown on the 14 blazing songs you've got here. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Janie Jones ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Bum beddeh bum beddum bum beddeh bum beddum ... and we're off to Chimes' drum
intro. The song's all strident chants and drums. "He's in love with the rock'n'roll world..." and so are we. Simonon's bass here is functional at best, as it is through most of the album, but it's certainly effective in pinning down the groundwork for Jones' guitar blur over the top. Plodding bass is an astounding thing when taken at 100 mph. The Janie Jones of the title was a high street madam who was big in newspaper headlines for a while in the 70's. "He got a Ford Cortina, it just won't run without fuel ... fill her up, Jacko ... gonna really tell the boss, gonna really let him know how he feels, it's pretty bad." ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Remote Control ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ A plea for self determination and an early reaction to the control imposed by the establishment and CBS, this is a tuneful (well, it was for The Clash) song of rebellion and rejection of control in all its forms. It was always a personal fave of mine. Again kicked off by a hammering drum signature, it's more football chant than song. Brilliantly understated middle eight. "It's so grey in London town, Panda cars moving around ... We got no money, we got no power, they think you're useless, so you are ... Who needs the Parliament, sitting making laws all day, they're all fat and old, cheering for the House of Lords..." and an epic "Re-pre-shun" repeated refrain on the way out. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ I'm So Bored With The USA ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ We do not like America until we're big over there. This is a straightahead put down of all things American and the way they impinge so readily on everything in England, especially the songs and subject matter. "Yankee detectives are always on the TV, cos killers in America work seven days a week, never mind the
stars and stripes, let's play the Watergate tapes, I salute the new wave and hope nobody escapes." ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ White Riot ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The band's first single and here re-recorded stripped of the sirens on the intro, but still a peerless amphetamine rush of sound - The Clash's undoubted early anthem and call to arms. The band were involved in a police busted riot in the autumn of 1976 in London's Notting Hill and this is the story. "Black man's got a problem, but they don't mind throwing a brick, white people got to school where they teach you to be thick ... Everybody's doing just what they're told to, and nobody wants to go to jail ... All the power in the hands of the people rich enough to buy it, while we walk the streets too chicken to even try it." ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Hate & War ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Conceived as the antidote to the hippie sloganeering of love and peace, 'Hate & War' is all about the horrible world in which we live and how to live with it. "And if I close my eyes, it will not go away, you have to deal with it, it is the currency ... I have no will to survive, I cheat if I can win, if someone locks me out, I kick my way back in, If I get aggression, I give it two times back, Every day it's just the same, hate and war are my buddies." ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ What's My Name ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ This was partly written by Levine before he split, and kicks off with some quite wistful guitar lines. It's all about lack of identity: "What the hell is wrong with me, I'm not who I want to be ... I got nicked for fighting in the road, the judge didn't even know, what's my name?" ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Deny ~
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Penned as a kiss off to the now departed and despised Levine, this is a spiteful song of hate. "Deny, you're such a liar, won't know the truth if it hits you in the eye... selling your honour all the time ... you said you were going out to the 100 club, then you said it ain't my scene, then you turn up alone... then you said you'd given it up, gonna kick it in the head, you said you ain't had none for weeks, baby, I seen your arm." Levine was apparently kicked out of the band for his drug use. There's something in there about a "12p comic" but I couldn't catch it. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ London's Burning ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Another anthem about boredom in their home town, and again all anthemic football chant. "All across the town, all across the night, everybody's driving with full headlights, black and white they're turning on to the new religion, everybody's sitting round watching television." The fog horn throated Mr Strummer certainly had a sterling turn of phrase at his command and a way with words. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Career Opportunities ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The lot of the young in 1977 was particularly grim and it was proving very hard to get jobs, or so they said, and this song is Strummer's slag off of the way the establishment tries to pigeonhole the young. "They offered me the office, they offered me the shop, they said I'd better take anything they got, do you wanna make tea at the BBC ... I hate the Army and I hate the RAF ... I hate the Civil Service rule, I won't open letter bombs for you ... they're going to have to introduce conscription, they're going to have to take away my prescription, if they want to get me making toys, if they want to get me, well, I got no cho
ice." ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Cheat ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ "I get violent when I'm f****d up, I get silent when I'm drugged up, I want excitement, I don't get none." The outsider and the way that society drives his future is belted out above Jones' phased and flanged guitar weirdness. "Don't use the rules, they're not for you, they're for the fools." A sign of The Clash about to branch out musically. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Protex Blue ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Sung by Jones and a speedy little homage to contraceptives ("I didn't want to use you"), it's more rock than punk, but still as catchy as anything here, with its chopped up guitar, "ooh ooh" harmonies and "Johnny, Johnny" call at the end. Jones could certainly play and showed it here with his chunka chunka rhythm and lead lines. He was never a guitar hero but could have been and he always opted for concise licks that were perfectly in keeping with the needs of songs rather than his ego. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Police & Thieves ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ A change of pace and a breather from the chaos and mayhem at last as The Clash's reggae sensibilties get an airing on the only non original here, written by Junior Murvin. The band has a sensitivity and feel for speed skank that marked out some of the future directions that they would pursue. This is far and away the longest song here and it's a brilliant reggae work out of a wonderful epic song with Simonon's bubbling bass, Jones' chopped and splintered guitar responses and the open spaces left in the sound building a feel that is delightful. Dub stylee towards the end and all. The Clash's own favourite musics were r'n'b and reggae and they showed their mastery
of the latter here to its rolling, rhythmic fullest. The Ulster band Stiff Little Fingers fancied themselves as surrogate Clash rockers and tried a similar trick on their debut album with Marley's Johnny Was, but even though that was a better song, they just couldn't match The Clash's oneness and feel for the reggae genre and came over as mere copyists rather than masters. Don't try and manufacture, you gotta feel to get it right. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 48 Hours ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Probably the weakest song here, '48 Hours' is disposable punk pop, which says little but even at their worst The Clash were nothing if not attractive. It suffers from following 'Police & Thieves.' ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Garageland ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ "Back in the garage with my bullshit detector, carbon monoxide making sure it's effective, people ringing up making offers for my life, I just wanna stay in the garage all night, we're a garage band ... while things are hotting up in the West End alright, contracts in the offices, groups in the night, my bumming slumming friends have all got new boots, someone checked on me if the group would wear suits... they think they're so clever, they think they're so right, the truth is only known by guttersnipes." This is another Clash anthem, telling the story of their principled outlook on life and adherence to their roots. It's one of the more musical numbers here (with an acoustic strum at the opening and harmonica somewhere in the mix - jeez, buskers, who'd have them?) and Strummer's romantic outlook on life is showcased for all to see. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The first time I heard this album was on a tinny cassette recorder on the back of a coach coming home from a sailing holiday with the school in North Wa
les - Now that's the way to appreciate this sort of record! Yeah, wonderful stuff, and The Clash were never quite as awesome as they were here. They got better musically and created some great music on London's Calling, but this was their peak, the joie de vivre a blistering, echoing blasting slab of youthful defiance and noise. I'm finding increasingly that it's the debut albums of bands that capture them at their best before they start to sell out or believe their own publicity. That's very much the case here. There are very few albums that truly cry 'classic' and 'timeless', but this is one of them. YOU HAVE TO BUY THIS ALBUM.
The importance of the first Clash album (2nd for American audiences) can't be over stated. The Pistols may have defined a media vision of punk, but the Clash had the substance to go beyond the cliches. The politics on this first record were fairly obvious, tackling the problems associated with living in innercity London, in a hard time for the economy. But it was all delivered with such passion, there integrity couldn't be questioned. The production isn't great, but that's part of the charm. "We're a Garageband" they state in Garageland. It encapsulated what punk should be, energetic, angry, instant. It also however pointed to where the clash would go, incorporating the reggae sound they were so in love with, including a cover of the Junior Murvin track "Police and Thieves". Possibly THE punk album.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 Janie Jones
2 Remote Control
3 I'm So Bored With The USA
4 White Riot
5 Hate And War
6 What's My Name
8 London's Burning
9 Career Opportunities
11 Protex Blue
12 Police And Thieves
13 48 Hours
14 Garage Land