The Clash – Idealistic Rebellious Rockers

History,Reviews 13 June 2014 | Comments Off on The Clash – Idealistic Rebellious Rockers

The Clash - Idealistic Rebellious RockersRock and roll history is incomplete with the mention of one of the greatest punk rock bands of all times, The Clash.

A punk rock band, put together by Joe Strummer (rhythm guitar and lead vocals), Paul Simonon (vocals and bass guitar), Mick Jones (vocals and lead guitar) and Nicky ‘Topper’ Headon (percussion and drums) in 1976 during British punk’s original wave. Most often considered an idealistic and fiery band, they blended reggae, funk, dub, and rockabilly elements in with the punk.

Both Mick Jones and Joe Strummer were exceptionally talented songwriters, both singers with their own style and distinct voice. Not far behind The Jam, The Clash portrayed the image of being rebels with a cause: ‘restoring the protest and passion of rock and roll’.

The band members:

The lead singer and rhythm guitarist, Joe Strummer (John Graham Mellow), was born on Aug. 21, 1952. Spending most of this childhood and formative years at a boarding school, he was already into performing on London streets. In his early 20s, he founded the 101’ers, a pub rock band. At the same time, Mick Jones, born on June 26, 1955, was part of a hard rock band called the London SS. Hailing from a working class family from Brixton, Jones has been fascinated with rock and roll since early childhood.

The London SS was formed in an attempt to replicate the wondrous sound of the Mott the Hoople and Faces. Paul Simonon was Jones’s childhood friend, born on 15 Dec. 1956, joined the London SS in 1976 after being inspired by The Sex Pistols. Topper Headon (Nicky Headon) was born on 30th May 1955, and joined the band later.

The band 101’ers disbanded in 1976 after a Sex Pistols concert, and soon before their song “Keys to your Heart” came out. Joe Strummer, and the 101’ers’ guitarist, Keith Levene, joined the London SS, post which the band was revamped and renamed The Clash.

Professional Career as The Clash

As a band, Clash’s songs were about revolution and change, and the working class. The band’s first performance was a supporting gig for the Sex Pistols. Soon after, Keith Levene left, and Bernard Rhodes was hired as the band’s manager. It was then that The Clash joined the Anarchy Tour in 1976 with the Sex Pistols. It was after this concert that the band signed their first record deal with British CBS in 1977.

Their debut album was recorded over a period of only 3 weekends. After the recordings for the album were finished, Terry Chimes left the band and Headon joined as the drummer and percussionist. Their first ever single as The Clash, called “White Riot” and debut album received critical acclaim, and the sales peaked to a no. 12 on the charts in the UK. Their album was not released in America as CBS decided that their music wasn’t suitable for radio broadcast. So, the album was imported, recording the highest import rates any record has ever seen.

The White Riot tour took place with The Clash supported by the Buzzcocks and the Jam. At London’s rainbow theatre, the audiences tore out the seats from the venue. CBS removed the single “Remote Control” off the debut album, in response to which the band recorded the song “Complete Control” with Lee “Scratch” Perry, the reggae icon.

In 1977, Jones and Strummer did time in jail on various occasions for minor indiscretions such as stealing a pillowcase and vandalism. Around the same time, Headon and Simonon shot down racing pigeons with air guns are were arrested. The band’s image gained a typically outlaw-ish appeal was reinforced due to their instances. It was during this time that the Clash started taking interest in social activism.

The Rock Against Racism concert was the start of this turnaround, which was furthered with other acts of activism like their single “(white man) in Hammrsmith Palais”, which peaked at no. 32. Post these socially conscious acts, Clash started working with Sandy Pearlman, a producer, who provided a clean cut to their second album “Give ‘Em Enough Rope” which later peaked as one of the best albums of the punk rock era.

The album was released in the US but reached no. 128 in 1979, and didn’t fare as well as they had expected. Nevertheless, the album peak no. 2 in Britain, becoming one the greatest hits of all times.

It was only in 1979 that the band started touring across America, with their first American tour being the “Pearl Harbour ‘79”. Later that year, they set out on their second tour across America, with Mickey Gallagher as their keyboardist. Clash included R&B acts such as Sam and Dave, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Bo Diddley and Lee Dorsey on both their tours of America.

Also included were punk rockabilly, the Cramps, and Joe Ely, a neo-traditionalist country rocker. Their breakthrough album, Long Calling, was inspired by rock and roll legends, and included numerous styles, including New Orleans R&B, to rockabilly, to reggae to anthemic hard rock.

The band then toured across Europe, UK and the USA throughout 1980.

Disbanding and falling apart:

At the peak of their commercial success in the year 1983, cracks started to appear, and the band began falling apart. Pete Howard joined the band after Chimes was fired. In September that year Paul Simonon and Joe Strummer fired Mick Jones stating that he had “drifted away from the original idea behind The Clash”. Their album, Cut the Crap, with a new lineup including Nich Sheppard and Vince White as guitarist fared poorly in their sales and reviews, and this album was later disowned by Simonon and Strummer.

It is early 1986 when Simonon and Strummer took the decision to disband The Clash permanently. Simonon later formed Havana 3 A.M., a rock band that released only one album. Strummer reunited with Jones and wrote songs for Big Audio Dynamite’s album No.10 Upping Street. Post this episode Strummer kept drifting between a music and film career.

In ducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in November ’02, the band’s plans to reunite fell apart when Strummer died on Dec. 22, ’02, succumbing to a congenital defect in the heart.

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