A personal history of 3/4 of The Clash
In 1984 I was a poor student and sold some records to my mate Terry when I was really desperate for cash. Among the records he bought off me were 2 singles by The Clash The cost of living EP (a glorious brace of songs in a wonderful cover – how much money was on the inside cover?) and Bank Robber on an import 7″. I regretted it almost as soon as the money had been handed over to Joan (Landlady at the White Lion in Little Hulton). Worse still hed never sell them back to me!
The first Clash LP I ever bought was London Calling. It was Xmas 1979 and I bought it along with PiLs Metal box (3×12s in a film tin type affair) with money my Grandad Jim gave me. Both are seminal post punk LPs for different reasons, The Clash indulging their new-found love of America and Lydon and Co. exploring the sonic paranoid side of life.
I got to see PiL on numerous occasions, but never got to see The Clash. To be honest, apart from London Calling and Combat Rock, I wasnt really into them and their demise didnt affect me at all. It was only in later years that I really got them. I have however, managed to see all but one of the different members in their other projects
I saw Mick Joness Big Audio Dynamite play at the Hacienda in April 86. They were SO cool with the taped backgrounds of spaghetti westerns and infectious guitar riffs. Lost about 3lb in sweat that night! I got a bit pissed off with the crowd shouting for White Riot – it just didnt seem relevant and these songs were so good.
The first LP and all the 12 singles associated with them still sound great, Don Letts samples sounded so fresh but what were they wearing! Joe Strummer taking the role of a fat New York cop on the Medicine Show video boded well and there was great excitement that he was to be involved in the 2nd BAD LP No. 10 Upping Street. Strummer and Jones produced it and though its 20 years old now, it still stands up with odd flashes of brilliance (Sodom and Gomorah? This is London Guv!).
In 1988 we saw BAD and Joe Strummer played at Anmesty Internationals ‘Festival of Youth’ – 2 days of music at Milton Keynes bowl. We borrowed a minibus from Guilford University and kipped in that.
Unfortunately Strummer and Jones played on different days…The Stranglers, Martin Stephenson and Aswad on the Strummer day, and Aztec Camera, Michelle Shocked and the Bhundu Boys on the Jones day.
Tighten Up 88 by BAD contained the diamond Just Play Music (which I picked up for 50p at Woolies.I really miss their bargain bin 7s) but little else. I really like 1989s Megatop Phoenix (a VERY underrated LP) and not just cos it samples George Formby.the fashion sense however had deteriorated greatly.white socks!!!!
I remember going to London to see Dave and Darlene one hot summer. I only took shorts and sandals and whilst there, the weather turned cold and my feet were freezing! “I could lend you some socks” quipped Dave “but then I’d have to kill you”.
The Don Letts-less line up on BAD2 showed a renaissance with The Globe in 1991. The live CD that came with my copy (I bought it in Australia whilst travelling in 1991) shows that they could still do it live, but its patchy. The sampling of Clash records on the title track was interesting but didnt mask the overall lack of content.
I got to see Joe Strummer a few more times. In Leeds he played at the now defunct Town and Country Club on 19th October 1999 and he was SO up for it, his enthusiasm was infectious. The place went nuts when he did any Clash numbers and I went nuts when he did Trash City (my favourite of his solo stuff still got the free sew-on patch that came with the 7).
At Glastonbury I saw him try and smash the camera that was following his every move, which looked a little bit fake You cant even have a piss these days without someone shoving a camera in your face. He was doing Karaoke back stage with Keith Allen that year..now that wouldve been good to see!
The time I really warmed to him was hearing him on Kershaw when he popped in unannounced to promote the Live Clash album. He just seemed a really genuine bloke Ive always been against a live album as the sound was never that good – you were never bothered with the technicalities, it was a case of – the chords down there somewhere. Reading about him after he died gave the same impression. As Roddy Frame said (Uncut March 2003) The great thing about Strummer was that from The 101ers through to the Mescaleros, he always looked the same. I mean, he never went through a baggy stage did he? Or go off and do an album with Eno.
And now Paul Simonon has joined forces with Damon Albarn as The Good the Bad and the Queen terrible name for a band if you ask me, but what do I know. The only time I got to see Blur was on the 1992 Rollercoaster tour with the Jesus and Mary Chain, Dinosaur Jr and My Bloody Valentine (who for me stole the show with a 10 minute section of feedback during You made me realise).
We managed to get tickets for under the cover price on ebay (Ha Harrrr ticket touts!!) for the Irish Centre gig in Leeds. It was quite surreal full but not packed. Friendly vibe not over the top. The band wore Victorian gear which gave the evening a feel of Alan Moores League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (infact Simonon could easily play the part of Mr Hyde).
There was Mr Albarn, 10 people away the guy behind so many wonderful tracks and the stupidly successful Gorrilaz looking beautiful (he really is a handsome man). There was Paul Simonon snaking around behind him, really into it, why has no-one asked him to play on their records since the Clash. The evening gathered momentum and by the end theyd created their own little world on stage that I totally believed in. A Syrian rapper ended the evening singing about London I tried to shout LEEDS over the top but as the boys pointed out to me on the way home, he couldve been slagging London off.. what a great evening!
Bob the Chiropodist
PS I now have both of those 7″ singles in my collection. Dr P bought me a copy of the cost of living EP when I got married and I found the import of ‘Bankrobber’ in a little shop in Headingley for £4. I can sleep easy again now……Terry, you’re forgiven xx – Oh, and there’s £1.35 and a half pence .or there aboutson the inside cover. Id forgotten what a 1/2p looked like!