It was 1981, and looking to soak up some revolutionary—and authentically countercultural—inspiration, The Clash famously recorded what would become their fifth album, Combat Rock in “Frestonia,” the 1.8 acre “free state” of London’s Notting Hill district, that attempted to (or did, depending on how you look at it) secede from the UK in 1977.
The album, conceived to be a 2-LP set hot on the heels of Sandinista‘s three, was originally titled “Rat Patrol From Fort Bragg.” The band set up camp at The People’s Hall—the cultural center of Frestonian life—on Freston Road. Mick Jones did the first mix of the album, but the other band members were dissatisfied, and Glyn Johns (The Rolling Stones, The Who, Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan, etc, etc) was brought in instead. Johns added some considerable muscle to the tracks and the album was pared down to the single LP, Combat Rock.
However, the “Rat Patrol From Fort Bragg” mixes done by Mick Jones are quite easy to find on the Internet, and in good quality, too. Here’s a sampling of what you can download for very little effort.
If ever there’s a musical artifact of the legendary tensions within the group, it’s this Mick-mixed version of “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” It’s more playful than the version we all know, sure, but there’s no way this would have ever become such a massive hit single.
Interesting to note how much this sounds like, ahem, Big Audio Dynamite, right?
The Jones-mixed “Straight To Hell” is a minute and a half longer than the Combat Rock version.
Here’s another unreleased number from the original sessions, a very different take on “Rock The Casbah” which features Ranking Roger from The Beat on vocals. I’d take this over the released version any day! (At one point Mick Jones was going to join Ranking Roger and Dave Wakeling in their post-Beat group, General Public. I went to a “sneak preview” of General Public in a club in London in 1984, but alas there was no Mick Jones, to the visible disappointment of the punters—like me—when the band walked onstage).
Ranking Roger again on vocals, on this heavily dubbed-out version of “Red Angel Dragnet.” This is pretty incredible, I think you’ll agree.
“The Fulham Song” AKA “The Beautiful People Are Ugly Too”
“Know Your Rights” in its original form. It’s wilder than the Combat Rock version, but it does tend to go on a bit (as many of Jones’s “Fort Bragg” mixes tended to).