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The Sex Pistols, The Clash and Siouxsie and the Banshees on early TV documentary ‘Punk’ from 1976

There had been a killing. But no one was quite certain where it had happened or where the body was hidden. Maybe it was in the library bludgeoned with a lead pipe? Or sprawled across the conservatory floor throttled by some rope? The press carried snippets. People were shocked by the news. How could this happen on our streets? How could this happen to our children when Abba was still number one? There was outrage. There was fear. There was a dread that this was only the beginning of far greater horrors to come.

They were right.

In some ways, it was a mercy killing. It had to happen. It was inevitable. It was putting the poor beast out of its misery. The old horse was now lame and blind and in constant pain and could barely perform its act. Yet still, they wheeled it out for one more turn for the rich people to ride and clap and cheer while the old nag bravely tried to canter around the ring.

But the children turned away. They wanted something different.

There had been noises of strange new things going on for months. Small signs in venues all across London. A growing sense that something had to change. The old horse was dead and the business was out of touch with its audience. The kids wanted something to happen.

A band called the Sex Pistols were playing gigs in and around London. Promoter Ron Watts saw them rip up the joint at a gig in High Wycombe in early 1976. It was like nothing he’d ever seen before. This was the start of the future. This was what everyone was waiting for. He booked the band to appear at the legendary blues and jazz 100 Club in London. He organized a weekend festival called The 100 Club Punk Special for September 20th and 21st, 1976. The line-up was the Sex Pistols, the Clash, Siouxsie and the Banshees, the Damned, the Buzzcocks, Subway Sect, Stinky Toys and Chris Spedding & the Vibrators.
Sex Pistols poster for the 100 Club Punk Special, September 1976.
When the Sex Pistols hit the stage, everything changed. “In one night,” Watts later wrote in his autobiography Hundred Watts: A Life in Music, “punk went from an underground cult to a mass movement.”

The Sex Pistols had killed off one generation’s music and announced something new.

...[T]his was the big one, the first day of a new era. Nothing could compare with it either before or since.

Onstage, Johnny Rotten was “insulting, cajoling everyone in the room, his eyes bulging dementedly as he made the audience as much a part of the show as the band.” The group tore through their set to a thrilled and enthusiastic audience. The Clash played their set, while Siouxsie and the Banshees had improvised a set around “The Lord’s Prayer.” A week later, a crowd 600 deep formed a line at the door of the 100 Club.
Watch the Sex Pistols, Clash and Siouxsie in “Punk,” after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Strassenjungs: The ‘fake’ German punk rockers who toured with The Clash
09:59 am


The Clash

German ‘punk’ band Strassenjungs circa 1980.
In 1977 two German producers decided to try to follow Malcolm McLaren’s success with the Sex Pistols by creating a “fake” punk rock band. The result would be a quad hailing from Frankfurt called Strassenjungs (which translates as “Street Boys”).

Axel Klopprogge and Eckehard Ziedrich pulled Strassenjungs together during a time when the punk scene was still in a formative state in Germany. Their timing, as far as Strassenjungs was concerned, was pretty perfect. It should have worked. But it didn’t.

Despite getting lucky enough tour rather extensively through Europe with The Clash in late 1977 (and according to the band’s official site Siouxise & The Banshees in 1980), Strassenjungs’ albums pretty much bombed as soon as they were released. Which is strange because they were seemingly laser-focused on being as “aggressive” as possible penning songs about teenage rebellion, sex, drugs and booze. While the combination of these things generally produce hit-making results, this was not the case for Strassenjungs until much later in their career. They were never truly accepted into the punk scene in Germany and in 1977 German musician Peter Hein accused the band of not being “punk” at all but “langhaarig, blödfressig, deutsch” or “long-haired, loud-mouthed Germans.”

If certain folklore about Strassenjungs is to be believed after a couple of failed records in 1982 the band’s debut record was added to the German Index (a censorship program) under the charge of “inciting crime and alcohol abuse” both of which seem pretty fucking punk rock to me. Sadly the dubious classification now prevented the album from being sold to minors. With all that working against them you’d think Strassenjungs might have called it quits, but they didn’t. Though they’ve been through various lineup changes over the decades the band still performs today with original bassist Nils Selzer. I’ve included some singles from Strassenjungs for you to consider below as well as a couple of photos of the band pretending to be punks back the day. If you dig what you hear in this post here’s a link pick up a “best of” compilation from the band Strassenfeger: Die Hit-Box! (best of) by Strassenjungs.

The goofy cover of Strassenjungs’ 1977 debut.
More after the jump…

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Riot on Times Square: The Clash on Broadway!
04:32 pm


The Clash

From the Dangerous Minds archives:

In May/June of 1981, The Clash were booked to play at the curiously named “Bond International Casino”—a discotheque that was previously a swanky supper club in the 1940s, and then a low-rent clothing store called Bonds until 1977 and they just kept the sign—in New York City in support of the sprawling three record set Sandinista! album. They were meant to play just eight gigs in the smallish Times Square space—capacity 1800 people—but the performances were dangerously oversold by greedy promoters. Fire marshals and the NYC Building Department closed down both of the May 30th concerts, but the band vowed to honor each and every last ticket and so the number of shows was extended to seventeen, with matinee and evening performances added.

The Clash’s Bond Casino shows became an integral part of the rebel band’s legend and featured hand-picked opening acts like The Fall, Dead Kennedys, Lee “Scratch” Perry, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, The Treacherous Three, KRAUT, Funkapolitan (who opened for The Clash when I saw them the following year), The Slits, ESG, Bad Brains, The Bloods, The Sugarhill Gang, their pal from Texas Joe Ely and others. Many of the groups were openly booed by the rowdy crowds.

One of the shows, on June 9th, was professionally recorded for an FM radio broadcast and widely bootlegged. You can easily find it and every other of the Clash’s Bond shows—all of them were bootlegged—on audio blogs. But not a lot of footage has been seen from the Clash’s Bond residency. There were some tantalizing clips that were seen in Don Letts’ excellent Grammy-winning Westway to the World rock doc (released in 2000), as well as in the abandoned short “The Clash on Broadway” (on Westway DVD as an extra), but sadly the docs didn’t give you an entire song. However, Letts’ Bond footage was apparently shot on the same day as the FM recording was made and an enterprising Clash fan has restriped the stereo audio from that source and synced up some other angles found in various other places (mostly Letts’ docs). The results are probably the best glimpse we have at what went on at these shows.

More after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
That time the Clash appeared in Martin Scorsese’s ‘The King of Comedy’
05:50 pm


The Clash
Martin Scorsese

An interesting cinematic footnote to the Clash’s time spent in New York City in the early 1980s—while they recorded their sprawling three-record Sandinista album—is their “blink and you missed ‘em” appearance in Martin Scorsese’s dark classic The King of Comedy.

Apparently both Scorsese and Robert De Niro were huge Clash fans and saw them during their famous series of seventeen concerts at Bonds International Casino in Times Square during May and June of 1981. Aside from the band going out to bars a few times with the director and actor, it’s mentioned in several Clash biographies—and several about Scorsese, too—that Gangs of New York was originally something he envisioned for the group!

Mick Jones, Joe Strummer, Paul Simonon and some of their cohorts—sometime manager Kosmo Vinyl, singers Ellen Foley and Pearl Harbour and filmmaker Don Letts are credited in The King of Comedy as “Street Scum.”

Here the are in action, take a look:

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
This Is Radio Clash: Listen to 6 episodes of Joe Strummer’s glorious ‘London Calling’ BBC radio show
12:50 pm


The Clash
Joe Strummer

During the 1990s and early 2000s Joe Strummer, former lead singer for the Clash, did a radio show for the BBC World Service using the name of the band’s galvanizing third album, London Calling.

Anyone who’s heard the Clash or Strummer’s later work with the Mescaleros won’t be surprised at his tastes as reflected in these shows, a mix of good old-fashioned rock and roll, punk rock, reggae, world music….. Strummer’s expansive, politically engaged, and generous spirit encompassed artists as varied as Bob Dylan, the Ramones, Cornershop, Thu Zahina, Afel Bocoum, Amaswazi Emvelo and Mahlathini, and Los Corraleros de Majagual

The first track on the first show (not available here) is, fittingly, Rachid Taha’s cover of “Rock the Casbah.” The first song in these embeds is Trini Lopez’ cover of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land,” which works just as well.

In this post we’ve embedded six episodes of “London Calling” that were broadcast in 1998 and 2000; the show stretched into 2001 as well (you can hear these episodes plus another handful on iTunes).

You just know that any radio program Strummer would have consented to be involved with is going to be a ray of diverse, exultant sunlight, so dig in and improve your day.
Series 1, Episode 1: August 31, 1998

5 more delightful programs, after the jump….....

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Old-school ads for albums from The Clash, Buzzcocks, Blondie, T.Rex, The Jam and more

Promo ad for Blondie's Plastic Records, 1978
Promo ad for Blondie’s ‘Plastic Letters,’ 1978. This might even be an in-store stand-up, hard to tell

If you are of a certain age, you will remember what it was like to get pretty much all your rock and roll knowledge from magazines. Wanted to become a part of the The Cramps Fan Club (and who didn’t), you filled out a request from a magazine or perhaps signed up for the band’s “mailing list” at a live show. If there was a new record on the way, you probably saw it on the pages of CREEM (my all-time favorite), Trouser Press or Billboard. If you were aspiring young punk in the UK, you learned likely learned about the latest record from The Jam by reading mags like Zig Zag, Sounds, and Smash Hits.
New York Dolls ad for Too Much Too Soon, 1974
New York Dolls ad for their 1974 album, ‘Too Much Too Soon’
Mick Ronson Slaughter on 10th Avenue ad, 1974
An ad for Mick Ronson’s first solo record, ‘Slaughter on 10th Avenue,’ 1974
Japanese ad for T-Rex records, 1974
Japanese ad for T.Rex records, 1974
Check them all out after the jump!

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
Finally! The lyrics of The Clash make total sense!
09:19 am


The Clash

“Complete Control”—It’s The Clash’s fourth best song, featured on the U.S. release of their debut album.

The song which is supposedly a “fiery polemic on record companies, managers and the state of punk music itself” is actually quite indecipherable —UNTIL NOW.

I mean, you could do the boring thing and look up the actual lyrics on the Interwebs, or you could just take Jacob Rice‘s word for it—he’s prepared a video which does a very punk rock job of figuring out what the fuck mealy-mouthed frontman of “the only band that matters,” Joe Strummer is actually saying in “Complete Control.”

“Open up the baklava! Dick Gephardt and a gecko!”

Posted by Christopher Bickel | Leave a comment
Shane MacGowan perpetrates ‘Cannibalism at Clash gig,’ 1976

On Saturday, October 23, 1976, the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London hosted a show by the brand-new punk sensation known as the Clash. It was an eventful evening by any reckoning.

The openers were Subway Sect and Snatch Sounds, who seem not to have made much of an impression. At that point the Clash and the Sex Pistols were in a category of two in terms of being at the absolute pinnacle of delivering pissed-off punk music and generating the electric excitement of punk (and the associated publicity too). The night before and that night too, Patti Smith was playing the Hammersmith Odeon but managed to make her way to the ICA so that she could dance onstage to “I’m So Bored with the U.S.A.” As will be easily imagined, the audience was in a rowdy mood and the alcohol was flowing freely. The show had been billed as “a night of pure energy,” and it surely lived up to that.

In the November 6, 1976, issue of the New Musical Express ran an account of the show written by Barry Miles, who preferred to go simply by “Miles” as a nom de journalisme. The cheeky, startling headline of the piece was “CANNIBALISM AT CLASH GIG,” with the subtitle “But why didn’t anybody eat MILES?” At the top and the bottom of the writeup were two pictures, taken by Red Saunders, of Shane MacGowan and a renowned punk fan named Jane Crockford, unflatteringly nicknamed “Mad Jane.” The pictures show indistinct mayhem as well as a generous portion of blood flowing from MacGowan’s right earlobe. Interestingly, both of the subjects were, or would be, in notable bands of their own; MacGowan was in the Nipple Erectors and (of course) the Pogues, while Jane was in the Bank of Dresden and the Mo-dettes.

In Bob Gruen’s must-own book The Clash he gets Mick Jones and Paul Simonon to comment on the show:

Mick: That was the night of Shane MacGowan’s earlobe, wasn’t it? He didn’t really have it bitten off, you know. Isn’t that the same show where Patti Smith got up on stage during our set?

Paul: That was the ICA—it was called A Night of Pure Energy. My haircut’s gone very mod; it had flopped down from all the jumping around onstage. In the beginning all that jumping about was a way of dodging gobs and missiles generally. There’s Joe with his sharks’ teeth—when I first met him they looked just like a real sharks’ teeth.

Gruen notes of the MacGowan incident that it gave the Clash “their first significant press coverage.” He also quotes Joe Strummer as saying, “Without Mad Jane’s teeth and Shane’s earlobe, we wouldn’t have got in the papers that week.”

In The Clash: Return of the Last Gang in Town, Marcus Gray writes about that evening:

When the Clash started playing, a couple in front of Miles and Red were obstructing their view of the band. Apparently intent on attacking each other while laughing like maniacs, they refused to move out of the way. So Red took pictures of them. “I had no idea how famous those photos were to become.” The NME used them to accompany Miles’s report under the headline “CANNIBALISM AT CLASH GIG”: “A young couple, somewhat out of it, had been nibbling and fondling each other amid the broken glass when she suddenly lunged forward and bit his ear lobe off [while the crowd] watched with cold, calculate hipitude.” ... the Clash gig was a wild night fuelled by speed and alcohol. The bar staff entered into the spirit of the evening to such an extent that they gave away a further £80 worth of booze ... and the twosome Miles and Red observed, Mad Jane and Shane MacGowan, were by no means content to loiter at the back of the queue.

“Me and this girl were having a bit of a laugh which involved biting each other’s arms till they were completely covered in blood and then smashing up a couple of bottles and cutting each other up a bit,” Shane informed ZigZag’s Granuaille in 1986, setting the record straight on the occasion of punk’s 10th anniversary, and, in the process, offering another insight into the mythopoetics of punk. “That, in those days, was the sort of thing that people used to do. I haven’t got a clue now why I did it or why anyone would want to do it, but that was how teenagers got their kicks in London if they were hip. Anyway, in the end she went a bit over the top and bottled me in the side of the head. Gallons of blood came out and someone took a photograph. I never got it bitten off—although we had bitten each other to bits—it was just a heavy cut.” As Shane noted, though, the anecdote was exaggerated with each telling. “It’s like the old story about the bloke who catches the fish. He says that it weighs this much and it’s that big, and within a couple of days it’s a whale.” Over the years, few have been prepared to let the fact that his earlobes are both present and correct stand in the way of a good story.

More after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Classic Japanese punk band ‘The Star Club’ covering Sham 69,The Clash, & the Ramones
10:17 am


The Clash
punk rock
Sham 69
The Star Club

The Star Club
An early photo of The Star Club

Since getting their start back in Nagoya, Japan in the spring of 1977, Japanese punk band, The Star Club, has put out more than 30 records (their most recent Max Breakers was released in December of 2015), and despite numerous lineup changes over the decades, the band continues to tour and perform with original vocalist, Hikage.
The long-running vocalist for The Star Club, Hikage, 1978
Hikage, the long-running vocalist for The Star Club, 1978
There were no shortage of punk bands in Japan during the late 70s and early 80s such the influential Blue Hearts, Anarchy, The Stalin, Crack the Marian, noise-punks Outo and hardcore punks, Gauze. Obviously, most of these groups got their inspiration from the punk that was happening thousands of miles away in the UK and New York, as the title of this post alludes to. Over the years, the rotating members of The Star Club even have even used mashups of the names of members of the Sex Pistols and Clash as their own. At one time back in the day, the bass player was known as “Paul Vicious,” the drummer called himself “Topper Cook,” and the guitarist became “Steve Cat Jones.”
The Star Club, early 1980s
From heavy metal to art, I’m a huge fan of the creative forces that emanate to my ears and eyes by way of Japan. And watching videos of The Star Club performing not only their own music back in the 80s, but the music of their punk idols, pioneers like Sham 69, The Clash and the Ramones, pretty much made my day. I found it especially enjoyable to watch the 80s version of Star Club vocalist Hikage swirling around while spewing out “Bodies” in a shirt not unlike Johnny Lydon’s straight-jacket-looking muslin “Destroy” shirt.
The Star Club
The Star Club “Aggressive Teens/Bodies” Australian release, 1986
If you dig what follows, I have some good news for you as many of The Star Club’s recordings can be found on Ebay and Discogs. I’ve also posted videos of the Star Club covering “Borstal Breakout” by Sham 69, The Ramones’ “Blitzkrieg Bop,” “Bodies,” by the Sex Pistols, and “I Fought the Law” as famously covered by The Clash (which is a part of the performance in first video below). The first video also includes a short amusing interview with the band, which was recorded at a show The Star Club did under the alias of “Anarchy in the J.A.P” in support of their fifteenth anniversary and cover album of the same name in 1992.

The Star Club performing as “Anarchy in the J.A.P” in the early 90s. A brief interview with the band pops up just before their cover of Sham 69’s 1979 single, “If the Kids are United”
More from the Star Club, after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
Punk rock icons get the comic book treatment in ‘Visions of Rock,’ 1981

John Lydon by Brendan McCarthy
John Lydon by Brendan McCarthy
Like many of you, I was once an avid collector of comic books. While it’s still in my nature to pick up an occasionally graphic novel (my last one was The Big Book of Mischief from the great UK illustrator, Krent Able), I was naturally drawn to the illustrations of the punks from the 70s done by several artists who would go on to make great contributions to the world of comic book art in a publication from 1981, Visions of Rock
Visions of Rock by Mal Burns (on the cover Chrissie Hynde, Rod Stewart and Debbie Harry)
Visions of Rock by Mal Burns (on the cover Chrissie Hynde, Rod Stewart and Debbie Harry)
Although including Rod Stewart on the cover is a bit perplexing (as are some of the illustrations in the book itself) loads of incredibly talented illustrators contributed work to Visions of Rock such as Bryan Talbot (who worked on Sandman with Neil Gaiman), Brett Ewins (of Judge Dredd fame who sadly passed away in February of this year), Brendan McCarthy (who most recently worked with George Miller on a little film called Mad Max: Fury Road, perhaps you’ve heard of it) and Hunt Emerson whose work appears in nearly every book in the “Big Book Of” series.

Inside you’ll find comic book-style renditions of your favorite 70s punks like Sid Vicious (equipped with a chainsaw no less), Elvis Costello, Brian Ferry (wait, he’s not a punk rocker…), The Stranglers and others. Here’s a bit of the backstory on the making of Visions of Rock from comic book illustrator, David Hine (who worked with Marvel UK back in the 80s and whose work appears in the book):

This company that put out Visions of Rock, Communication Vectors, was run by a guy called Mal Burns, who also produced the comic Pssst! It was a weird setup, I think the (our) money came from a mysterious French millionaire. We were all paid about $200

The Stranglers by Stuart Briers
The Stranglers by Stuart Briers
I must admit, I’m a huge fan of Brendan McCarthy’s caricature of John Lydon (at the top of the post) looking like a crazed super villain descending upon London, compelled by the powers of both filth and fury. If you dig the images in this post, Visions of Rock can be had from third-party vendors over at Amazon for about $20 bucks, or less.
Sid Vicious by Brendan McCarthy
Sid Vicious by Brendan McCarthy
Elvis Costello by Brent Emerson
Elvis Costello by Hunt Emerson
More comic book versions of punk rock royalty after the jump…

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Record exec’s letter to a punk fan about why he passed on the Clash
10:31 am


The Clash

Last year Paul Dougherty posted this treasure on his blog When p**k was a work in progress, where it then went unaccountably ignored. The setup is that in 1977, as a punk fan annoyed that the Clash’s first (and, at that point, only) album hadn’t yet found distribution in the United States, Dougherty wrote Epic Records a letter to express his annoyance. Remarkably, Epic wrote back—and the letter Dougherty received is a fascinating document of a tumultuous moment in the history of rock music.

Bruce Harris was the name of the thoughtful A&R representative from Epic Records, and his letter is a nearly perfect blend of punk idolatry and corporate wariness. Harris has appeared on DM before—he was the executive who signed the Nails in 1984, and as it happens, that band’s lead singer and main songwriter, Marc Campbell, has been one of the most stimulating Dangerous Minds contributors for many years. In 2011 Campbell wrote about the perils for musicians of getting involved in the music business, noting in a postscript that “My experience at RCA would have been far worse had it not been for the comradeship of two people who did love rock and roll: Bruce Harris (R.I.P.) and Gregg Geller.”

Epic Records A&R team, 1979. Bruce Harris is at left, wearing the hat. (As is true for most of the images on this page, click the picture to see a larger version.)
What’s fascinating about Harris’ letter to Dougherty, which is dated November 29, 1977, is that it shows a true appreciation of the singular talents of the Clash while also recognizing the limitations that would hold the band back, primarily the shoddy production of the first album compared to the Sex Pistols’ Never Mind the Bollocks. I don’t think anyone is crazy about the production on that album—Allmusic, in a 5-star review, treats the “poor sound quality” as an asset, and Robert Christgau, in the middle of calling the album his new favorite punk LP from the U.K., noted at the time that it was “apparently tuneless and notoriously underproduced.”

One gainsays Harris’ expertise in handicapping the likely future success of bands in the American marketplace at one’s peril, but what’s hilarious about his missive is the extent to which he may have gotten it wrong. When he lists a bunch of bands that he loves but can’t sell in the U.S., consisting entirely of Blondie, the Clash, the Adverts, and the Vibrators, that list (and the mindset willing to back it) would instantly have made Harris the greatest A&R man of the era. Harris wasn’t in the business of distributing records that would still be viable assets in the year 2000, although ... he kind of was.

Harris wanted to usher in the new era of punk the “right” way, and that and his cautious responsibility to safeguard Epic’s assets may have caused him to miss an opportunity. The under- or non-produced quality of the Clash’s first album, after all, is precisely what Allmusic and Christgau liked so much about it, and that’s a perspective we in the year 2015 share—it’s Harris’ concern to keep the “Fleetwood Mac” quotient low on the Clash’s second album that seems dated to us. When Harris calls the move of championing imperfect production as aesthetically valid as “a genuine copout,” he’s missing the impulse that led to musical movements as disparate as grunge, lo-fi, hardcore, and crunk. Of course the Clash and the Vibrators and so forth had the better of that argument, in the long run. That doesn’t magically remove the obstacles Harris would have faced in selling the Clash to Iowa, but it does generate some pretty profound ironies.

OK—enough of my yakkin’. Here’s the letter, transcription is below.


This was written in late 1977. The Clash’s first album, of course, was released in the U.K. in 1977 by CBS, and it wouldn’t get a U.S. release until two years later, by Bruce Harris’ employer, Epic. CBS and Epic released Give ‘Em Enough Rope as well as all of the Clash’s remaining studio albums in the U.S., so he was right to guess that “the Clash’s next album will be more right for us and we will be releasing it here.”

Here’s a list of the Epic Records roster in 1979, with the Clash included:

The Vibrators’ first album, Pure Mania, received a U.S. release by Columbia in 1977, but given the date of this letter, it’s not likely that a vague reference to “next year” refers to that; either the album was already out or he knew its release date perfectly well. Meanwhile, neither Epic nor CBS had anything to do with the U.S. release of the Vibrators’ second album, V2.

Harris was quite right about Blue Sky releasing Johansen’s first album, and nobody gives a flying fuck about Masterswitch. (Okay, okay: According to Discogs, Epic did put out one single solitary 7-inch in 1978.) He was also astute in surmising that Talking Heads would be arguably new wave’s greatest crossover success.

November 29, 1977

Dear Paul:

Now that you’ve explained to me how the net works, let me tell you a little about how the mummy crumbles.

Unfortunately, A&R decisions are not based entirely on taste and musical preference. Hard to believe as you may find this, I personally am an avid Clash fan. My responsibility is not, however, to release records I like but rather records which I feel will bring profit into this company. (You may dismiss this kind of view as immoral or whatever but I would consider myself immoral to accept payment from CBS and not fulfill that obligation to the best of my ability. It would be easy for me to sit here and say I like  the Clash, I like the Vibrators, I like the Adverts, I like Blondie, but that’s no accomplishment. Your presumption that releasing a Clash record would change the complexion of the American music marketplace, FM radio, press, etc. is a false one. From my experience in the music business, it seems clear to me that the Clash’s album would fail miserably from that point of view.

Also, it is important to note that the Clash’s album for all its quality (which is evident in the overwhelming lyrics, the blistering music and the feverish performance) is not at all matched by the level of production which is an enormous drawback. The band’s live performance is many times better than what is on this record and one has to question the artistic integrity of creating an inferior sounding album. It’s not a valid artistic judgement to say that the production is deliberately shoddy because this is new wave and new wave music doesn’t follow the same rules as other music, etc. This is a genuine copout. The Sex Pistols album, for instance, is produced properly and as a result sounds really strong and captures the band’s power. I believe the Clash can make better records than their first album and those are the records we should choose to bring to the American marketplace.

I have a very deep interest in making punk rock happen in the U.S. but I believe that only the finest quality product (like the Sex Pistols album) can achieve that end.

The failing does not lie with record companies. Your comments about radio are certainly right but if you take the thought one step further, I think you will see that it’s radio that’s blocking the progress here not record manufacturers. Sire Records is releasing a number of new wave albums, none of which have gotten much airplay or sold any records as a result. Personally I expect that this is partially due to the low quality of much of this product. On the other hand, like any new movement, punk will take time.  Maybe its the Talking Heads second album that will happen, and maybe the Dead Boys will get a little better at what they are doing.

I believe the Clash are better than anyone in the field except the Sex Pistols and I have been very involved in guiding the production of their second album. I don’t want them to sound like Fleetwood Mac—I want them to sound like the Clash that they are and not an amateur act.

Your interest is marvelous and though we disagree, I really was glad to hear your voice rise up from the street telling me where to go. Hopefully, the Clash’s next album will be more right for us and we will be releasing it here. Meanwhile, you will be happy to know that it appears that Columbia Records will release the Vibrators album next year, our Blue Sky label will be releasing David Johansen’s solo album and Epic will release an album by a new group from England called Masterswitch. Inorder for the new wave to become a permanent one, it has to get rolling right.

Best regards,
Bruce Harris

The source for the internal Epic Records images (not including the letter) is this marvelous PDF file.
Thank you Annie Zaleski!

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
‘They tried to make us look like the Clash!’ Van Halen’s rejected first album cover
06:08 pm


The Clash
Van Halen

Here’s a wonderful story reported by Greg Renoff over at Ultimate Classic Rock. Today we think of Van Halen and the Clash as occupying very distinct places in the hard rock firmament. Influenced by Jamaican reggae, the Clash is all about anger, political resistance, and liberation, while super-noodly arena-rock heroes Van Halen boogies to a decidedly sexier party backbeat. But that wasn’t so clear to the executives trying to figure out how to position Eddie, David Lee and the gang. At the time of Van Halen’s self-titled first album in February 1978, one of the most visible bands in the world was the Clash, whose own self-titled first album had been shaking things up for almost a year. 

It wasn’t like Van Halen was unfamiliar with punk and its cousin, new wave—on the contrary. Punk had long since hit the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles, and Van Halen had been in lineups at the Whisky à Go Go nightclub with bands like the Mumps, the Dogs, and the Motels. In a meeting with Warner Bros., the first stab at the album cover was presented—and it was a disaster. Not only had the designers misunderstood the band’s name to be Vanhalen, but the downbeat photo—Michael Anthony looks like he’s just eaten a bad Quaalude or something—placed Alex Van Halen in the foreground while natural ham David Lee Roth is practically snoozing in the background.

It didn’t take long for manager Marshall Berle and the band to reject the cover. As Eddie would later tell Guitar World, “They tried to make us look like the Clash. We said, ‘Fuck this shit!’”

After absorbing Van Halen’s criticisms of the preliminary cover art, Warner Bros. hired photographer Elliot Gilbert to shoot the band onstage at the Whisky, which made for a completely different impression. Eddie is waving his famous Frankenstrat around like he’s Nigel Tufnel or somebody. Add Dave Bhang’s silver, winged VH logo and you had a glitzy, balls-out look that was perfect for the new cocks on the walk. Eddie later said that after the band saw the logo, they “made [Warner Bros.] put it on the album so that it would be clear that we had nothing to do with the punk movement. It was our way of saying ‘Hey we’re just a fucking rock and roll band, don’t try and slot us with the Sex Pistols thing just because it’s becoming popular.’”

Here’s Van Halen on the Clash’s turf, London, at the Hammersmith Odeon on June 1, 1978, playing one of the best tracks off the debut, “Little Dreamer”:

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Previously unseen footage of the Clash on New Year’s Day, 1977
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The Clash

On the liner notes of their first LP Two Sevens Clash, roots reggae band Culture claimed that Marcus Garvey had prophesied that the date July 7, 1977, “when the two sevens clash,” would herald great conflagration. Whether Garvey said it or not (some hold that Culture just made the story up), it’s safe to say that 1977 was a year of great chaos. As the Clash sang around that time, “Danger stranger / You better paint your face / No Elvis, Beatles, or the Rolling Stones / In 1977.” The tumult of that year is amply demonstrated in 1977, a documentary by Julien Temple, director of The Great Rock’n'Roll Swindle and The Filth and the Fury, built around never-before-seen footage he shot of the Clash’s early gig at the Roxy on January 1, 1977, a gig that more or less ushered in both the Roxy and the Clash as punk fixtures, although the band ended up lasting a lot longer than the venue.

Temple’s documentary is a marvelous hodgepodge of footage covering U.K. anarchy in all its forms as the nation ushered in a tense new year. In the first few moments a fellow introduces a TV program in which every single member of the studio audience is named “Smith” by more or less declaring that the economic outlook in 1977 was likely to be lousy. Meanwhile, some other guy, on location at Stonehenge, welcomes in ‘77 by chugging some “champers.” The found footage of random British TV, which has nothing to do with the Clash, the Roxy, or punk, is every bit as fantastic as anything else in the movie.

As January 1, 1977, neared, the newspapers were full of “shocking” stories about punk, particularly the newly famous Sex Pistols. The Pistols and the as-yet-little-known Clash as well as Johnny Thunders’ Heartbreakers were in the midst of the Anarchy Tour, which was most notable for venues pulling out and cancelling gigs for fear of mayhem and adverse publicity. As Jon Savage wrote in England’s Dreaming, The Clash “were the true victors of the Anarchy Tour: benefiting from the publicity but not embroiled in controversy, they were the group to watch. To celebrate, Strummer specially customized a white shirt with a massive ‘1977’ on the front.”

The Roxy had recently been a “cheesy” gay club, to use Temple’s word, called Shaggarama. For the first three months of 1977, before the punk crowd moved on, the list of musical performers who played the Roxy is a veritable Who’s Who of Punk: The Buzzcocks, the Damned, Siouxsie & The Banshees, the Jam, the Stranglers, Sham 69, the Only Ones, Wire, the Adverts, X-Ray Spex, the Slits, XTC, and many more; even the Police played there. As Temple says, “With hindsight, the Roxy has taken on the aura of being vital to the early days of Punk, which may be an exaggeration. ... in fact the Punk crowd soon lost interest in it and moved on. The Roxy got worse and worse and lasted about 100 days.”

The Clash, having successfully introduced themselves in the Anarchy Tour, understood that they were on the precipice of something big. Their regular drummer, Terry Chimes (Strummer nicknamed him “Tory Crimes”) had gotten tired of the heavy-handed management style of Bernard Rhodes and opted out of the show. The Clash auditioned roughly 20 drummers in Camden Town, finally settling on Rob Harper, who was reportedly “scarred for life by the experience.” At the Roxy gig, they sang a new song, “I’m So Bored with the USA,” which wouldn’t see a studio recording until March.

As you watch the documentary, it becomes clear that Temple’s footage of that important New Year’s Day gig doesn’t really stand up on its own—you can find better Clash footage out there—which partially explains the strategy of buttressing it with huge chunks of highly resonant footage of U.K. during 1977. You see the Clash prepping for the show, you see lots of Malcolm McLaren and Johnny Rotten; Margaret Thatcher gets in there as well, of course. You see riots and reggae and regular Britons being staunch. It’s a great strategy, and the result is a terrifically diverting 75 minutes of punked-out bliss.

Be sure to watch it soon—this premiered on BBC Four just two days ago, and now it’s on YouTube—there’s no telling how long it will stay there.

via Include Me Out

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
New species of snail is named after Joe Strummer
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The Clash
Joe Strummer

Shannon Johnson, a researcher at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, has named a newly discovered species of deep sea snail, Alviconcha strummeri, after Clash leader Joe Strummer, telling the Santa Cruz Sentinel

“Because they look like punk rockers in the 70s and 80s and they have purple blood and live in such an extreme environment, we decided to name one new species after a punk rock icon.”

The name A. strummeri honors Joe Strummer, the lead singer and a guitarist of the British punk rock band The Clash.

The golf ball-sized snails rock out near hydrothermal vents at the bottom of the ocean, as deep as 11,500 feet.

We wouldn’t quibble with the decision to honor Strummer. After all, who but a hater would deny the Clash their due? But given that A. strummeri is yellow and spiky and the late Strummer was neither, there’s more of an actual resemblance between the snail and plenty of other potential honorees, though admittedly, they may merit the distinction in, um, varying degrees.

Joe Strummer, the Clash

Lars Frederiksen, Rancid

Billy Idol, Generation X, solo

Paul Cook, Sex Pistols

Guy Fieri, gigantic doucherocket
Via the A/V Club

Previously on Dangerous Minds
Acne bacterium is named after Frank Zappa, immediately releases four albums in gratitude

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Rock Against Racism: On the front line with The Clash, Specials, Undertones & Elvis Costello

It all began in 1968 when an old Tory coot Enoch Powell gave a racist speech against immigration and anti-discrimination legislation at his West Midlands constituency in England. Powell claimed he was horrified at what he believed was an unstoppable flow of immigration that would eventually swamp the country where “in fifteen or twenty years’ time the black man will have the whip hand over the white man.” It was an incendiary and offensive speech full bile and hate, and became known as the “Rivers of blood speech” because of Powell’s quotation from Virgil’s Aeneid about “‘the River Tiber foaming with much blood.’”

Many of the white working class supported Powell, most shamefully the London dockers’ union staged a one day strike in his favor. Powell became the pin-up of the far right and his words appeared to sanction their rise, in particular the odious neo-Nazi National Front that promoted its racist policies with the boot as much as the ballot. Against this rose Rock Against Racism—“a raggedy arsed united front” co-founded by Red Saunders, Roger Huddle and others in 1976.

At first, Rock Against Racism was just an idea—a way to bring together a new generation of youth against the stealthy rise of the far right. It may have remained just an idea had it not been for Eric Clapton announcing during a concert in 1976 that the UK had “become overcrowded” and his fans should vote for Enoch Powell to stop Britain from becoming “a black colony.” Allegedly Clapton then shouted “Keep Britain white.” His racist tirade led to Saunders and Huddle writing a letter to the music paper NME pointing out that half Clapton’s music was black. The letter ended with a call for readers to help establish Rock Against Racism. The response was overwhelmingly positive.

In April 1978, 100,000 people marched across London in support of Rock Against Racism, which was followed by a concert at Victoria Park headlined by The Clash and the Tom Robinson Band. It was a momentous event, which singer and activist Billy Bragg correctly described as “the moment when my generation took sides.”

Photographer Syd Shelton documented the rise of Rock Against Racism during the 1970s and 1980s from its first demonstrations, the concert in Victoria Park, to the gigs, bands, musicians (The Clash, The Specials, The Undertones, Elvis Costello, etc), the young activists and supporters who stood up and proudly said: “Love Music, Hate Racism.”
More rocking pictures against racism, after the jump…

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
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