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Record exec’s letter to a punk fan about why he passed on the Clash
06.12.2015
07:31 am

Topics:
Music
Punk

Tags:
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
01.19.2015
03:08 pm

Topics:
Advertising
Music
Punk

Tags:
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
01.03.2015
09:57 am

Topics:
Movies
Music
Punk

Tags:
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
12.15.2014
09:01 am

Topics:
Amusing
Music
Punk
Science/Tech

Tags:
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

10rarclash170s.jpg
 
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.”
 
20rarclash370s.jpg
 
rar24strummer70s.jpg
 
16rarspecials70s.jpg
 
03rardemo70s.jpg
 
04rardemopolice70s.jpg
 
01rar70s.jpg
 
More rocking pictures against racism, after the jump…
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
The Clash’s forgotten years, 1984-1986
09.10.2014
07:35 am

Topics:
Music
Punk

Tags:
The Clash


The Clash busking in York, 1985
 
In its official version, the story of The Clash ends with the firing of lead guitarist Mick Jones in 1983. Though founding members Joe Strummer and Paul Simonon subsequently led a five-piece version of the group until the first months of 1986, it is not a polite thing to mention at parties. The 384-page coffee-table book The Clash
devotes less than a single page to the final two and a half years of the band’s career, and the 1985 album Cut The Crap has been left out of every Clash box set to date. In the words of Rolling Stone, “It doesn’t count, and the whole thing has basically been erased from history. The Clash as we know them ended at the 1983 US Festival.” The new Clash met the same fate as the new Coke.

While no one would dispute that it was a poor choice to fire Mick Jones, the Clash did a few things worth remembering between 1984 and 1986. Determined to make a radical break with stardom, they went on a busking tour of the U.K. that included a stop in the parking lot of an Alarm show, where the headliners reportedly came out to watch. Strummer never sounded so fired up in interviews as he did in 1984, and rock critic Greil Marcus reported that, despite the new Clash’s shortcomings, he’d “never seen Strummer more exhilarated, or more convincing” than at a January 1984 show in California.
 

Strummer and Simonon interview, 1984 (part two)
 
Danny Garcia’s documentary The Rise and Fall Of The Clash, a whodunit about the breakup, is the first movie to shed light on this bizarre period. Based on interviews with original members Mick Jones and Terry Chimes, late-period members Pete Howard, Nick Sheppard, and Vince White, comrades Pearl Harbor, Viv Albertine, and Vic Godard, and others from the band’s circle, the movie largely focuses on the role of manager Bernie Rhodes.
 

The Rise and Fall of The Clash trailer
 
Evaluations of Rhodes’ actual contribution to the band vary widely, but most parties agree that Strummer trusted the manager while Jones did not. The Clash fired Rhodes in 1978—they were managed by big-timers Blackhill Enterprises during the recording of London Calling and Sandinista!—but they hired Rhodes back in 1981. “Joe wanted Bernie back because there was no excitement in the situation with Blackhill and Joe needed to have someone like Bernie around to give him confidence,” Simonon says in the coffee-table book.

The documentary makes it clear that Rhodes exploited Strummer and Simonon’s resentment of Jones’s “rock star” behavior (dating models, showing up late, etc.) to force Jones out and seize control of the band. This part of the story reveals unfathomable dimensions of weirdness. For instance, according to Jones, in the days before he was fired, the band gathered in Rehearsal Rehearsals to write new material. There, Jones says, ruthless manager Rhodes had the Clash working on the follow-up to the platinum-selling Combat Rock, an album of. . . New Orleans jazz?
 

 
More ‘Crap’ Clash after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
Happy Birthday to Mick Jones of The Clash!
06.26.2014
07:08 am

Topics:
Music
Punk

Tags:
The Clash
Mick Jones


 
Mick Jones was kind of The Clash’s George Harrison. He’s a gifted and distinctive guitar soloist, and was inarguably crucial to the band’s founding and sound, but he was rarely the guy out in front, and like the man said, “It’s the singer, not the song.” But imagine The Clash catalog without “Should I Stay or Should I Go,” “Train in Vain,” “Protex Blue,” or “Police On My Back?” (Yes, the last one’s an Equals cover. Whatevs, Jones completely slayed the lead vocal, and anyway, we just covered how it’s the singer not the blah blah blah, right?) And of course, the one Clash album he’s not on is the one they’d love you to forget ever existed. Jones was born on June 26, 1955, and so the punk rock pioneer who went on from The Clash to found Big Audio Dynamite turns 59 today.
 

 
Here’s a 2004 interview on Later with Jools Holland, where Jones joins not just the erstwhile Squeeze keyboardist, but Clash bassist Paul Simonon as well. There’s some great archival footage of a performance of “Clampdown,” and you can catch glimpses of one of the show’s other guests, Green Day, waiting in the wings to shit up the program. Towards the end, Holland asks Jones and Simonon if they’d ever work together again, and predictably enough they hedge, but several years later, they did play together again, as members of Gorillaz’ touring band, and on their Plastic Beach LP.
 

 
This footage of Jones out in front of The Clash on the London Calling tour, singing “Train in Vain” for a Paris audience, is mighty damn good.
 

 
Jones’ final performance with The Clash, at the US Festival in San Bernardino, CA, May 1983. He’d be ousted from the band just a few months later. This has turned up on YouTube before, but while individual tracks seem to live on uploads of the full show keep getting pulled. Enjoy it while you can.
 

 
“The Bottom Line” with his post Clash outfit, Big Audio Dynamite:

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
The Fall’s Mark E. Smith predicts ‘The Clash are going to be very big,’ 1976
05.12.2014
07:39 am

Topics:
Music
Punk

Tags:
The Clash
Mark E. Smith
The Fall

Mark E. Smith
 
In this fascinating document we can see the endlessly amusing and enigmatic mind of Mark E. Smith, founder and resident genius of The Fall, not even 20 years of age and several months before the Fall’s first gig in May 1977.

The date is December 20, 1976. Smith is writing a letter to another founding member of The Fall, bassist Tony Friel—Smith refers to “your ‘bass’ pop guitar.” (Friel would remain in the band only for a few months.) Smith is referencing a gig held at the Electric Circus in Manchester on Thursday, December 9, 1976, featuring The Sex Pistols, The Damned, Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers, and The Clash—quite a lineup! (Which DM reader wouldn’t give about three toes to have seen that show? Then again, maybe one or two of you were there.....) The din of the show must have still been ringing in his ears—Smith starts the letter with a snippet from “Chinese Rocks,” the legendary Heartbreakers song jointly written by Dee Dee Ramone and Richard Hell.
 
Anarchy Tour
 
The main purpose of the letter, in addition to waxing hilarious and weird in a way only Mark E. Smith was ever capable of, was to affirm his enthusiasm about this new band The Clash, who clearly made a huge impression on Smith: “New pop group the CLASH are going to be very big,once they do a tour of the Village,and then signed on to Village records Ltd.” But he wasn’t telling Friel about the band, surely. Smith and his buddy Friel had quite probably discussed The Clash already, both having most likely seen them at the Electric Circus. Indeed, later on he adds, “Combined, The Heartbreakers and Clash were better than Sex Pistols, doncha?” As in, “Right? You agree? You who saw them too?” Smith was putting on his oracle hat and predicting great things for The Clash. Seems like he hit that one on the head.

The postscript is a snippet of dialogue (real or imagined?) from the immortal 1960s TV series The Prisoner.

Here’s the full text of the letter:

? Dec. 76

for: No. 505048A99FU
from: the new number 2

Dear Above,

‘I’m livin on a Chinese rock/all my clothes are in the pawn shop’ WRONG.

And today, the new number two is wearing a ‘Healthiflex non-restricti Collar’ dark blue in colour.

New number two says “New pop group the CLASH are going to be very big,once they do a tour of the Village,and then signed on to Village records Ltd.”

Please find attached a rough ‘set’ for the Outsiders.Apologies for any ommissions. Also find attached a little pres for you,a sticker for your ‘bass’ pop guitar.Last night I did not notice any “plain clothes policemen in pop gear” did thou?

You had better stick the fucking syticker on your ““bass”” or your ass.Or I will tell news agency Tass.

I did not get any sleep last night as i was speeeeding maaaaaan.

Combined,The Heartbreakers and Clash were better than Sex Pistols, doncha? Je tres fatigue - non dormir!

too incoherent,sorry.

be seeing you,

the new number 2
20.12.76

No6: “How did that typewriter get here ? At night ???”
No.14: “I am not allowed to answer that.Be seeing you.”
No.6: “Moron”.

 
Here’s the letter (you can see a much larger version here):
 
Mark E. Smith letter
 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
The Clash play ‘Safe European Home’ in newly unearthed live footage
02.07.2014
05:37 am

Topics:
Activism
Music
Punk

Tags:
The Clash


 
Web series The Big Fun Show, a project of One Billion Acts of Peace, has unearthed some unreleased footage of The Clash performing at Detroit USA’s Motor City Roller Rink in 1980. They’ve posted “Safe European Home,” from the LP Give Em Enough Rope, with the promise that if the video gets 100,000 views, they’ll post more of the show.

The video has been up for a few days now, and the hit count is still well below 5,000, so maybe we could give them a little hand? One Billion Acts of Peace is a charitable organization worth knowing about. A project of Peace Jam, it’s “an international global citizen’s movement led by thirteen Nobel Peace Laureates and designed to tackle the toughest issues facing humanity.”

Between now and December 31, 2018, average citizens around the world will work together to create one billion high quality projects addressing the root causes of the most important problems facing our planet—crucial areas like rights for women and children, access to clean water for all, and alleviating extreme poverty.

Additional information on the project is available at their web site. But OK, optimism, social change and Nobel Peace Prizes are all maybe a little hippie-ish for some of you, and you clicked on this to see The Clash. I’ll not keep you waiting.
 

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
Sex Pistols, Clash and Motörhead covered Celtic folk style by Vyvyan from ‘The Young Ones’


 
Dangerous Minds has checked in on English actor/comedian/musician Adrian Edmondson before, to talk about The Idiot Bastard Band, his group with Bonzo Dog/Monty Python habitué Neil Innes, and his beloved BBC comedy The Young Ones, on which he played the insane and violent postcard-punker archetype Vyvyan Basterd. But we’ve only given passing mention to his fine band The Bad Shepherds, and that’s just absurd. The band’s specialty is Celtic folk covers of classic punk, though songs like Elvis Costello’s “Shipbuilding” and Kraftwerk’s “The Model” have found their way into the repertoire. They’ve released three albums worth of such interpretations, 2009’s Yan, Tyan, Tethera, Methera!, 2010’s By Hook Or By Crook and last year’s Mud, Blood & Beer.
 

 
Given Edmondson’s history in comedy, you could be forgiven for assuming this was a joke band, an inversion of the tired old novelty punk covers trip. But before you leap to conclude that, hear Edmondson out in these excerpts from an excellent recent interview with Outline Online

The whole mechanic of taking on cover songs is a huge mantle for you to take on; has there ever been a song that’s been too difficult, that’s wriggled away from you, that can’t be tamed?

Oh, hundreds of ‘em. Loads of ‘em. Yeah, we try loads of stuff and what we do probably represents about a quarter of what we try to do. It’s not that we don’t like the ones that don’t work, it’s just we haven’t found a way of doing it. We generally take the songs completely to pieces and then put them back together again without thinking about the original and try and find instrumentation for them. Primarily they fall down on lyrics because I’m a middle-aged man and they’ve got to suit my age, and most folk and most punk songs surprisingly do because they’re surprisingly adult in content, most of the punk canon, y’know. They were written by people who were really thinking; they’re not just solipsistic, selfish kind of ‘ooh, I’m in love, I’m not in love’ songs. They’re about social commentary and social protest and things like that and it’s very exciting. But some songs, for example, we’ve tried a few songs by The Damned and none of them worked because they’re all – and I don’t mean this to deride The Damned but they’re all just a bit childish when you take them to bits and you read the lyrics without thinking about what the music’s about. It just doesn’t work. It doesn’t go anywhere. We tried moving up the years as well thinking there must be a load of stuff in the 80s with Tears for Fears and OMD and stuff like that, so we scoured through those and tried to work on that and again, that kinda falls short, lyrically. It’s too childish. I mean, they’re brilliant, original things but they don’t fit the ethos of our band; they don’t become folk songs.

What is it about those genres that seem to lend themselves so well?


Because they’re forgotten songs and people all imagine that that sort of era is full of jumping up and down, shouting and spitting and it didn’t mean anything apart from anger in the performance. They’re disastrously wrong; they’re some of the most complex songs. The idea that all punk songs are three-chord wonders is completely erroneous. There are vastly complicated chord sequences and tuning in some of the songs we play.

 

The Sex Pistols’ “Anarchy In The U.K.”
 

The Clash’s “London Calling”

After the jump, Motörhead’s “Ace Of Spades” and more…

Posted by Ron Kretsch | Leave a comment
‘Clash fan’ at Universal Music Group sends the most idiotic ‘cease & desist’ letter, perhaps ever…
11.08.2013
03:23 pm

Topics:
Art
Punk

Tags:
The Clash
Billy Childish


 
When art hero Billy Childish released his “Thatcher’s Children” pastiche/tribute/piss-take to the tune of The Clash’s “London Calling” back in 2008, probably the last thing he thought he would get would be a disgruntled letter from a conservative Clash fan, offended by the way Childish supposedly misrepresented the politics of the notoriously left-wing group. But (apparently) he did receive such a letter and it came from a legal representative of the Universal Music Group. At the end of an otherwise ordinary cease and desist letter, the UMe attorney just couldn’t resist adding the following clueless coda:

On a personal note as a fan of The Clash may i point out that your illegal use of the music of London Calling politicises the original tune in a way never intended by members of the group.

I appreciate that in its formative years The Clash may have been perceived as “anti-establishment” but the anti-right wing message contained in the lyric of Mr Chyldish is both insulting to the memory of Baroness Thatcher and President Reagan, and surely a sentiment that the mature songsmith Strummer would never have condoned. Such association could also jeopordise future commercial interest in London Calling by corporations who both fund and support politics that you misrepresent and hold up to ridicule, thereby depriving his family of income.

Wrong ‘em, boyo! I mean how much more wrong could this child of Thatcher possible be? Surely if Joe Strummer had outlived the Iron Lady, David Cameron would have asked him to speak at her funeral! Afterwards they could kick back at Strummerville!

To commemorate this stupidity of this “Clash fan,” Billy Childish is releasing a limited edition box set of “Thatcher’s Children” featuring a “God Save Margaret Thatcher” poster image he did in collaboration with Sex Pistols artist Jamie Reid and a sleeve that, ahem, strongly alludes to Pennie Smith’s iconic London Calling cover photo of Paul Simonon smashing his bass guitar (the lettering on that was inspired by an Elvis cover, so it’s not like there wasn’t already a precedent for this kind of thing. Quite a long precedent!)

Childish is also including a lithograph of this classically clueless letter from the Tory nincompoop at UMe, who deserves this disrespect, every drop of it… You can order it from L-13. You can also read the full letter there.
 

 
Below: Even better than the original?
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
‘Ian Rubbish’ (Fred Armisen) meets The Clash
10.17.2013
10:50 am

Topics:
Punk

Tags:
The Clash
Fred Armisen


 
In what looks to be a dream come true for him, Portlandia funnyman Fred Armisen interviews Mick Jones and Paul Simonon as “Ian Rubbish,” one-time member of Clash-wannabe group, Ian Rubbish and The Bizarros.

According to Billboard:

The Clash collaboration represents a full-circle moment of sorts for Armisen. “I first saw The Clash in 1982 at Pier 84 in New York as part of the Dr. Pepper music series, when I was about 14 or 15,” Armisen recalls on the phone from Portland, where he’s filming season 4 of IFC’s “Portlandia.” “And after the show, I was waiting outside the gate and Kosmo Vinyl, who was a tour manager, was pointing people in like, ‘You, you and you.’ And I totally got to talk to Paul Simonon and Joe Strummer. And then a couple weeks later I got to see a dress rehearsal of ‘Saturday Night Live,’ where Ron Howard was hosting, and I totally got to see The Clash play again. It was unreal.”

Ian/Fred even gets to jam with his heros!
 

 
Thank you Jo Caulfield!

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
The Clash take on Tom Snyder, armed with a teddy bear, 1981
09.13.2013
07:51 am

Topics:
Music

Tags:
The Clash
Tom Snyder


 
This footage is preposterously entertaining. It was 1981, the Clash were supporting Sandinista! The Clash had booked eight gigs at a nightclub called Bond’s Casino in Times Square in May and June of 1981—Richard has already written about that legendary stint in considerable detail.

(In related news, a comprehensive Clash box set dropped this week. The Clash: Sound System, designed by Paul Simonon to resemble an old-school boom box, contains the Clash’s first five U.S. releases—The Clash, Give ‘Em Enough Rope, London Calling, Sandinista!, and Combat Rock—three discs of rarities and outtakes, a DVD with videos, live material, and previously unseen footage by Julien Temple and Don Letts, and lots of other fun trinkets and doodads.)

Anyway, while they were in New York, they paid a visit to The Tomorrow Show with Tom Snyder. If you’re into the Clash and you haven’t seen this, you are in for a treat.

During the interview, Joe Strummer keeps fooling around with a cute teddy bear, but, very much in the manner of an impatient fusspot dad, no-nonsense Tom keeps taking it away from him. The band decide to affix stickers all over Tom’s body and then Joe puts a “Have a Nice Day!” plastic bag over his head. Then they debate the ins and outs of squatting. I’m making it sound silly, but somehow all this happens and they also manage to answer Tom’s questions about vacant youth and so forth with a good mixture of seriousness and silliness, and it all happens in under nine minutes.

After the commercial the Clash entertains the crowd with vital performances of “The Magnificent Seven” and “This Is Radio Clash.” While the band is doing “This Is Radio Clash,” Futura 2000 is seen spray-painting text all over the back wall and there’s generally an undercurrent of controlled mayhem throughout.

This is must-see stuff.

The interview section is here:

 
Don’t neglect the performances of “The Magnificent Seven” and “This Is Radio Clash” after the jump….

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Rat Patrol From Fort Bragg: The Clash’s alternate ‘Combat Rock’
06.03.2013
01:00 pm

Topics:
Music
Punk

Tags:
The Clash


 
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).

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Shut yer fucking mouth: Punk started in New York!
05.31.2013
02:05 am

Topics:
Punk

Tags:
The Clash
The Ramones


 
In the ongoing debate (which shoulda been settled years ago) of whether 70s punk started in New York or London, I think Joe Strummer in this performance is sending the message that it started with four guys from Queens, New York. I know in the big scheme of things this ain’t a whole lotta much of nuthin’. But for some of us old punkers, it is a bone of contention. And punk is all about contention
 

 
And this should shut the mouth of the idiots who continue to claim punk originated in England.
 

 
Case fucking closed. The Ramones started it. The Clash took the energy and ran with it. The Pistols pissed it away.

Posted by Marc Campbell | Leave a comment
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