In May/June of 1981, The Clash were booked to play at the curiously named “Bond’s International Casino” (it was a former low-rent clothing store) in New York City in support of the sprawling 3-record Sandinista! album. They were meant to play just eight gigs in the smallish Times Square space, but the performances were dangerously oversold by greedy promoters. Fire marshals and the NY Building Department closed down both of the May 30th concerts, but the band vowed to honor every last ticket and the number of shows was extended to seventeen, with matinee and evening performances added.
The Clash’s Bond’s Casino shows became a part of the rebel band’s legend and featured opening acts like The Fall, The 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 Sugerhill Gang, their pal from Texas, Joe Ely and others.
One of the shows, on June 9th, was professionally recorded for an FM radio broadcast and widely bootlegged. You can easily find it and other Bond’s shows on audio blogs.
Not a lot of footage exists from the Clash’s legendary Bond’s Casino residency, apparently not even one complete show was shot, but there were some tantalizing clips in Don Letts’ Grammy-winning Westway to the World rock doc (released in 2000), as well as in the abandoned short “The Clash on Broadway” (on Westway as a DVD extra). Sadly the sound quality is not great, so the performances lacked the hinted at oomph they should have had. Letts’ Bonds footage was apparently shot on the same day as the FM recording was made. Luckily an enterprising Clash fan has restriped the stereo audio from that source and synced up some other angles found in various places. The results are probably the best glimpse we have at what went on at these shows. Ain’t the Internet great?
If you were at the Bond’s shows, there is a Facebook group called “I Saw the Clash at Bonds” (which I notice that our Marc Campbell is a part of, along with DM pals Douglas Hovey and Mirgun Akyavas). Dozens of personal accounts of the shows can be found in several places, just Google it.
First up, a blistering “Safe European Home.” I love how “the only band that matters” walk onstage like a street gang to the spaghetti-western sounds of Ennio Morricone’s “6 Seconds To Watch” (from the soundtrack to For A Few Dollars More). What band today could pull off swagger like that and not look like complete dickheads? None of them, that’s who…
An absolutely scorching “This is Radio Clash” (probably—no definitely—my #1 favorite Clash number). Turn it up!