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Quite simply, the Clash were among the most explosive and exciting bands in rock and roll history. They played a major role in creating and defining the punk movement. If the short-lived Sex Pistols were glorious nihilists, then the Clash expressed punk’s impassioned political conscience. Their explosive, uptempo punk-rock manifestos were unleashed with pure adrenaline and total conviction. Following the Sex Pistols’ dissolution in January 1978, the Clash became the central voice of the punk movement and remained at the forefront for five years. Their albums captured the tumult of the times with unerring instinct and raw power.

The Clash possessed an indefinable chemistry that makes for a great band. Rhythm guitarist Joe Strummer wrote most of the words and lead guitarist Mick Jones generated with much of the music. Bassist Paul Simonon’s background in painting and sculpture helped shape the band’s aesthetic overview. Topper Headon was a journeyman drummer who found his niche powering the Clash. “As a mix of personalities,” noted writer Lenny Kaye, “the Clash was a perfect engine.” They ran hottest on a concert stage, where all their political zeal and undaunted idealism found expression in music erupted with an exhilarating forcefulness. Lester Bangs described the Clash in concert as “a desperation uncontrived, unstaged, a fury unleashed on the stage and writhing upon itself in real pain that connects with the nerves of the audience.” Only a month before his untimely death in 2002, Joe Strummer recalled the Clash onstage in similar terms: “It was like a fireworks display,” he told writer Jon Weiderhorn. “It was like, ‘Bang!’ As soon as that first tune came in it seemed to us like three seconds before we hit the last chord of the last tune. It was like a psychedelic, kinetic blur.”

Fittingly, Mick Jones and Joe Strummer met on a dole queue (unemployment line). The group formed in June 1976 when Strummer left his pub-rock band, the 101’ers, to join Jones, Paul Simonon and guitarist Keith Levene - members of the Jones-led London SS - in a new project. Terry Chimes (a.k.a. “Tory Crimes”) was picked to play drums, and Levene left a few months later, eventually forming Public Image Ltd. with Johnny Rotten. When the Clash came together in London, Strummer was living as a squatter in a communal house, while Jones shared his grandmother’s flat. Both were well-situated to write about the rampant boredom, poverty and class warfare that guided the punk outlook. Bassist Simonon suggested they call themselves “the Clash” after noticing how frequently that word appeared in a newspaper he happened to be perusing. With its insinuation of conflict, they couldn’t have picked a better name.

Their landmark first album, The Clash, was cut in three weekends and released in Britain in April 1977. It included such punk-rock anthems as “White Riot,” “I’m So Bored With the U.S.A.” and “London’s Burning.” Their reworking of Junior Murvin’s reggae classic “Police & Thieves” signaled an early recognition of the common ground between the punk and reggae communities. The Clash has been called “archetypal, resplendent punk,” and it was one of those paradigm-shifting albums that forever altered the course of rock. Ironically, it was not initially released by the band’s The Clashn label, Epic, which deemed it “too crude.” (As a further irony, the label would later sticker Clash releases with these words: “The Only Band That Matters.”) Word of mouth and favorable press made The Clash one of the best-selling imports in history and Epic released a bastardized version of the album in 1979.

In late 1977 and early 1978, the Clash issued a series of non-album singles - “Complete Control,” “Clash City Rockers” and “(White Man) In Hammersmith Palais” - that connected like a series of street communiqués. Their second album, 1978’s Give ‘Em Enough Rope, found the group tightening its sound on such quintessential tracks as “Safe European Home” and “Stay Free.” The group’s acknowledged classic, the double album London Calling, appeared in December 1979 in the U.K. and January 1980 in the U.S. Appropriately, it brought the best aspects of 1970s punk - slamming energy and anti-establishment attitude - into the new decade with a fresh sense of engagement and intelligence. Produced by Guy Stevens, London Calling was one of the essential albums of the 1980s. The Clash charted their first The Clashn hit, “Train in Vain” (#23) from London Calling - although, in iconoclastic Clash fashion, the song was added at the last minute and went unlisted on the jacket. Intentional or not, this omission suggested that the band meant to distance itself from the machinations of fame - or at least have control over the process. The film Rude Boy, a 1980 film about the Clash and their punk-rock milieu, contained concert sequences that demonstrate why they were considered one of rock’s greatest live acts.

The Clash followed London Calling with Sandinista!, another multi-sided opus. The Clash agreed to a diminished royalty rate so that the triple album could be affordably retailed. Despite the enormous body of material, song quality remained high throughout Sandinista!, which included the Clash classics “The Magnificent Seven” The Call Up,” “Police on My Back,” and ”Washington Bullets.” London Calling and Sandinista! both fared well in The Clash, charting at #27 and #24, respectively - impressive showings for a double and triple album.

The Clash’s final album, Combat Rock, ushered them out with a somewhat qualified bang. Released in 1982, Combat Rock peaked at #7 on the album chart and yielded a Top Ten hit, “Rock the Casbah.” It also “Should I Stay or Should I Go,” a garage-rock homage. Nine years later, the song would go to #1 on re-release in England, belatedly giving the band its only #1 hit in their homeland. By the time of Combat Rock, the Clash were feuding internally, and it’s perhaps appropriate that this pioneering punk band fractured on the cusp of stardom. The original foursome performed for the last time at a 1983 California rock festival. Shortly thereafter, Jones left the Clash, resurfacing with Big Audio Dynamite. A reconstituted Clash, including only Strummer and Simonon from the original group, released Cut the Crap in 1985 and disbanded the next year.

The three founding members - Strummer, Jones and Simonon - cooperated in the compiling of a live album (From Here to Eternity) and video documentary (Westway to the World), released in 1999. If not exactly a reunion, it was a rapprochement. On November 15, 2002, Jones and Strummer shared the stage for the first time in nearly 20 years, performing three Clash songs during the encore of a London benefit show by Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros. This raised hopes for a Clash reunion, which were dashed when Strummer died of a heart attack on December 22, 2002.

 

 


Studio albums

Album   Track Listings:

The Clash

  • Release date: 8 April 1977, July 26,1979 (US)
  • Label: Sony Music/Columbia; Epic
  • Notes: Two versions: UK and US

Side one

  1. "Janie Jones" 2:03
  2. "Remote Control" 3:00
  3. "I'm So Bored with the USA" 2:25
  4. "White Riot" 1:56
  5. "Hate and War" 2:05
  6. "What's My Name" 1:40
  7. "Deny" 3:03
  8. "London's Burning" 2:12

Side two

  1. "Career Opportunities" 1:52
  2. "Cheat" 2:06
  3. "Protex Blue" 1:42
  4. "Police & Thieves" 6:01
  5. "48 Hours" 1:34
  6. "Garageland" 3:12

 

Give 'Em Enough Rope

  • Release date: 10 November 1978
  • Label: Sony Music/Columbia; Epic

All songs written and composed by Joe Strummer and Mick Jones, except where noted. All lead vocals were by Strummer, except "Stay Free" by Jones.

Side one

  1. "Safe European Home" 3:50
  2. "English Civil War" Traditional; arranged by Jones and Strummer 2:35
  3. "Tommy Gun" 3:17
  4. "Julie's Been Working for the Drug Squad" (known as "Julie's in the Drug Squad" on original release) 3:03
  5. "Last Gang in Town" 5:14

Side two

  1. "Guns on the Roof" Topper Headon, Jones, Paul Simonon, Strummer 3:15
  2. "Drug-Stabbing Time" 3:43
  3. "Stay Free" 3:40
  4. "Cheapskates" 3:25
  5. "All the Young Punks (New Boots and Contracts)" (known as "That's No Way to Spend Your Youth" on original American release) 4:55

Total length: 36:57

London Calling

  • Release date: 14 December 1979
  • Label: Sony Music/Columbia; Epic
  • Notes: Released as a double album

Standard edition

Side one

  1. "London Calling" 3:19
  2. "Brand New Cadillac" Vince Taylor; originally performed by Vince Taylor and his Playboys 2:09
  3. "Jimmy Jazz" 3:52
  4. "Hateful" 2:45
  5. "Rudie Can't Fail" Strummer, Jones 3:26

Side two

  1. "Spanish Bombs" Strummer, Jones 3:19
  2. "The Right Profile" 3:56
  3. "Lost in the Supermarket" Jones 3:47
  4. "Clampdown" Strummer, Jones 3:49
  5. "The Guns of Brixton" Paul Simonon Simonon 3:07

Side three

  1. "Wrong 'Em Boyo" Clive Alphonso; originally performed by the Rulers; including "Stagger Lee" 3:10
  2. "Death or Glory" 3:55
  3. "Koka Kola" 1:46
  4. "The Card Cheat" Strummer, Jones, Simonon, Topper Headon Jones 3:51

Side four

  1. "Lover's Rock" 4:01
  2. "Four Horsemen" 2:56
  3. "I'm Not Down" Jones 3:00
  4. "Revolution Rock" Jackie Edwards, Danny Ray; originally performed by Danny Ray and the Revolutionaries 5:37
  5. "Train in Vain" Jones 3:09

On the original version of the album, "Train in Vain" was not listed on the sleeve, nor the label on the record itself, but an extraneous sticker indicating the track was affixed to the outer cellophane wrapper. It was also scratched into the vinyl in the run-off area on the fourth side of the album. Later editions included the song in the track listing.

 

Sandinista!
  • Release date: 12 December 1980
  • Label: Sony Music/Columbia; Epic
  • Notes: Released as a triple album

The compact disc release has the first three sides on the first CD and the latter three sides on the second CD.

All songs written and composed by The Clash, except where noted.

Side one

  1. "The Magnificent Seven" Mick Jones, Strummer, Topper Headon, Norman Watt-Roy, Mickey Gallagher 5:28
  2. "Hitsville UK" Jones, Ellen Foley 4:20
  3. "Junco Partner" Traditional 4:53
  4. "Ivan Meets G.I. Joe" Topper Headon 3:05
  5. "The Leader" 1:41
  6. "Something About England" Jones, Strummer 3:42

Total length: 23:09

Side two

  1. "Rebel Waltz" 3:25
  2. "Look Here" Mose Allison The Clash, Mikey Dread 2:44
  3. "The Crooked Beat" Paul Simonon 5:29
  4. "Somebody Got Murdered" Jones 3:34
  5. "One More Time" The Clash, Mikey Dread 3:32
  6. "One More Dub" (dub version of "One More Time") The Clash, Dread Instrumental 3:34 Total length: 22:18

Side three

  1. "Lightning Strikes (Not Once but Twice)" 4:51
  2. "Up in Heaven (Not Only Here)" Jones 4:31
  3. "Corner Soul" 2:43
  4. "Let's Go Crazy" 4:25
  5. "If Music Could Talk" The Clash, Dread 4:36
  6. "The Sound of Sinners" 4:00
Total length: 25:06

Side four

  1. "Police on My Back" Eddy Grant; originally performed by the Equals Jones 3:15
  2. "Midnight Log" 2:11
  3. "The Equaliser" 5:47
  4. "The Call Up" 5:25
  5. "Washington Bullets" 3:51
  6. "Broadway" (features an epilogue of "The Guns of Brixton" sung by Maria Gallagher) 5:45
Total length: 26:14

Side five

  1. "Lose This Skin" Tymon Dogg Tymon Dogg 5:07
  2. "Charlie Don't Surf" Strummer, Jones 4:55
  3. "Mensforth Hill" ("Something About England" backwards with overdubs) Instrumental 3:42
  4. "Junkie Slip" 2:48
  5. "Kingston Advice" Strummer, Jones 2:36
  6. "The Street Parade" 3:26

Total length: 22:34

Side sixth

  1. "Version City" Jones and Strummer 4:23
  2. "Living in Fame" (dub version of "If Music Could Talk") The Clash, Dread Dread 4:36
  3. "Silicone on Sapphire" (dub version of "Washington Bullets") 4:32
  4. "Version Pardner" (dub version of "Junco Partner") 5:22
  5. "Career Opportunities" (Re-recorded version sung by as credited) Luke Gallagher, Ben Gallagher 2:30
  6. "Shepherds Delight" (dub version of "Police & Thieves") Instrumental 3:25

Total length: 24:48 (144:09)

 

Combat Rock

  • Release date: 14 May 1982
  • Label: Sony Music (SME)/Columbia; Epic

Side one

  1. "Know Your Rights" 3:39
  2. "Car Jamming" 3:58
  3. "Should I Stay or Should I Go" 3:06
  4. "Rock the Casbah" 3:44
  5. "Red Angel Dragnet" 3:48
  6. "Straight to Hell" 5:30

Side two

  1. "Overpowered by Funk" 4:55
  2. "Atom Tan" 2:32
  3. "Sean Flynn" 4:30
  4. "Ghetto Defendant" 4:45
  5. "Inoculated City" (some copies of the album have an edited version lasting 2:11) 2:43
  6. "Death Is a Star" 3:13

 

Cut the Crap

  • Release date: 4 November 1985
  • Label: Sony Music/Columbia; Epic

All songs written and composed by Joe Strummer and Bernard Rhodes.

  1. "Dictator" – 3:00
  2. "Dirty Punk" – 3:11
  3. "We Are the Clash" – 3:02
  4. "Are You Red..Y" – 3:01
  5. "Cool Under Heat" – 3:21
  6. "Movers and Shakers" – 3:01
  7. "This Is England" – 3:49
  8. "Three Card Trick" – 3:09
  9. "Play to Win" – 3:06
  10. "Fingerpoppin'" – 3:25
  11. "North and South" – 3:32
  12. "Life Is Wild" – 2:39

Singles

Year Single Album
1977 "White Riot" The Clash
"Remote Control"
"Complete Control"
1978 "Clash City Rockers"
"(White Man) In Hammersmith Palais"
"Tommy Gun" Give 'Em Enough Rope
1979 "English Civil War"
"Groovy Times" The Cost of Living
"I Fought the Law" The Cost of Living
"London Calling" London Calling
"Clampdown"
1980 "Train in Vain"
"Bankrobber" Non-album song
"The Call Up" Sandinista!
1981 "Hitsville U.K."
"The Magnificent Seven"
"This Is Radio Clash" Non-album song
1982 "Know Your Rights" Combat Rock
"Rock the Casbah"
"Should I Stay or Should I Go" / "Straight to Hell"
1985 "This Is England" Cut the Crap