Joe Strummer – circa 1978
“London calling to the faraway towns / Now war is declared and battle come down / London calling to the underworld / Come out of the cupboard all you boys and girls” – ‘London Calling’ (Joe Strummer, Mick Jones)
At last! Those dirty, filthy punk rock musicians are in court. For the last eighteen months or so, they have been outraging the authorities, ‘the establishment’, mums and dads, and conservative thinkers. But today, 30 March 1978, justice will be done. All right, so it’s not The Sex Pistols – the most notorious of their ilk – but it is two members of The Clash, the band that must be a close second. And they have previous form, M’lud! On 10 June 1977, two of them, Joe Strummer and Topper Headon -false names, no doubt! – were arrested for daubing the name of their offensive little group on some nice, clean London wall. Now that Headon boy is back, this time in the company of one Paul Simonon, and they are up on charges of … shooting racing pigeons?! What?! No slight intended to animal lovers or bird fanciers, but this is hardly crime of the century stuff. Cheekily, these reprobates title their next tour ‘The Clash Out On Parole’.
For most of their career, The Clash has to deal with disapproval from one source or another. Although the anecdote above paints them as rebels thumbing their collective noses at The-Powers-That-Be, it seems that, almost as often, they suffer cries of ‘sell-outs’ from the more radical extremes amongst their audience who perceive the group as not being sufficiently dedicated to ‘The Cause’ of these elements. It’s a contradiction built into the band from the very start.
Joe Strummer (21 August 1952 – 22 December 2002) is born John Graham Mellor in Ankara, Turkey. Despite his exotic birthplace, John Mellor’s family background is mostly Scottish, though he is part Armenian. His father is Ronald Mellor, a British Foreign Service diplomat who is awarded an MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) in 1952 (the same year as his son’s birth) for his services to the military. The child’s mother is Anna Mellor (nee McKenzie), a Scots nurse. The newborn John is Ronald and Anna Mellor’s second child. John’s elder brother David was born the previous year. Due to Ronald Mellor’s diplomatic work, the family moves around a fair bit. The boys grow up in Cairo (Egypt), Mexico City (Mexico) and Bonn (Germany).
“I get on all right with my parents,” Joe Strummer says years later, “but I don’t see them very much. They split up when I was 8. I stayed with my mum, but I felt it was a bit soft with her. I could do whatever I liked, and I was getting nowhere, so I went to stay with my dad.” When John Mellor (Joe Strummer) is 9 years old, he and his 10 year old brother David are sent to boarding school. They reside at the City of London’s Freemen’s School in Ashtead Park, Surrey. “The only place I considered home was the boarding school,” Joe claims. With some bitterness, Joe notes, “It’s easier, isn’t it? I mean, it gets kids out the way, doesn’t it?” Joe also says, “I shudder to think what would have happened if I hadn’t gone to boarding school,” because Ronald Mellor “went abroad to Africa or something…I only saw my father twice a year. If I’d seen him all the time I’d probably have murdered him by now. He was very strict.” The academic life holds no appeal to young John Mellor. “I found that I was just hopeless at school. It was just a total bore. First, I passed in Art and English, and then just Art. Then I passed out.” John Mellor takes an interest in music. Early favourites of the future punk rocker include 1950s rock star Little Richard, U.S. pop group The Beach Boys and folk singer Woody Guthrie.
In 1970 John Mellor (Joe Strummer) moves on to the Central School of Art and Design in London. In the same year, his elder brother, David, becomes estranged from the family. “He was a Nazi,” Joe later says. That’s not an exaggeration or a metaphor. “He was a member of the National Front. He was into the occult and he used to have these deaths-heads and cross-bones all over everything.” David Mellor commits suicide in July 1970. John Mellor, just shy of being 18, has to identify the body of his deceased sibling, a task made even more grisly due to David’s corpse having lain undiscovered for three days. Joe later reflects, “He didn’t like to talk to anybody, and I think suicide was the only way out for him. What else could he have done?” While attending the Central School of Art and Design, John Mellor has vague ambitions of becoming a cartoonist. He shares a flat with Clive Timperley and a fellow named Tymon Dogg (born Stephen John Murray). The young man’s new flatmates are both musicians. John Mellor takes to busking in the streets of London with his friends. Joe Strummer recalls how he started playing music: “I bought a ukulele. No kidding. I saved some money, £1.99 I think, and I bought it down Shaftesbury Avenue. Then the guy I was busking with taught me to play [the 1958 Chuck Berry rock ‘n’ roll song] ‘Johnny B. Goode’…and that’s how I started.” Mellor is naturally left-handed, but Tymon Dogg teaches him to play right-handed.
In 1973 John Mellor (Joe Strummer) moves to Newport, Wales. Contrary to some accounts, John does not attend the Newport College of Art and Design; however he does meet some other aspiring musicians in the students’ union in Stow Hill. From being a busking street musician, John Mellor evolves into a rock musician “because I owned a drum kit…I went down to Wales…I ran into a band…I said, ‘If you use my drum kit, you’re going to have me as your singer!’ and they had no option but to accept.” The group John Mellor joins in 1973 as a result of this ultimatum is Flaming Youth. He renames the band, calling them The Vultures. The group plays six gigs in 1973-1974. In the same period John Mellor also does some work as a gravedigger at St. Woolos Cemetery.
In 1974 John Mellor (Joe Strummer) returns to London. He and his former flatmate Tymon Dogg do some street performances. In May 1974 John Mellor – now calling himself ‘Woody’ in tribute to his early influence, the folk singer Woody Guthrie – puts together a group called The 101’ers. Understandably, many think The 101’ers name is derived from Room 101, the place where the rebellious Winston Smith is tortured by the oppressive forces of Big Brother, in George Orwell’s science-fiction novel about a dystopian future, ‘1984’ (1949). The truth is the group takes its name from 101 Walterton Rd, Maida Vale, the ‘squat’ where they illegally reside rent-free. The 101’ers play their first gig on 7 September 1974 at the Telegraph Pub in Brixton. The 101’ers is a pub rock act. Pub rock is a precursor to punk rock. Pub rock casts aside the pretensions of the art rock dominating the British music scene in the early 1970s in favour of an earthier rhythm and blues influenced sound. Rather than concert halls, these bands usually play in ale houses, hence the appellation of pub rock.
The 101’ers exist from 1974 to 1976. The line-up of the group is a bit variable, but the basic core seems to consist of the following personnel: John ‘Woody’ Mellor (vocals, guitar), Clive Timperley (guitar, vocals), Marwood ‘Mole’ Chesterton (bass – until October 1975), Dan Kelleher (bass, guitar, vocals) and Richard Dudanski (drums). It may be recalled that Clive Timperley was John Mellor’s flatmate while he was attending London’s Central School of Art and Design. Their other flatmate, Tymon Dogg (fiddle, vocals), is an occasional member of The 101’ers as well. Other irregular members of The 101’ers include: Patrick Nother (bass – only on their first gig), Julian Yendall (vocals, harmonica), Antonio Narvaez (drums), Simon Cassell A.K.A. ‘Big John’ (saxophone), Alvaro Pena-Rojas (saxophone) and Martin Stone (lead guitar – only on their final gig).
In 1975 John ‘Woody’ Mellor (Joe Strummer) marries Pamela Moolman. It’s not exactly a conventional marriage. Pamela Moolman is a South African citizen who pays Mellor one hundred and twenty pounds to wed her so that she may secure British citizenship. The groom uses these funds to buy the Fender Telecaster guitar that will become his signature instrument. Once the wedding ceremony is concluded, the bride and groom soon drift out of contact.
The 101’ers break up in 1976 just before the release of their first single, ‘Keys To Your Heart’. After the group disbands, Joe Strummer becomes more famous as part of The Clash. This provokes renewed interest in the history of The 101’ers. Accordingly, an album is put together from recordings made by The 101’ers and it is issued as ‘Elgin Avenue Breakdown’ (1981) in March of that year. A second single by The 101’ers, ‘Sweet Revenge’, also comes out in 1981.
What causes the demise of The 101’ers? There are two main reasons. Firstly, their time is up and events outpace the group. On 3 April 1976 The 101’ers play a gig at which the support act is The Sex Pistols, the most famous of the punk rock bands. “Five seconds into their (The Pistols’) first song, I knew we were like yesterday’s paper. We were over,” Joe Strummer later says. Even in 1976, Joe asks Graham Parker (a more famous pub rock performer), “Have you seen The Sex Pistols? Whole new thing, man.” The second factor is that The 101’ers frontman gets a better offer. At one gig, ‘Woody’ Mellor (Joe Strummer) spots a pair of scruffy strangers in the crowd. Mellor is convinced that these interested parties are preparing to attack him after the show. Actually, it turns out that they want to tell the singer he’s great, but his band ‘doesn’t cut it.’ The identity of one of the admirers is debatable. In some versions of the legend it is Paul Simonon while other accounts say it is Bernie Rhodes. However there is no dispute that this person’s companion is Mick Jones.
Michael Geoffrey Jones is born on 26 June 1955 in Wandsworth, London, England. His father is a Welshman named Tommy Jones who marries Renee Zegansky, a Russian Jew. Mick’s parents split up when the boy is 8 years old (the same age as Joe Strummer was when his parents split up). His mother travels to the U.S.A. with a new partner and Mick loses contact with his father. “They kind of left home one at a time,” Jones says of his parents. “I was much more interested in them than they were in me.” Mick Jones spends much of his early life with his maternal grandmother, Stella Class, in South London. “I was living with my gran [Stella Class] and her sister [Celia] and sister-in-law [Sissy], three older ladies,” Mick recalls. He attends the Strand Grammar School in South London.
Rock music soon becomes an important part of the life of Mick Jones. His early influences are 1960s British rock bands like The Beatles and The Who. He is said to be ‘a big Rolling Stones fan.’ The first record Mick Jones buys is by psychedelic hard rock guitarist Jimi Hendrix and the similarly styled Cream also fascinates him. “I always knew I wanted to be in a band and play guitar. That was it for me,” Mick asserts. “I went to my first rock concert when I was 12. It was free in Hyde Park and The Nice, Traffic, Junior’s Eyes and The Pretty Things were playing.” As time passes, Mick Jones’ tastes broaden to include proto-punk acts like The MC5 and Iggy Pop And The Stooges as well as glam rock bands such as Mott The Hoople and The New York Dolls. When he is 17 Mick Jones works for the Department of Health and Social Security (DHSS) as a clerical assistant in the benefit office. Being an employee of the British government proves to have its own hazards. At this time, the Irish Republican Army (IRA) is in the midst of a letter bomb campaign aimed at the British. As the most junior clerk in the office, Mick Jones is required to open all incoming mail – irrespective of the possible danger. In the early 1970s Mick Jones plays rhythm guitar in The Delinquents, a glam rock band. In September 1973, Jones becomes a student at the Elm Park Road Art Foundation at Hammersmith School of Art and Building. By 1974 he is also working part-time at the Economist bookstore.
Mick Jones forms a band called The London SS in March 1975. This group exists from 1975 to 1976. Like Joe Strummer’s pre-Clash group The 101’ers, the membership of The London SS appears ill-defined. Perhaps the act’s best known incarnation consists of: Mick Jones (vocals, guitar), Elnan Brady (guitar), John Brown (bass) and Geir Wade (drums). It is the group’s drummer, Geir Wade, who comes up with their controversial name, The London SS. In World War Two, the S.S. was a major paramilitary organisation in Nazi Germany. The initials S.S. stood for ‘Schutzstaffel’ which roughly translates into English as ‘protection squadron.’ If The London SS ever had another idea for the ‘SS’ in their name, it has gone unrecorded. Most likely, the name was chosen purely for its outrage value. The London SS is managed by Bernard (or Bernie) Rhodes. He is a sometime associate of Malcolm McLaren, the man who is best known as the manager of The Sex Pistols. This act is not founded until August 1975, five months after the creation of The London SS. Since The Sex Pistols is (arguably) Britain’s first punk rock band, The London SS were not a punk band – at least not at first. It is easy to see though how they quickly fall into line with that style of music through their managerial links and the common appetite for outrage. Besides the personnel listed above, the following musicians (some of whom will be later involved with The Clash) are also said to work with The London SS: (1) Tony James (bass) – by some accounts, it is Tony James who co-founds The London SS with Mick Jones. Tony James later works with Generation X and Sigue Sigue Sputnik. (2) Brian James (guitar) – Brian James becomes part of another of Britain’s punk rock bands, The Damned. (3) Terry Chimes (drums) – Terry Chimes is said to ‘try out unsuccessfully for The London SS’. He goes on to be a member of The Clash. (4) Paul Simonon (vocals) – Although best known as the Clash’s bassist, Paul Simonon reportedly auditions for The London SS as a vocalist. He is not successful. (5) Keith Levene (guitar) – Keith Levene will become an early member of The Clash, but only briefly and in the days before they record. (6) Nicky Headon (drums) – The Clash’s best known drummer is a member of The London SS for a week and then quits. The London SS break up in early 1976.
Despite The London SS falling apart, guitarist Mick Jones is still managed by Bernie Rhodes. It is Rhodes who prompts Mick Jones to contact Paul Simonon again.
Paul Gustave Simonon (the surname is pronounced Cy-mon-on) is born on 15 December 1955 in Thornton Heath, Croydon, England. Paul’s father, Gustave Simonon, is an amateur artist who works as a clerk in the civil service. Paul’s mother, Elaine, is a librarian. Paul Simonon grows up in South London (Brixton, Ladbroke Grove). Evidently, like future bandmates Joe Strummer and Mick Jones, Paul Simonon experiences the break-up of his parents. It is said that he spends a year in Siena, Italy, with his mother and his Belgian step-father.
“I never learned anything [at school],” Paul Simonon later claims. “I grew up wanting to be a painter and paint pictures,” he says. To that end, Paul attends Byam Shaw School of Art in Campden St, Kensington. His other interest is music. Casting his mind back, Simonon says, “I remember somebody shouting, ‘The Rolling Stones are on telly’…[but] the first music I listened to was reggae.” Primarily identified with black Jamaicans, reggae is a tropical music with a loping, off-centre rhythm. Simonon points out that, “I obviously had my reggae, but I got quite into rockabilly when I was a kid, because I was trying to find something that represented me as a white person.” Paul Simonon first meets Mick Jones around December 1975 when Paul auditions – unsuccessfully – to be the vocalist in Mick’s band, The London SS.
After The London SS break-up in early 1976, Mick Jones contacts Paul Simonon again. Paul is urged to learn an instrument to join a new band Mick is trying to put together. Paul chooses bass, but Mick has to teach him how to play the bass parts. Guitarist Keith Levene, a one-time associate of The London SS, is added to the line-up. ‘Various drummers’ are used until Terry Chimes auditions for this prospective new band. Chimes previously applied unsuccessfully to join The London SS. This time he gets the job, ‘although he soon quits.’
On another front, the manager of the embryonic group, Bernie Rhodes, has his eye on John ‘Woody’ Mellor, the frontman of The 101’ers. Accordingly, Mick Jones and either Bernie Rhodes or Paul Simonon attend a 101’ers gig. “I don’t like your group [The 101’ers], but we think you’re great,” says Jones. Allegedly, twenty-four hours later, ‘Woody’ Mellor is at the squat in Shepherd’s Bush Jones and Simonon share, ready to join their group. In keeping with the new punk rock ethic, Mellor chooses a new name for himself. The Sex Pistols vocalist was born John Lydon, but is now known as Johnny Rotten. John Mellor adopts the name of Joe Strummer, a ‘self-deprecating reference to himself as a rhythm guitarist.’ “Once we had Joe on board it all started to come together,” acknowledges Paul Simonon. Joe Strummer is invited to a band rehearsal on 30 May 1976.
Following his mercenary marriage-of-convenience to Pamela Moolman in 1975, Joe Strummer dates Paloma Romero for two years from 1976 to 1977. Paloma Romero is born in Spain. Bassist Paul Simonon has difficulty pronouncing her name and calls her Palmolive (after a popular brand of soap and dishwashing liquid). The name sticks and Paloma Romero uses ‘Palmolive’ as her professional name in the same way as her boyfriend calls himself Joe Strummer. She becomes the drummer in the all-girl punk group The Slits (1976-1982, 2005-2010). Overlapping partially with this, Palmolive is also a member of the more new wave oriented band The Raincoats (1977-1984, 1993). After leaving The Raincoats, she marries Dave McLardy and becomes known as Paloma McLardy.
Mick Jones, in his third year at art school, finally decides to leave that behind him in 1976 and commit himself full-time to the band that will become The Clash.
The group now consists of Joe Strummer (vocals, guitar), Mick Jones (vocals, guitar), Keith Levene (guitar) (born Julian Keith Levene on 18 July 1957 in Wood Green, London) and Paul Simonon (bass, vocals). Finding a regular drummer is a problem for the musicians. For the first few rehearsals, an old school friend of Joe Strummer, Pablo LaBritain, plays drums. Early names for the band are Weak Heartdrops and Psychotic Negatives.
It is bassist Paul Simonon who comes up with the name of The Clash. “It really came to my head when I started reading the newspapers,” explains Simonon. “A word that kept recurring was the word ‘clash’” – as in a clash of armed forces, or police and protestors, or differing political ideologies – “so I thought, ‘The Clash, what about that?’ to the others. And they and [manager] Bernard [Rhodes], they went for it.”
Terry Chimes becomes the drummer for The Clash in July 1976. Terence Chimes is born on 5 July 1956 in Stepney, London, England. He tried out unsuccessfully for The London SS, the earlier band of Clash guitarist Mick Jones and, for a short time, played with the embryonic Clash in the days before Joe Strummer joined the band.
The Clash’s first gig is as a support act for The Sex Pistols at a pub called the Black Swan on 4 July 1976. Their next step is a private show on 13 August 1976 at a rehearsal hall in the London suburb of Chalk Farm. Press are invited to this performance and it serves as the official introduction of The Clash.
Guitarist Keith Levene is fired in early September 1976 before The Clash record any music. Later, Levene shows up in Public Image Ltd, the band (or concept) Johnny Rotten puts together after the demise of The Sex Pistols in January 1978. The Clash plays their first gig without Keith Levene on 21 September 1976.
Drummer Terry Chimes leaves The Clash (for the first time) in late November 1976. Rob Harper (born on 28 November 1955 in London, England) acts as drummer for The Clash from December 1976 to January 1977.
In December 1976 The Clash join The Sex Pistols on the latter’s ‘Anarchy Tour’. Only three shows are played as The Pistols notoriety precedes them, resulting in cancellations and controversies. Still, it boosts the public profile of The Clash as well, so Joe Strummer and his mates can hardly complain.
A London club, The Roxy, is specifically remodelled as a venue for punk bands and The Clash headline there on the opening night, 1 January 1977.
Drummer Rob Harper concludes his brief, two-month stint with The Clash in January 1977.
On 25 January 1977, The Clash – the drummer-less trio of Joe Strummer, Mick Jones and Paul Simonon – sign a recording contract with the U.K. arm of American label CBS. They are paid one hundred thousand pounds, ‘a remarkable amount for a band that has played a total of about thirty gigs.’ Signing with CBS is a ‘move regarded as treason by some hard-core punk fans.’ Signing with some corporate multinational is seen as contrary to the anarchic spirit of this new music but, on the other hand, it affords The Clash the opportunity to spread their message to the widest possible audience.
Initially, The Clash is described as a punk rock band. Punk rock takes the back-to-basics ethos of its immediate predecessor pub rock, fuses it with grinding guitars somewhere between glam rock and heavy metal, and marries it to a brutal, semi-political agenda. It’s a music born from boredom and rising levels of unemployment. It disdains the high levels of musical ability that were turning rock into some rarefied conservatorium and insists on a simple any-mug-can-do-this stance. It is winning over youngsters all across the United Kingdom. The sound the band makes is described as ‘the howl of teenage anger, passionate and committed, from the concrete-jungle deprived neighbourhoods of London’ or, less floridly, as ‘primitive and aggressive.’ The Clash outlives the brief life of punk (roughly 1976 to 1978) and subsequently is probably best described simply as a rock band. However, it is worth noting that The Clash absorb a myriad of sub-genre styles such as reggae, dub and rap as well.
The songs of The Clash are at first co-credited to the team of Joe Strummer and Mick Jones. “Joe would give me the words and I would make a song out of them,” Jones says. Strummer adds that their manager, “Bernie [Rhodes] would say, “An issue, an issue. Don’t write about love, write about what’s affecting you, what’s important!’” Overall, Joe Strummer is advocating change in society. “I haven’t got illusions about anything,” says Strummer. “Having said that, I still want to try to change things.” There is a constructive element to The Clash’s agitation; it is not just about the destruction of the old guard. Strummer and Jones take turns as lead vocalist, though it is split in Strummer’s favour. Strummer’s voice has been accurately, if unflatteringly, described as being somewhere between the bray of a donkey and the bark of a dog. By comparison, Mick Jones’ singing is higher and sweeter. “We sing in English,” boasts Strummer, “not mimicking some American rock singer’s accent. That’s just pretending to be something you ain’t. Mick Jones suggests, “We were opposites in lots of ways. I would play very precisely, and Joe would play very loosely. He sang somewhat gruffly, and I sang sweetly, and then I came from council flats and he came from a relatively well-off background…I think that’s what made it so interesting and fruitful. It was one of those great songwriting partnerships.” Joe Strummer acknowledges, “The one who really could play in The Clash was Mick Jones. He could hear the musical arrangement.” Around 1981, the songwriting credit changes from Joe Strummer and Mick Jones to The Clash. This could indicate greater involvement by the band as a whole in the songwriting or it could just be an attempt to defuse any jealousy or egotism.
Visually, costuming is important to The Clash. They adopt a mishmash of garments drawn from paramilitary sources, law enforcers, motorcycle thugs, gangsters and card sharks. The romance of rebellion is very much a part of their look. Bassist Paul Simonon is ‘mainly responsible for the visual aspects such as clothing and stage backdrops.’
In 1977 The Clash’s bassist Paul Simonon is romantically involved with artist and writer Caroline Coon. She also becomes ‘professionally involved with the rest of the band, helping to design sleeves for their records, including their first single.’
With a recording contract to their name, The Clash faces the problem of needing a drummer. The short-term solution to the dilemma is to recall Terry Chimes in January 1977, two months after his departure.
The Clash’s gig at London venue The Roxy on 11 March 1977 is notable because their support act is The Slits. Making their stage debut at this gig, The Slits is an all-female punk group. Their drummer, Palmolive, is the girlfriend of The Clash’s frontman, Joe Strummer.
On 18 March 1977, CBS releases the debut single by The Clash, ‘White Riot’ (UK no. 38) backed with ‘1977’. ‘White Riot’ is an incendiary piece of rabble-rousing in which The Clash seek to appropriate the street fighting of racial division and turn it into a forum for the punks to take on authority: “White riot / I want a riot / White riot / A riot of my own.” The blaring chorus sounds like a police siren while the crunch of the band suggests boots on pavement. ‘White Riot’ is inspired by the August 1976 Notting Hill Carnival at which Clash members Joe Strummer and Paul Simonon were present when police officers charged at the crowd.
The EP ‘Capital Radio’, released on 1 April 1977, is actually a giveaway with the British rock newspaper New Musical Express. The main track, ‘Capital Radio One’, rubbishes the way standard radio programming exists “To keep you in your place all day” and bemoans the loss of the ‘pirate’ radio stations of the 1960s. This is all set to a martial, marching tempo.
Drummer Terry Chimes leaves The Clash (for the second time) in April 1977. Having completed the recording sessions for The Clash’s first album, Chimes exits saying he is ‘disillusioned with the trappings of punk.’ Over the next few years, Chimes plays drums for Johnny Thunders And The Heartbreakers (1977), Cowboys International (1979) and Generation X (1980-1981).
The debut album, ‘The Clash’ (1977) (UK no. 12), is issued in the United Kingdom by CBS on 8 April. At this point, the disc is not released in the U.S.A. because the U.S. branch of CBS rejects the work, ‘claiming that the album is too harsh for American ears.’ However it becomes ‘one of the biggest-selling import records of all time’ in the U.S. market. ‘The Clash’ is produced by Mickey Foote who had previously worked as a technician at their concerts. The cover of the album depicts the three members of The Clash – Joe Strummer, Mick Jones and Paul Simonon – in an alleyway directly opposite the front door of the band’s rehearsal building in Camden Market. The torn-paper graphics are designed by Polish artist Roslaw Szaybo and the high contrast photo of the group is snapped by Kate Simon. ‘The Clash’ is recorded over three weekends. Most of the guitar work is performed by Mick Jones because Joe Strummer considers ‘studio technique insufficiently punk.’ Departed drummer Terry Chimes is credited on the album sleeve as Tory Crimes in a shot at the British conservative political government, the Tory Party. The Clash’s debut single ‘White Riot’ is included on this disc – but the single’s flipside, ‘1977’, is absent. Joe Strummer provides the lion’s share of the lead vocals on this album, including those for the following songs. ‘Janie Jones’ appears to be an ode to a rock ‘n’ roll fan who’s in love with the woman named in the title. However, there is a real life inspiration for the song. Janie Jones (born Marion Mitchell) ‘was a controversial cabaret singer/vice queen from the 1950s and 1960s. In the 1960s she was involved in a ‘sex for airplay’ scandal involving Britain’s Radio One; in August 1964 she attended the premier of the film ‘London in the Raw’ in a topless dress; she released a single called ‘Witches Brew’ (UK no. 46) on 26 November 1965; and in 1973 she was arrested for running a brothel and perverting the course of justice by threatening a witness. The Clash used the name of ‘Janie Jones’ ‘because someone like her would seem impossibly glamorous to someone working in a dull office job.’ The theme of oppressive tedium crops up repeatedly. ‘London’s Burning’ (“with boredom now”) is a throaty call to arms. Guitars crackling like telegraph wires run through ‘I’m So Bored With The U.S.A.’ (“but what can I do?” ask the lyrics). ‘I’m So Bored With The U.S.A.’ was developed from a Mick Jones song called ‘I’m So Bored With You’ – though it’s still Joe Strummer acting as lead vocalist on the finished product. The juddering guitars of ‘Career Opportunities’ are part of a song that recalls Mick Jones’ letter bomb opening days (“I hate the civil service rules / I won’t open letter bombs for you”) and rails against rising unemployment. ‘Garageland’ reflects on ‘the true origins of rock.’ The comparatively lengthy (6:02) ‘Police And Thieves’ – both seen as objects of fear – is a cover version of Junior Murvin’s 1976 reggae song. However, at this point in their career, The Clash still delivers the song with blunt force trauma tangled up with sharp and staccato guitars. Only Paul Simonon’s more fluid bass work hints at The Clash’s later reggae tunes. ‘Remote Control’, on which Joe Strummer shares lead vocals with Mick Jones, is chosen by CBS as the second single from this album. This ‘defies the wishes of the band, who see it as one of the album’s weakest tracks.’ The consequences of CBS’s choice will be seen in the near future. In any case, ‘Remote Control’ fails to make the singles charts. ‘The Clash’ is described as ‘a machine-gun blast’, ‘a fourteen-song aural firebomb’ and ‘the most evocative and indispensable document of dole-queue rock.’
The next step for The Clash is to find a new drummer to replace Terry Chimes. The position is filled by Topper Headon.
Nicholas Bowen ‘Topper’ Headon is born on 30 May 1955 in Bromley, Kent, England. His father, Philip Headon, is a school headmaster. Nicky’s mother, Margaret Headon, is a school teacher. The boy’s childhood is spent in Crockenhill, Northwest Kent. Nicky Headon attends Dover Grammar School for Boys. He has ambitions to play football (i.e. soccer) professionally, but these desires are derailed when, at age 13, he suffers a broken leg. Nicky’s doctor suggests the boy take up the drums to build up his leg strength through the use of the bass drum pedal and high-hat cymbal. Within six months, the teenager is playing in a jazz band in a Dover pub. By 1973 Nicky Headon is playing drums for Mirkwood, a ‘cult progressive rock outfit.’ In 1974 Headon moves to London with his girlfriend Wendy, whom he marries in 1975. Nicky Headon meets Mick Jones and “for a week I played with The London SS [Jones’ pre-Clash band],” the drummer says. When The Clash finds themselves without a drummer, Headon is one of those who audition for the job. “I really wanted to join The Clash. I want to give them even more energy than they’ve got – if that’s possible,” he says. However, “I’d had to deny I was married [to get into The Clash],” says Headon. “You had to ditch all your mates and be part of the gang.” Since it is said that ‘there was no room for his marriage,’ it appears that Nicky Headon and his wife Wendy break up around 1977. It is also necessary for Nicky Headon to get a haircut, a short and savage punk look to match his new colleagues. Bassist Paul Simonon is amused by the drummer’s new appearance and nicknames him ‘Topper’ due to what he perceives as Headon’s new found resemblance to Mickey the Monkey from the U.K. comic ‘Topper’. The nickname sticks. Clash frontman Joe Strummer says this of Topper Headon: “Finding someone who not only had the [musical] chops, but the strength and stamina to do it was just the breakthrough for us.”
The definitive Clash line-up is now assembled: Joe Strummer (vocals, guitar), Mick Jones (vocals, guitar), Paul Simonon (bass, vocals) and Topper Headon (drums).
Around this time, The Clash’s manager Bernie Rhodes takes on an assistant, Kosmo Vinyl (born Mark C. Dunk).
On 1 May 1977 The Clash begins their first national tour of the U.K. The ‘White Riot’ tour takes in forty gigs, beginning at the Roxy in London, travelling through the rest of the country and winding up at the Rainbow Theatre in London. Other punk rock acts such as The Jam, The Buzzcocks, The Slits and Subway Sect serve as support acts on various dates.
On 10 June 1977 two members of The Clash, Joe Strummer and Topper Headon, are arrested for painting the words ‘The Clash’ on a London wall.
In September 1977, after a gig in Newcastle, Joe Strummer and Topper Headon are arrested for stealing pillowcases from their hotel room.
On 23 September 1977 The Clash releases the non-album single ‘Complete Control’ (UK no. 28) b/w ‘City Of The Dead’. ‘Complete Control’ is a spiteful riposte to The Clash’s record company CBS, taking them to task for releasing ‘Remote Control’ as a single contrary to the band’s wishes. The irony is that ‘Complete Control’, born from this irritation, is actually a better song. ‘Complete Control’ was recorded during summer 1977 and is co-produced by Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry and Mickey Foote. Lee Perry is a famed Jamaican record producer who approached The Clash after hearing their version of ‘Police And Thieves’. Perry produced Junior Murvin’s original 1976 version of ‘Police And Thieves’. ‘Remote Control’ is still straight-forward punk rock, not anything resembling reggae despite Perry’s presence. ‘Remote Control’ also marks Topper Headon’s recording debut with The Clash.
The Sex Pistols effectively come to an end when vocalist Johnny Rotten leaves the group in January 1978 – though The Sex Pistols stagger on zombie-like for a few months afterwards. This leaves The Clash as the standard-bearers for punk – but since punk is rapidly melting into new wave, what will be the future for The Clash?
‘Clash City Rockers’ (UK no. 35), released on 17 February 1978, is another one-off single by The Clash. This is a chest-thumping piece of legend-building: “An’ I wanna move the town to the clash city rockers / Ya need a little jump of electrical shockers / Ya better leave town if you only wanna knock us / Nothing stands the pressure of the clash city rockers.” This single is produced by Mickey Foote.
On 30 March 1978 two members of The Clash, Paul Simonon and Topper Headon, are arrested for shooting racing pigeons with an air gun from the roof of the hall where the band is rehearsing. With tongue-in-cheek, The Clash titles their next concert tour, ‘The Clash Out On Parole’.
On 30 April 1978 The Clash play at a Rock against Racism rally in London alongside The Tom Robinson Band and X-Ray Spex. Although The Clash may cultivate an outlaw image, they also see themselves as crusaders for causes they deem just.
The stand-alone single ‘(White Man) In Hammersmith Palais’ (UK no. 32) is released by The Clash on 17 June 1978. This is a pure reggae song. It is unusual to hear white British boys so clearly understanding the workings of the sound popular amongst blacks in Jamaica and their immigrant brethren in England. It also indicates that The Clash have greater musical aspirations than may be readily contained in the self-limiting argot of punk. And, as the lyrics have it, if “Punk rockers in the U.K. / They won’t notice anyway / They’re all too busy fighting / For a good place under the lighting,” the group can at least console themselves that “If they’ve got anything to say / There’s many black ears here to listen.” ‘(White Man) In Hammersmith Palais’ is produced by The Clash themselves.
In 1978 The Clash’s frontman Joe Strummer begins a romantic relationship with Gaby Salter. Joe’s new love has only just turned 17. The couple’s relationship continues for fifteen years, ending in 1993. During that time they become the parents of two daughters, Jazz (born 1984) and Lola (born 1986). Joe Strummer and Gaby Salter never marry because Strummer cannot find Pamela Moolman (to whom he was briefly married in 1975) in order to obtain a divorce. During his time with Gaby Salter, Joe Strummer ‘has multiple affairs.’
On 8 July 1978 two members of The Clash, Joe Strummer and Paul Simonon, are arrested in Glasgow, Scotland, and charged with being drunk and disorderly.
On 21 October 1978 The Clash ends their business relationship with their manager Bernie Rhodes. Associate manager Kosmo Vinyl remains affiliated with the band. In an odd development, the management of The Clash is taken over at this point by Blackhill Enterprises. Founded in the 1960s and going defunct in the 1980s, Blackhill Enterprises was started by Peter Jenner, Andrew King and the four original members of the British art rock band Pink Floyd.
The Clash’s second album, ‘Give ‘Em Enough Rope’ (1978) (UK no. 2, US no. 128), is released on 10 November. This is the first Clash album to be officially released in the U.S.A.; it comes out on CBS subsidiary, Epic. ‘Give ‘Em Enough Rope’ is produced by Sandy Pearlman, an American critic for Crawdaddy magazine who mentored U.S. hard rock group The Blue Oyster Cult. Clash bassist Paul Simonon grumbles, “Recording the album [‘Give ‘Em Enough Rope’] was just the most boring situation ever. It was just so nit-picking…It ruined any spontaneity.” The album cover is designed by Gene Greif and is based on a postcard titled ‘End of the Trail.’ The actual photograph was taken by Adrian Atwater and features Wallace Irving Robertson as the horseman looking down at the buzzard-ravaged corpse. The album title is derived from the adage “Give ‘em enough rope and they’ll hang themselves,” a warning about the dangers of having too much freedom. ‘Tommy Gun’ (UK no. 19) allegedly ‘deals with Middle Eastern terrorism, specifically the hijacking of aircraft’ (“Standing there in Palestine lighting the fuse”), but it is fairly indirect. It seems just as much a pun on a Tommy gun (a Thompson sub-machine gun) and a British soldier (U.K. soldiers in World War One were routinely called ‘Tommies’). ‘English Civil War’ (UK no. 25) appears to depict some form of domestic revolution. It does not appear to relate to the historical English Civil War (1642-1651) between Parliamentarians and Royalists. The songwriting credit is given as ‘traditional, arranged by Strummer/Jones.’ This is because it is based on ‘When Johnny Comes Marching Home’, an 1863 song by Patrick Gilmore (as Louis Lambert). ‘When Johnny Comes Marching Home’ is associated with the American Civil War (1861-1863) which was fought between the Northern and Southern States. Both ‘Tommy Gun’ and ‘English Civil War’ are fairly basic hammering bursts of sound. Elsewhere, The Clash sketches out scenarios of nightmarish daily violence in tracks like ‘Safe European Home’, ‘Last Gang In Town’ and ‘Drug-Stabbing Time’. The tension and drama of ‘Guns On The Roof’ (written by The Clash as a group and nicking the riff from The Who’s 1965 song ‘I Can’t Explain’) is introduced by vocalist Joe Strummer taking the stand (“I swear by almighty God / To tell the whole truth / And nothing but…the truth!”). ‘All The Young Punks (New Boots And Contracts)’ takes a wry look at those following in the wake of The Clash. Two of the album’s best tracks are those least fitting with the overall hard rock approach. ‘Julie’s Been Working For The Drug Squad’ is a swinging, piano-accompanied tune with the ivories being tickled by Allen Lanier, keyboardist of The Blue Oyster Cult. The song is inspired by Operation: Julie, a big L.S.D. bust carried out in Wales on 26 March 1977. ‘Stay Free’, the only track on the album sung by guitarist Mick Jones rather than Joe Strummer, is a touching benediction to a friend released from prison. ‘Give ‘Em Enough Rope’ sparks fears that The Clash is ‘being transformed into a heavy metal unit.’ The album is described as ‘half compromised heavy metal and half compromised English punk.’ This approach is said to stem from The Clash’s desire ‘to get themselves a bigger audience and financial freedom.’
The Clash tours the U.K. in support of ‘Give ‘Em Enough Rope’ with The Slits and The Innocents as supporting acts.
On 17 February 1979 The Clash begins their first U.S. tour with a show at the Palladium in New York. The tour goes under the banner of ‘Pearl Harbor ’79.’ The bombing of the U.S. naval base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, by Japanese forces on 7 December 1941 was the event that brought the U.S. into the Second World War. The Clash is staging its own ‘attack’ on the U.S. in a bid to get that country into the punk rock ‘war’ on convention.
On 11 May 1979 The Clash releases an EP titled ‘The Cost Of Living’ (UK no. 22). The four tracks on this disc are ‘I Fought The Law’, ‘Groovy Times’, ‘Gates Of The West’ and ‘Capital Radio’. ‘I Fought The Law’ is a rousing cover version of a song first recorded by The Crickets (the former band of the late U.S. rock star Buddy Holly) in 1960, though the 1965 version of the song by The Bobby Fuller Four is perhaps better known. ‘Capital Radio’ previously appeared on a giveaway EP on 1 April 1977. The better of the other two originals is ‘Groovy Times’. The Clash’s musical palette expands a bit with harmonica blasting over this song’s introduction and latter stages and the solo is played on an acoustic guitar. The tone is sarcastic: “’Cause the housewives are all singing groovy times are here.” This EP is co-produced by The Clash and Bill Price.
A revised version of the debut album ‘The Clash’ (1977) (US no. 126) gains a belated U.S. release on 26 July 1979. Some of the original tracks are excised to make way for U.K. singles like ‘Complete Control’, ‘Clash City Rockers’ and ‘(White Man) In Hammersmith Palais’ that were released between ‘The Clash’ and ‘Give ‘Em Enough Rope’.
The Clash undertakes a second U.S. tour following the release of the altered version of their first album. On this tour they are augmented by keyboardist Mickey Gallagher, on loan from Ian Dury And The Blockheads, a U.K. punk/new wave band. The support acts used on the two 1979 Clash tours of the U.S.A. are an interesting mix of heritage acts (Bo Diddley, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Lee Dorsey, Sam And Dave) and newer performers with a sense of history (The Cramps, Joe Ely). The point of all this seems to be that The Clash now view themselves as part of the wider narrative of rock music rather than just punk rock firebrands.
‘London Calling’ (1979) (UK no. 4, US no. 27) is released on 14 December. It is a double album of nineteen tracks that the band insists should retail for the price of a single album. ‘London Calling’ is produced by ‘legendary 1960s studio madman’ Guy Stevens, who also did production work for Mott The Hoople, one-time idols of Clash guitarist Mick Jones. The album’s cover is designed by Ray Lowry in homage to the 1956 debut album by the 1950s King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Elvis Presley. In this version, Elvis is replaced by Paul Simonon as a kind of punk version of the Hunchback of Notre Dame, smashing a malfunctioning bass against the stage in a 1979 New York City concert. The photo is taken by Pennie Smith who will also take the cover photos for the next two albums by The Clash. ‘London Calling’ is the greatest album in The Clash’s catalogue. On this disc, The Clash displays a new level of musical mastery, confidently performing in a variety of styles of music and showing abilities heretofore unknown in a punk rock band. They are aided on some songs by a brass section called The Irish Horns. Also appearing on this album is organ work by Mickey Gallagher (from Ian Dury And The Blockheads). Guitarists Mick Jones and Joe Strummer both contribute piano as well (though Strummer’s credit reads ‘pianner’). “What we play now is what we can do,” says frontman Joe Strummer. “It wouldn’t be fair to do ranting music, because we’ve mastered a time change…We do something now we couldn’t do before.” Yet for all their sophisticated sonic skills, The Clash has not sacrificed an iota of their trademark passion and energy. This album was originally to be called ‘The New Testament’, but is instead titled ‘London Calling’, a name influenced by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) radio world service call signal. The song ‘London Calling’ (UK no. 11, AUS no. 28) kicks off proceedings with ominous bass rumbles and menacing drum rolls as Joe Strummer warns, “The ice age is coming, the sun’s zooming in / Meltdown expected the wheat is growing thin / Engines stop running but I have no fear / ‘Cos London is drowning and I live by the river.” The song draws inspiration from the partial meltdown of a nuclear reactor on 25 March 1979 at Three Mile Island, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, U.S.A., just south of Harrisburg. The rockabilly number ‘Brand New Cadillac’ is a cover version of a 1959 song by early British rock star Vince Taylor And His Playboys (it was the B side to Taylor’s ‘Pledgin’ My Love’). The album continues through a swoony barroom shanty (‘Jimmy Jazz’), a perversely catchy pop organ piece about drug addiction (‘Hateful’) and a ska tune (‘Rudie Can’t Fail’). (Ska was an uptempo ancestor of reggae.) ‘Spanish Bombs’ is set during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) which saw the rise to power of General Francisco Franco who would rule Spain from 1939 to 1975. Federico Garcia Lorca, who is referenced in the lyrics, was a Spanish poet executed at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War. ‘The Right Profile’ is based on the life of Hollywood actor Montgomery Clift. A closet homosexual, ‘Monty’ spent a lot of time and money on psychiatry and, from the early 1950s, sought to assuage his torments with pills and alcohol. He ran his Chevrolet into a tree in 1956 and consequently had to undergo a surgical facial reconstruction. Clift died on 23 June 1966, aged 45, from ‘occlusive coronary artery disease’. The last ten years of his life have been described as the ‘longest suicide in history.’ The appealing pseudo-disco of ‘Lost In The Supermarket’ was written by Joe Strummer imagining Mick Jones’ upbringing. Appropriately, his co-songwriter Jones handles the lead vocals for this song – though Strummer slips in some sympathetic harmonies. ‘Clampdown’ (AUS no. 33) started out as an instrumental called ‘Working And Waiting’. This largely overlooked song may be the best individual number in the career of The Clash. Joe Strummer barks, “You grow up and you calm down / You’re working for the clampdown / You start wearing blue and brown and / Working for the clampdown / So you got someone to boss around / Make you feel big now / You drift until you brutalise / Make your first kill now.” This is delivered on top of diamond-hard martial rhythms. The song fades with the falsetto shriek of “Who’s barmy now?” The reggae track ‘The Guns Of Brixton’ marks the debut of Clash bassist Paul Simonon as a songwriter and lead vocalist. The track called ‘Wrong ‘Em Boyo’ is a cover version of a 1967 ska song by The Rulers. It is introduced with a snatch of ‘Stagger Lee’, a song originally adapted from ‘Stack O’Lee’s Blues’ recorded by Waring’s Pennsylvanians in 1923. The lyrics to the energising ‘Death Or Glory’ advise, in part, “Every cheap hood strikes a bargain with the world / Ends up making payments on a sofa or a girl / Love and hate tattooed across the knuckles of his hands / Hands that slap the kids around / ‘Cos they don’t understand how / Death or glory / Becomes just another story.” The image of the hands tattooed with the words ‘love’ and ‘hate’ is borrowed from the brutal preacher played by Robert Mitchum in the movie ‘Night of the Hunter’ (1955). ‘Koka Kola’ is a high speed sprint through a look at advertising and cocaine. ‘The Card Cheat’ is a dramatic piano-based tune sung by Mick Jones. Officially it is credited to Strummer and Jones, but it is allegedly composed by the group as a whole. ‘Lover’s Rock’ uses reggae to deal with the delicate subject of birth control. ‘Four Horsemen’ casts the band as the apocalyptic riders ushering in a new world order. Mick Jones takes the lead for ‘I’m Not Down’, a track that bravely fights for optimism. ‘Revolution Rock’ is a cover version of a 1976 reggae song by Danny Ray And The Revolutionaries which is itself adapted from another 1976 song, Jackie Edwards’ ‘Get Up’. The album closes with a track that is not even listed on the original printings of the album. This is ‘Train In Vain’ (a.k.a. ‘Stand By Me’) (US no. 23), a ‘relatively straightforward rock ‘n’ roll number’ about fidelity with a heartfelt vocal from Mick Jones. ‘London Calling’ is an album described as ‘wide-ranging and accomplished’, ‘songs of apocalypse fuelled by an unbending faith in rock ‘n’ roll’ and ‘an album that in its multiplicity, wild humour and unbroken intensity sounds as if it can sustain a listener for a long time to come.’
Four charity concerts for the people of Kampuchea are held at London’s Hammersmith Odeon from 22 December 1979 to 29 December 1979. The Clash appear in the first and second of these concerts, the shows on 22 December and 27 December.
The Clash tour the U.S., the U.K. and Europe in early 1980.
From 1980 to 1982 Clash guitarist Mick Jones is in a romantic relationship with U.S. rock singer Ellen Foley.
On 13 March 1980 the movie ‘Rude Boy’ (1980) is released. Directed by Jack Hazan and David Mingay, ‘Rude Boy’ is a ‘semi-documentary [that] details the misadventures of a regular London street kid, played by Ray Gange, who tries to befriend and work as a roadie for The Clash.’ It contains concert footage of the band and some backstage scenes.
On 20 May 1980 Clash frontman Joe Strummer is arrested using his guitar to hit an audience member over the head during a fracas in Hamburg, Germany. Strummer later admits, “It was a watershed – violence had really controlled me for once.”
The Clash planned to record and release a single each month in 1980 but their record company, CBS, baulked at the prospect. Ultimately, the only fruit of this scheme is the stand-alone single ‘Bankrobber’ (UK no. 12) released on 8 August 1980. The song is produced by Mikey Dread (born Michael George Campbell) and is described as ‘dub-inflected.’ Dub is a mutant offspring of reggae; a producer’s art form known for being saturated in echo, the minimal music is typically chopped into barely recognisable fragments. ‘Bankrobber’ is more cohesive that that as it still retains a solid song structure. ‘Bankrobber’ marks the end of The Clash’s original songs being routinely credited to the team of Joe Strummer and Mick Jones. After this, their original material is credited collectively to The Clash as composers.
‘Black Market Clash’ (US no. 24) is a ten-inch EP of B sides and odds and ends released in October 1980 for U.S. record buyers. It is rereleased as a twelve-inch EP (the same size as a standard album) in 1981.
The Clash attempts to surpass ‘London Calling’ with a self-produced triple album of thirty-six songs. Released on 12 December, this album is titled ‘Sandinista!’ (1980) (UK no. 19, US no. 24). The project is named after the Sandinistas (Frente Sandinista de Liberacion Nacional – FSLN), Nicaraguan revolutionaries who overthrew that country’s government in 1979 and rule until 1990. The Sandinistas are referenced in ‘Washington Bullets’ a song from this album. ‘Sandinista!’ is the Clash’s ‘most controversial album to date both politically and musically.’ “The great thing about ‘Sandinista!’ is you can dance all the way through it,” claims guitarist Mick Jones. ‘The Call-Up’ (UK no. 40, AUS no. 69) is a ghostly reggae number and sees the group questioning its own military chic: “It’s up to you not to heed the call-up / ‘N’ you must not act the way you were brought up / Who knows the reasons why you have grown up?” ‘Hitsville U.K.’ (UK no. 56) is evidently inspired by Detroit’s Motown Records in the 1960s which billed itself as ‘Hitsville U.S.A.’ Appropriately, The Clash’s song shifts along like a vintage Motown mix of pop and rhythm and blues. The song features a duet vocal by Mick Jones and his girlfriend, U.S. singer Ellen Foley. ‘The Magnificent Seven’ (UK no. 34) chronicles the working week to a dance beat: “So get back to work and sweat some more / The sun will sink and we’ll get out the door / It’s no good for man to work in cages / Hits the town, he drinks his wages.” There is a claim that ‘The Magnificent Seven’ is actually written by two members of Ian Dury And The Blockheads, keyboardist Mickey Gallagher and bassist Norman Watt-Roy. As on ‘London Calling’, Mickey Gallagher contributes keyboards to this album. Norman Watt-Roy plays on some tracks on ‘Sandinista!’ because The Clash’s bassist, Paul Simonon, was otherwise occupied appearing in the movie ‘Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains’ (1982), though it turns out to be only a small part. ‘Sandinista!’ is the only Clash album on which all four members of the group provide lead vocals. As is customary, Joe Strummer is the usual singer with a smaller number of songs featuring the vocals of guitarist Mick Jones. After singing ‘Guns Of Brixton’ on ‘London Calling’, bassist Paul Simonon is vocalist on the self-descriptive ‘The Crooked Beat’. Drummer Topper Headon supplies his one-and-only lead vocal on a Clash song for ‘Ivan Meets G.I. Joe’ – which is adorned towards the end with video game sound effects. More vocal variety is supplied by Ellen Foley singing a duet with Mick Jones on ‘Hitsville U.K.’ and providing backing vocals on ‘Corner Soul’; Joe Strummer’s old friend Tymon Dogg delivering the eccentric lead vocal – and violin – to ‘Lose This Skin’ (a song written by Tymon Dogg); guest keyboardist Mickey Gallagher’s young sons Luke and Ben turning a version of ‘Career Opportunities’ (a song from The Clash’s debut album) into a kiddie sing-along and Gallagher’s daughter Maria singing a bit of ‘Guns Of Brixton’ at the end of ‘Broadway’. Mikey Dread reworks six of the album’s tracks into dub revisions with new names – so if they are subtracted, instead of thirty-six different songs, the album has only thirty songs. ‘If Music Could Talk’ is co-written by The Clash and Dread. ‘Sandinista!’ also holds three cover versions: (1) James Waynes’ 1951 blues song ‘Junco Partner’; (2) Mose Allison’s 1964 jazz/blues number ‘Look Here’; and (3) ‘Police On My Back’ (AUS no. 38) – one of the album’s highlights – a song from 1967 by The Equals (1965-1979), a multi-racial pop, rhythm and blues and rock act that included Eddy Grant (who went on to solo success). The pick of the remaining original songs not previously mentioned may be the dramatic ‘Somebody Got Murdered’. Critical reaction to ‘Sandinista!’ is ‘decidedly mixed, with American critics reacting more favourably than their British counterparts.’ This album is ‘bigger, more experimental and more all over the place.’
The Clash’s former manager Bernie Rhodes resumes that role in February 1981. Tellingly, guitarist Mick Jones is the least comfortable about the return of Rhodes. Joe Strummer had felt the band was ‘drifting’ while bassist Paul Simonon decried their ‘boring’ professionalism. Rhodes is expected to restore ‘chaos’ and ‘anarchic energy’ to The Clash.
In 1981 Clash bassist Paul Simonon becomes romantically involved with Pearl Harbor, lead singer of new wave band Pearl Harbor And The Explosions (1978-1982). Born Patricia A. Gilbert, she is also known as Pearl E. Gates. The exact nature of the relationship between Paul and Pearl is not clear. The majority of sources say the pair married in 1982 and split up in 1989 but one account describes her only ‘as a girlfriend.’
‘The Spirit Of St Louis’ (1981) (US no. 137, UK no. 57) is an album by Ellen Foley, the girlfriend of Clash guitarist Mick Jones. Six of this album’s twelve tracks are co-written by Joe Strummer and Mick Jones, including the single ‘The Shuttered Palace’. The four members of The Clash act as Foley’s backing band throughout the album. Strummer’s mate Tymon Dogg also plays on this disc.
‘This Is Radio Clash’ (UK no. 47, AUS no. 40), a single released on 20 November 1981, is the only new Clash material released in 1981. It is a spiritual descendent of ‘Clash City Rockers’, another piece of propaganda. Now, instead of punk fury, ‘This Is Radio Clash’ is decorated with sounds borrowed from newly emergent styles like rap music and scratch deejays. ‘This Is Radio Clash’ is written and produced by The Clash.
As The Clash prepare for the release of their next album, their frontman Joe Strummer voluntarily ‘disappears.’ On 26 April 1982, while on his way to The Clash’s West London rehearsal studio, Strummer hops on a train to the English coast and from there takes a ferry to France. The Clash is forced to cancel a U.K. tour in May and the band’s U.S. tour, scheduled for June, is put in jeopardy. Strummer later claims he spent three weeks in Paris “living like a bum.” However he also runs in the April 1982 Paris marathon. Joe says his training regimen consisted of ten pints of beer the night before the race. Strummer shows up in London on 18 May and, two days later, The Clash play a surprise show in Holland. After this episode, ‘band members began to argue a lot, and with tensions high, the group begins to fall apart.’
‘Combat Rock’ (1982) (UK no. 2, US no. 7) is released on 14 May. This, The Clash’s fifth album, is produced by Glyn Johns. The cover photo of the band on railroad tracks is taken by Pennie Smith (who took the cover pictures for the band’s previous two albums) at a location in Thailand. This album was originally going to be called ‘Rat Patrol From Fort Bragg’ and guitarist Mick Jones wanted it to be a double album. Instead, ‘Combat Rock’ is a single disc. The broader musical ambitions of The Clash are massaged into their forthright social critiques on this more manageable single album. For instance, ‘Know Your Rights’ (UK no. 43) (“All three of ‘em!”) advises, “You have the right not to be killed…the right to food money…[and] the right to free speech / As long as you’re not dumb enough to actually try it.” Joe Strummer’s “Public service announcement – with guitar!” has Mick Jones twanging out a wobbly solo while percussion snaps like bear-traps throughout. ‘Know Your Rights’ is the only track attributed to Joe Strummer and Mick Jones; the songwriting credits for all the other tracks on this album are assigned to The Clash. ‘Rock The Casbah’ (UK no. 30, US no. 8, AUS no. 3) ‘addresses the Iranian clampdown on imports of Western music to a bouncy dance rhythm’: “By order of the prophet / We ban that boogie sound / Degenerate the faithful / With the crazy Casbah sound.” An insouciant piano taunts the bursts of guitar static. Although officially written by The Clash, it seems an open secret that ‘Rock The Casbah’ is largely the work of drummer Topper Headon; he ‘composed most of the music and played drums, piano and bass.’ ‘Should I Stay Or Should I Go’ (UK no. 17, US no. 45, AUS no. 37) ‘is about the turbulent relationship [guitarist Mick Jones] shares with [Ellen] Foley at the time.’ Jones contributes the lead vocal. His anger, hurt and dismay is paired with a savage guitar riff and thudding rhythm. Ellen Foley provides backing vocals to ‘Car Jamming’, another track on ‘Combat Rock’. Bassist Paul Simonon is vocalist on ‘Red Angel Dragnet’, a song inspired by the Guardian Angels, a New York unarmed crime-prevention patrol begun in 1979. Assistant manager Kosmo Vinyl does an impression of Travis Bickle (the vigilante cabbie played by Robert De Niro in the movie ‘Taxi Driver’ (1976)) in this song. The atmospheric ‘Sean Flynn’ is about the son of movie star Errol Flynn. Sean Flynn was a photojournalist who disappeared in 1970 while covering the Vietnam War. ‘Straight To Hell’ also references that war, but from the perspective of a Vietnamese refugee. ‘Overpowered By Funk’ includes a rap by Futura 2000, an example of The Clash continuing to absorb musical genres. ‘Combat Rock’ is ‘The Clash’s most commercially successful effort’ and has a ‘frills-free sound.’
On 24 May 1982, less than two weeks after the release of ‘Combat Rock’, The Clash announces that drummer Topper Headon has left the band. At first, the split is attributed to ‘political differences’ and is said to necessitate a ‘temporary’ replacement. Neither statement proves true. In reality, Topper Headon is dismissed because of his drug habit. When the drummer first went on tour with The Clash he discovered booze in a big way. Headon later recalls that guitarist “Mick [Jones] turned me onto coke [i.e. cocaine] and all I did was coke,” before The Clash’s 1979 U.S. tour. During the making of ‘Combat Rock’, Topper’s intake of heroin and cocaine really accelerated. “Joe [Strummer] wouldn’t have sacked me if I hadn’t been a raving heroin addict,” Topper later ruefully admits. Headon’s departure turns out not to be ‘temporary’; he never returns to The Clash. Frontman Joe Strummer later opines that The Clash “never played a good gig after Topper left.” Filling the void created is former Clash drummer Terry Chimes, who returns to the band in May 1982. It is ironic that when ‘Rock The Casbah’ is released as a single on 11 June 1982 The Clash promotes it without Topper Headon, the person who made such a substantial contribution to one of The Clash’s more successful singles.
Clash guitarist Mick Jones breaks up with his girlfriend Ellen Foley in 1982.
The Clash plays some shows as the support act for The Who on what is described as the ‘Farewell Tour’ for The Who (though that proves to be an exaggeration). These gigs include a performance at Shea Stadium in New York on 12 October 1982.
Drummer Terry Chimes leaves The Clash (for the third and final time) in February 1983. Chimes exits ‘because of in-fighting and turmoil.’ In spring 1983 Pete Howard becomes the new drummer in the Clash.
The Clash plays at the US Festival, sponsored by Apple Computers’ Steve Wozniak, in San Bernardino, California, on 28 May 1983. The show is historically significant because it is the last Clash concert to include guitarist Mick Jones.
The Clash was co-founded by Mick Jones. He later observes that, “By then [August 1983], our relationship was…bad. We weren’t really communicating. The group was dissipating.” On 1 September 1983, it is announced that guitarist Mick Jones has been ‘fired’ by The Clash. Joe Strummer and Paul Simonon say Jones has “drifted apart from the original idea of The Clash” and, with his departure, they can “get on with the job The Clash set out to do from the beginning.” If fans are surprised, so is Mick Jones ‘who claims he was never consulted before the announcement.’ Years later, Mick Jones douses any stories of a smouldering dispute, saying, “Just a few month after I left the group, [Joe and I] became friends again.”
The Clash replaces Mick Jones with not one, but two, new guitarists in 1983. The new members of the group are Nick Sheppard (born on 28 November 1960 in Bristol, England) and Vince White (born Gregory Stuart Lee White on 31 March 1960 in London, England). The new five-piece, ‘back to basics’ Clash play their first shows in January 1984. They tour Europe and the U.S. in 1984, ‘testing the new line-up.’
It takes until 30 September 1985 for the new version of The Clash to release their first single. ‘This Is England’ (UK no. 24, AUS no. 62) is co-written by Clash frontman Joe Strummer and The Clash’s manager, Bernie Rhodes. The song has dark, dystopic lyrics and an anthemic title chorus. Musically, it is framed by synthesisers, underpinned by mechanical drums, and rough guitars cut through the mix. When the single is issued, Joe Strummer goes to Spain ‘to clear his mind.’
‘Cut The Crap’ (1985) (UK no. 16, US no. 88) is released on 4 November. This album is produced by Jose Unidos (a pseudonym for The Clash’s manager, Bernie Rhodes). According to guitarist Vince White, this album was originally going to be called ‘Out Of Control’. This disc includes the previously released single ‘This Is England’. The next best known track from this album is ‘Are You Red..Y’ (AUS no. 85). It is a blend of clattering percussion, squiggly synths and grating guitars. All the songs on ‘Cut The Crap’ are co-written by vocalist and guitarist Joe Strummer and the group’s manager, Bernie Rhodes. Strummer and The Clash’s new drummer Pete Howard are heard on all tracks but the group’s two new guitarists appear on only one track apiece. Nick Sheppard is lead vocalist and guitarist on ‘North And South’ while Vince White adds guitar to ‘Do It Now’. Even The Clash’s regular bassist Paul Simonon has only minimal involvement with this album. Norman Watt-Roy (from Ian Dury And The Blockheads) plays bass on ten of the twelve tracks on this disc. ‘Most of the music is played by studio musicians’ on ‘Cut the Crap’. The album is ‘panned by fans and critics alike’ and ‘greeted with overwhelmingly poor reviews and sales.’ ‘Cut The Crap’ is ‘later disowned by Strummer and Simonon.’ Joe Strummer describes this album as “The most beautiful piece of sh*t ever heard.”
‘Ultimately embarrassed that The Clash has become a strange parody of itself, [Joe Strummer] splits up the band once and for all’ early in 1986. Strummer says, “When The Clash collapsed, we were tired. There had been a lot of intense activity in five years. Secondly, I felt we’d run out of idea gasoline. And thirdly, I wanted to shut up and let someone else have a go at it.” Founding member Mick Jones later observes, “Groups split up. That’s what groups do – especially after a while…The bigger we got, the more uncomfortable we felt about it all.”
The Clash never reunites. However their musical legacy is repackaged, reissued and memorialised in a number of forms. ‘The Story Of The Clash, Volume 1’ (1988) (UK no. 7, US no. 142) is a two CD compilation album of the group’s hits. In 1988, two of The Clash’s singles are reissued and chart again in Britain. Those songs are ‘London Calling’ (UK no. 46) and ‘I Fought The Law’ (UK no. 29). ‘1977 Revisited’ (1990) is a collection of rare tracks and B sides by The Clash. The single ‘Return To Brixton’ (UK no. 57) is a 1990 remix of ‘Guns Of Brixton’ (from 1979), giving more emphasis to a dance beat. ‘The Singles’ (1991) (UK no. 68) is released in November, the same month as the three CD box set ‘Clash On Broadway’ (1991). Four Clash singles are rereleased in 1991: ‘Should I Stay Or Should I Go’ (UK no. 1) (which benefits from being used in a television commercial for Levi’s jeans), ‘Rock The Casbah’ (UK no. 15), ‘London Calling’ (UK no. 64) and ‘Train In Vain’ (the only one of the quartet which fails to reach the U.K. singles chart). ‘Super Black Market Clash’ (1993) is an expanded version of the 1980 collection of B sides and rarities. ‘From Here To Eternity: Live’ (1999) (UK no. 13, US no. 193) features live performances by The Clash from shows ranging from 1978 to 1982. ‘Westway to the World’ (2000) is a documentary film about The Clash directed by Don Letts. The Clash is inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on 10 March 2003. This event probably enhances the commercial impact of ‘The Essential Clash’ (2003) (UK no. 18, US no. 99), a two CD compilation of the group’s history issued on 11 March (in the U.S.) and 22 April (in the U.K.). ‘Singles Box’ (2006) is a set of nineteen individual Clash singles. ‘The Singles’ (2007) (UK no. 13) is a more traditional compilation of The Clash’s hits. ‘Live At Shea Stadium’ (2008) (UK no. 31, US no. 93) is a concert recording of The Clash performing on stage in 1982. Three albums are released all on the same date, 9 September 2013: ‘The Clash Hits Back’ (2013) (UK no. 13) is a two CD compilation album containing thirty-three songs; ‘Sound System’ (2013) (UK no. 53) is a twelve CD box set – that excludes ‘Cut The Crap’ – ; and ‘5 Album Studio Set’ (2013) is an eight CD box set.
What happens to the individual members of The Clash after they leave the group?
Former Clash frontman, vocalist and guitarist Joe Strummer dabbles with an acting career as well as music. Strummer’s best known film roles are in ‘Straight to Hell’ (1986), ‘Mystery Train’ (1989) and ‘Docteur Chance’ (1997). Joe Strummer releases a solo album called ‘Earthquake Weather’ (1988). He fills in for Shane MacGowan as singer for a 1991 tour by Irish punk/folk band The Pogues. The former Clash frontman forms a new band called Joe Strummer And The Mescaleros (1999-2002). Their eclectic blend of reggae, jazz, punk, funk, hip hop and country music suggests that The Clash’s musically adventurous moments may not all be attributable to guitarist Mick Jones. The Mescaleros are: Joe Strummer (vocals, guitar) (1999-2002), Martin Slattery (lead guitar, keyboards, saxophone, flute) (1999-2002), Scott Shields (guitar, bass) (1999-2002), Anthony Genn (guitar) (1999-2000) (strings & loops) (2001), John Blackburn (bass) (2000), Jimmy Hogarth (bass) (2000), Simon Stafford (bass, trombone) (2001-2002), Steve ‘Smiley’ Barnard (drums) (1999-2000), Luke Bullen (drums) (2001-2002). The Mescaleros issue three albums: ‘Rock Art And The X-Ray Style’ (1999) (UK no. 71), ‘Global A Go-Go’ (2001) (UK no. 68) and ‘Streetcore’ (2003) (UK no. 50, US no. 160).
In his personal life, Joe Strummer and his partner Gaby Salter have two daughters: Jazz (born 1984) and Lola (born 1986). An affair with Lucinda Tait in 1993 puts an end to Joe and Gaby’s relationship. Joe Strummer and Lucinda Tait marry on 30 May 1995. On 20 December 2002 Joe Strummer returns to his home in Broomfield, Somerset, in England after walking his dogs only to suddenly die. His passing is attributed to an undiagnosed congenital heart defect. Joe Strummer was 50 years old. The Mescaleros’ third album was released posthumously in 2003. ‘Joe Strummer: The Future is Unwritten’ (2007) is a documentary directed by Julien Temple.
Former Clash guitarist and vocalist Mick Jones probably experiences a greater degree of commercial success than any of his former comrades in The Clash. Immediately upon parting ways with The Clash in September 1983, Mick Jones joins a group called General Public but leaves that band during the recording of their album ‘All The Rage’ (1984). Mick Jones’ next group is T.R.A.C. (Top Risk Action Company) in 1984. This act consists of: Mick Jones (vocals, guitar), Leo the Lion a.k.a. Leo ‘E-Zee-Kill’ Williams a.k.a. Leo Ezekiel Williams (bass), John ‘Boy’ Lennard (saxophone) and Mick’s former Clash colleague Topper Headon (drums). T.R.A.C. is short-lived. Topper is sacked due to his ongoing heroin addiction, Lennard leaves or is fired and the band folds.
After The Clash, Mick Jones is best known for his work with the group called Big Audio Dynamite (or B.A.D.). The initial line-up (1984-1990) of Big Audio Dynamite is: Mick Jones (vocals, guitar), Don Letts (sound effects, vocals), Dan Donovan (keyboards), Leo Williams (bass) and Greg Roberts (drums, backing vocals). Big Audio Dynamite is described as a post-punk or alt-dance act. They continue Mick Jones’ musical polyglot from his more exploratory days in The Clash’s history, mixing punk, dance, hip hop, reggae and funk genres. This first incarnation of Big Audio Dynamite releases four albums: ‘This Is Big Audio Dynamite’ (1985) (UK no. 27, US no. 103, AUS no. 87), ‘No. 10, Upping St’ (1986) (UK no. 11, US no. 135, AUS no. 83), ‘Tighten Up Vol. 88’ (1988) (UK no. 33, US no. 102) and ‘Megatop Phoenix’ (1989) (UK no. 26, US no. 85). Each of these albums spawns a number of singles. ‘This Is Big Audio Dynamite’ yields ‘The Bottom Line’ (UK no. 97, AUS no. 34), ‘e=mc²’ (UK no. 11, AUS no. 47), ‘Medicine Show’ (UK no. 29) and ‘C’mon Every Beatbox’ (UK no. 51). ‘No. 10, Upping St’ is home to ‘V. Thirteen’ (UK no. 49) and ‘Sightsee M.C.’ (UK no. 94). ‘Tighten Up Vol. 88’ furnishes ‘Just Play Music’ (UK no. 51) and ‘Other 99’ (UK no. 81). Finally, ‘Megatop Phoenix’ contains ‘James Brown’ (a non-charting single) and ‘Contact’ (UK no. 86).
Big Audio Dynamite becomes a completely different band in 1990 with only Mick Jones remaining from the earlier edition. Big Audio Dynamite II (1990-1993) consists of: Mick Jones (vocals, guitar), Nick Hawkins (guitar, backing vocals), Gary Stonadge (bass, backing vocals) and Chris Kavanagh (drums, backing vocals). Two albums are credited to Big Audio Dynamite II: ‘Kool-Aid’ (1990) (UK no. 55) and ‘The Globe’ (1991) (UK no. 6, US no. 76, AUS no. 10). The latter album is co-produced by Andre Shapps, who is the cousin of Mick Jones. No hit singles come from ‘Kool-Aid’ but there are three singles from ‘The Globe’: ‘Rush’ (UK no. 1, US no. 32, AUS no. 1) [the high commercial ranking for this single is probably at least partly attributable to it being the B side of the rereleased Clash song ‘Should I Stay Or Should I Go’, which itself gains a boost from being used in a Levi’s commercial], ‘The Globe’ (US no. 72, AUS no. 8) and ‘Innocent Child’ (AUS no. 67). Also released in this period is ‘Ally Pally Paradiso’ (1991), a live album by Big Audio Dynamite II, and the compilation set ‘The Lost Treasure Of Big Audio Dynamite I & II’ (1993). ‘The Globe’ is the last Big Audio Dynamite album to make the charts.
Another revision takes place in 1994 and the group is renamed Big Audio – the word ‘Dynamite’ is excised. Big Audio (1994-1995) has the same four members as Big Audio Dynamite II plus Andre Shapps (keyboards) and Michael ‘Zonka’ Costance (DJ, percussion, backing vocals). Big Audio releases ‘Higher Power’ (1994) which holds ‘Looking For A Song’ (UK no. 68), the last Big Audio (Dynamite) single to make the charts. ‘Looking For A Song’ (1994) is also the name of a new compilation album.
‘F-Punk’ (1995) is attributed once again to Big Audio Dynamite and heralds the last revision to the act. Big Audio Dynamite (1996-1998) has the following line-up: Mick Jones (vocals, guitar), Nick Hawkins (guitar, backing vocals), Andre Shapps (keyboards), Michael ‘Zonka’ Costance (DJ, percussion, backing vocals), Darryl Fusltow (bass), Bob Wond (drums), Joe Attard (MC, vocals) and Ranking Roger (vocals). Only one more Big Audio Dynamite album is issued, ‘Entering A New Ride’ (1997), and it is issued independently via the internet. After this, Big Audio Dynamite shuts down. ‘Planet B.A.D.’ (1995) is a compilation album released in this era and the following compilation albums are released after the act turns dormant: ‘Super Hits’ (1999), ‘Big Audio Dynamite I & II’ (2000), ‘Original Album Classics’ (2008) and ‘The Best Of Big Audio Dynamite’ (2009).
Starting in 2002 Mick Jones begins working again with Tony James who knew Jones at the dawn of The London SS, the precursor to The Clash. Mick Jones and Tony James record together under the name of Carbon/Silicon. This act issues two EPS, ‘The News’ (UK no. 59) and ‘The Magic Suitcase’, in 2007, the album ‘The Last Post’ (2007), the live album ‘Carbon Casino’ (2007) and the 2008 single ‘Why Do Men Fight’. Carbon/Silicon then switches to releasing only digital albums to download rather than physical CDs. Carbon/Silicon’s digital albums are: ‘A.T.O.M.’ (2010), ‘Western Front’ (2010), ‘The Crackup Suite Parts 1 and 2’ (2010), ‘The Carbon Bubble’ (2010) and ‘Big Surprise’ (2013).
During this time Mick Jones reunites with fellow former member of The Clash Paul Simonon as part of Gorillaz, a side-project of Blur vocalist Damon Albarn. Jones and Simonon both play on the Gorillaz albums ‘Plastic Beach’ (2010) (UK no. 2, US no. 2, AUS no. 1) and ‘The Fall’ (2010) (UK no. 12, US no. 24, AUS no. 41).
For further diversity, Mick Jones also reactivates Big Audio Dynamite in 2011, although – so far – this remains only a touring entity and produces no new recordings.
In his personal life, after breaking up with U.S. rock singer Ellen Foley in 1982, Mick Jones becomes romantically involved with Daisy Lawrence (1983?-1991?). She is described as his ‘girlfriend of many years’ and is the mother of Jones’ daughter, Lauren (born 1984). In September 1989 Mick Jones contracts chicken pox from 4 year old Lauren. This common childhood illness is more serious when it takes hold in an adult. Mick Jones falls into a coma and spends months recuperating. After parting with Daisy Lawrence, Mick Jones becomes romantically involved with U.K. rock star Wendy James (1992?-2013?). Wendy James was the frontperson of U.K. rock band Transvision Vamp from 1986 to 1991. Mick Jones is described as her ‘boyfriend for many years.’ Following this, Mick Jones marries film producer Miranda Davies (2014?) with whom he has two daughters, Stella and Ava.
Former Clash bassist Paul Simonon is part of a new band called Havana 3 a.m. (1991-1993). This group takes its name from a 1950s album by Perez Prado. The group’s line-up is: Nigel Dixon (vocals), Gary Myrick (guitar), Paul Simonon (bass) and Travis Williams (drums). The music played by Havana 3 a.m. is a blend of rockabilly, reggae and Latino music. They release the album ‘Havana 3 a.m.’ (1991). Vocalist Nigel Dixon dies on 3 April 1993. After that, guitarist Gary Myrick puts together a completely different line-up – without Paul Simonon – which releases one more album before breaking up. Paul Simonon spends a number of years outside the music industry becoming a full-time painter and following in the footsteps of his artist father. Damon Albarn, best known as vocalist for britpop band Blur, coaxes Simonon back for the low-key ‘supergroup’ known as The Good, The Bad And The Queen. This act consists of: Damon Albarn (vocals), Simon Tong (guitar), Paul Simonon (bass) and Tony Allen (drums). They record only one album, ‘The Good, The Bad And The Queen’ (2007) (UK no. 2). Simonon is then carried through to an incarnation of Gorillaz, another of Albarn’s side-projects. In Gorillaz, Paul Simonon is reunited with his former Clash comrade, guitarist Mick Jones. Simonon and Jones appear on the Gorillaz albums ‘Plastic Beach’ (2010) (UK no. 2, US no. 2, AUS no. 1) and ‘The Fall’ (2010) (UK no. 12, US no. 24, AUS no. 41).
In his personal life, Paul Simonon’s marriage (or is it just a relationship?) with Pearl Harbor a.k.a. Pearl E. Gates (born Patricia A. Gilbert) comes to an end in 1989. On 28 July 1990 Paul Simonon marries a model named Tricia Ronane. The ceremony takes place at the Roman Catholic St Pius X church in St Charles Square, Kensington. Paul and Tricia have two sons, Louis and Claude. By 2006, the marriage is over and Paul Simonon’s new girlfriend is Serena Rees, the founder of Agent Provacateur, a chain of underwear and lingerie stores.
Former Clash drummer Terry Chimes goes on to work with a number of other bands after leaving The Clash for the third and final time in February 1983. Some of these acts may be considered punk bands, but increasingly Chimes finds himself playing in bands that may be better described as hard rock or heavy metal. Terry Chimes plays drums with Johnny Thunders And The Heartbreakers (for a second time) (1984), Hanoi Rocks (1986), The Cherry Bombz (1986) and Black Sabbath (1987-1988). Chimes begins to suffer serious arm pains in 1987 after years of drumming. This leads him to seek chiropractic treatment and, ironically, he ‘eventually turns to that profession himself.’ Terry Chimes opens his first chiropractic business in 1984. He pens an autobiography, ‘The Strange Case of Dr Terry and Mr Chimes’ (2013). In the same year, Terry Chimes forms a new band, The Crunch, in which he once again plays drums. The Crunch releases the albums ‘Busy Making Noise’ (2013) and ‘Brand New Brand’ (2015). Around the end of 2014, Terry Chimes marries a woman named Rowena (surname Sevilla?) and by June 2015 she is pregnant with their first child.
Former Clash drummer Topper Headon is briefly involved with T.R.A.C. (Top Risk Action Company) in 1984, a short-lived group put together by former Clash guitarist Mick Jones. Headon is sacked from T.R.A.C. due to his heroin addiction, the same problem that caused him to be dismissed from The Clash in 1982. Topper Headon releases one solo album, ‘Waking Up’ (1986). In the same year, Topper marries his second wife, Catherine, who also works in the music industry. By the late 1980s, Topper Headon is driving a mini-cab, trying to fund his ongoing drug addiction. In 1989 he begins busking in the street to raise money. By 2000, Topper Headon’s marriage to Catherine has disintegrated. The one-time Clash drummer finds he is homeless. In 2003 Topper Headon develops serious back pain in relation to his years spent drumming. It is a condition called hyper kyphosis, forward curvature of the back. Headon is successfully treated for the problem. After going through rehab thirteen times, by 2009 Topper Headon appears to have overcome his heroin addiction.
Former Clash guitarist Vince White writes a book, ‘Out of Control: The Last Days of The Clash’ (2007), published by Moving Target books.
So were The Clash valiant musical freedom fighters or shills for the faceless corporations? Certainly their legend-builders favour the former interpretation and the gripes of those who claimed that The Clash forsook punk ideals seem fairly petty. As Joe Strummer correctly pointed out, it was unrealistic to expect them to continue to put out ‘ranting music’ and their attempt to go back to that approach with ‘Cut The Crap’ only served to underline the futility of such a measure. Equally, The Clash’s pursuit of increasingly esoteric musical styles – apparently largely at Mick Jones’ urging – dissipated their strengths. ‘Sandinista!’ suffered from being overly ambitious in that regard. The reason ‘London Calling’ was the high water mark for The Clash was because it balanced the energy of punk with musical ability more successfully than any of the band’s other recordings.
The Clash was an important punk rock band and a noteworthy rock band (without the qualification of the ‘punk’ prefix). Of course they didn’t change the world, but as Joe Strummer said, “I still want to try.” Their nobility was in making the attempt. ‘The Clash copped heavily from classic outlaw imagery, positioning themselves as rebels with a cause. As a result, they won a passionately devoted following on both sides of the Atlantic’. ‘The clear goal of The Clash was to grow both musically and politically, at once, as if one side was a necessary means to the other’.
- ‘Rolling Stone Rock Almanac’ by the Editors of ‘Rolling Stone’ magazine (Papermac, 1984) p. 232, 259, 266, 268, 269, 270, 271, 274, 280, 282, 283, 286, 289, 295, 300, 305, 310, 312, 339, 340, 345, 354, 358
- ‘The Illustrated Rock Handbook’ edited by Roxanne Streeter, Ray Bonds (Salamander Books, 1983) p. 9, 27, 44, 254
- wikipedia.org as at 14 October 2016
- Internet Movie Database – imdb.com – as at 20 October 2016
- ‘Melody Maker’ (U.K. rock music newspaper) – ‘Joe Strummer: I Shudder to Think What Would Have Happened if I Hadn’t Gone to Boarding School’ – interview conducted by Caroline Coon (November 1976) (reproduced on theguardian.com 21 December 2012)
- Notable Names Database – nndb.com – as at 18 October 2016
- brainyquote.com as at 18 October 2016
- allmusic.com, ‘The Clash’ by Stephen Thomas Erlewine as at 1 October 2001
- ‘Westway to the World’ (2000) – Documentary movie directed by Don Letts – via 3 (above)
- ‘The Rolling Stone Illustrated History Of Rock ‘N’ Roll’, ‘Anarchy in the U.K.’ by Greil Marcus (Plexus Publishing, 1992), p. 599, 601, 602, 603, 606, 607
- ‘The Illustrated New Musical Express Encyclopedia of Rock’ by Nick Logan, Bob Woffinden (Salamander Books, 1978) p. 55
- theclashcityrockers.blogspot.com.au by Hagbard Schmidtsiger (18 January 2015)
- ‘The Guardian’ (U.K. newspaper) – ‘Mick Jones: Spaghetti House was the Place to Go When we Were Writing in Joe Strummer’s Squat’ – interview conducted by John Hind (21 August 2016) (reproduced on theguardian.com)
- biography.com – ‘Mick Jones’ – no author credited – as at 17 October 2016
- chacha.com as at 2010
- ‘Bassist Magazine’ – Paul Simonon’s First Ever Bass Interview’ by Scott Rowley (October 1999) via 3 (above)
- whosdatedwho.com as at 16 October 2016
- ‘The 500 Greatest Albums Of All Time’, ‘Rolling Stone’ magazine (February 2004) p. 35, 46
- oneweekoneband.tumblr.com – ‘Caroline Coon’ – no author credited – as at 16 October 2016
- ‘Friday On My Mind’ by Ed Nimmervoll (Five Mile Press, 2004) p. 127
- songfacts.com as at 18 October 2016
- discogs.com as at 15 October 2016
- metrolyrics.com as at 16 October 2016
- ‘The History of Rock’ by Mark Paytress (Parragon Books, 2011) p. 195
- ‘The Independent’ (U.K. newspaper) – ‘I Forgive You: The Clash’s Drummer Topper Headon Makes Peace with the Man who Sacked Him’ – Interview conducted by Mark Lucas (28 June 2009) (reproduced on independent.co.uk)
- inside-rock.fr (French website) – ‘The Clash: One Against All’ by Fran (22 November 2003)
- ‘The Clash – The Singles’ – Anonymous sleeve notes (Columbia, 1991) p. 6
- ‘The Guardian’ (U.K. newspaper) – ‘Our Dad, Joe Strummer, Remembered’ – interview with Jazz and Lola conducted by Lena Corner (18 July 2012) (reproduced on theguardian.com)
- ‘London Calling’ – Anonymous sleeve notes (Columbia, 1979) p. 2, 3
- secondhandsongs.com as at 15 October 2016
- ‘Sandinista!’ – Anonymous sleeve notes (Sony Music Entertainment (UK) Ltd. 1980, 1999 reissue) p. 4
- ‘Los Angeles Times’ (Los Angeles, California, U.S.A. newspaper) – ‘A Wicked Wit’s Wacky Chicks’ – Bettijane Levine on Simon Doonan’s new book – Pearl Harbor reference (30 May 2003) (reproduced on articles.latimes.com)
- patternsandtones.blogspot.com.au – ‘Pearl Harbour: She’s A Blast!’ by Julie Green (25 May 2013)
- ‘Billboard’ (U.S. music magazine) – ‘The Clash’s Mick Jones & Paul Simonon Talk Fame, Joe Strummer and Why They Didn’t Reunite’ – by ‘Associated Press’ (19 November 2013) (reproduced on billboard.com)
- ‘People’ magazine – ‘Back from the Brink of Death, Former Clash Rocker Mick Jones is Reborn as the Man from B.A.D.’ by Steve Daugherty and Lisa Russell (20 November 1989) (reproduced on people.com)
- ‘The Scotsman’ (Scottish newspaper) – ‘Former Transvision Vamp Wendy James on Why she’s Still Rock ‘n’ Roll’ – interview conducted by Janet Christie (8 February 2016) (reproduced on scotsman.com)
- ‘The Daily Mail’ (U.K. newspaper) – ‘Clash Rocker’s Film Producer Wife “Slapped Jeweller in the Face and Smashed Nearly £5,000 Worth of Necklaces in Row Over Money at Her £5 Million Notting Hill Home”’ – by Hugo Gye (24 February 2016) (reproduced on dailymail.co.uk)
- metal-rules.com – ‘Terry Chimes’ – interview conducted by Marko Syrjala (13 January 2015)
- facebook.com – ‘Terry Chimes’ – as at 7 November 2016
- famousbirthdays.com – ‘Topper Headon’ – no author credited – 18 October 2016
Song lyrics copyright Virgin with the exceptions of: ‘Capital Radio’, ‘I’m So Bored With The U.S.A., ‘Career Opportunities’ and ‘Guns On The Roof’ (all four Universal Music Publishing Group); ‘London’s Burning’ (Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Universal Music Publishing Group); ‘Clash City Rockers’ (Control); and ‘Groovy Times’ (Universal Music Publishing Group, BMG Rights Management U.S. LLC).
Last revised 16 November 2016