TJR presents… Top 10: The Clash

– Ten of the best from the cross-culture ideologists who were way more than just a Punk band.
  • Runtime: 39m.
  • Compiled from 283 collection entries @ 16-Dec-2020.
  • Fantasy Album Rating: 9.59 “An elite masterpiece”
  • To access shuffle-play or avoid in-play interruption due to territorially blocked videos, it might be best playing directly via YouTube external-link.png

Complete Control by The Clash (1977)
(Joe Strummer, Mick Jones)

10.0 “Utterly perfect” Punk
TJR saysThis was my first Clash 7", collected via mail order, circa 1983. Even as a young teenager, I knew I simply HAD to have it. Could barely make out a word at the time, but that didn't seem to matter, it was all about the sheer vitality of the thing, together with caught phrases, “They said, release 'Remote Control', but we didn't want it on the label” … “You're my guitar hero” … “This is Joe Public speaking” … “C.O.N. Control”. You knew something was up, and you kinda knew they'd be right. I implore you to watch the splendid YouTube video in this playlist, which sorts it all out. The rage at their label was clear to hear for those who were paying attention at the time, but as John Peel noted, CBS were not “a foundation for the arts”. Joe Strummer later revealed the inspiration for the song's title: “Bernie [Rhodes] and Malcolm [McLaren] got together and decided they wanted to control their groups… Bernie had a meeting in the Ship in Soho, after the Anarchy Tour. He said he wanted complete control. I came out of the pub with Paul [Simonon] collapsing on the pavement in hysterics at those words.

Straight To Hell by The Clash (1982)
(Joe Strummer, Mick Jones, Paul Simonon, Nicholas Headon)

10.0 “Utterly perfect” Dubbeat
TJR saysFrom their album “Combat Rock”, released in May, 1982. Undertones from the far east flavoured the album’s 4th single, released in September 1982. In one verse Strummer sings the Amerasian Blues in a vitriolic indictment of American soldiers who fathered Vietnamese children and promptly disappeared without trace. The US government made it nearly impossible for soldiers who served in Vietnam to bring back their children, and the mothers of those children. They took the position that since they were at war with the North Vietnamese, and since there was really no way to tell for sure if someone was from the North or the South, it would be dangerous to allow a huge influx of immigrants from Vietnam who might actually be communists or spies. It was an ugly stain on the nation and it’s documented here forever. Looking G.I. Joe straight in the eye, “go straight to hell boy” cuts like a knife. In DC, it was most likely another entry on Strummer’s burgeoning file.

Tommy Gun by The Clash (1978)
(Joe Strummer, Mick Jones)

9.9 “All-time classic” Punk
TJR saysFrom their album “Give 'Em Enough Rope”, released in September, 1978. Nicky Headon was a classically trained musician, nicknamed “Topper” by Paul Simonon, who felt he resembled the Topper comic book character, Mickey the Monkey. Strummer later observed, “We were lost until we found Topper Headon… finding someone who not only had the chops, but the strength and the stamina to do it was just the breakthrough for us”. During recording sessions for the album, producer Sandy Pearlman dubbed Headon as “The Human Drum Machine”, due to his impeccable timing and seemingly tireless energy. Here, his snare drum mimicry of gunfire is a work of thrilling genius. Blood-thirsty fame-hungry terrorists (and the sheep who would follow them) were in the firing line on this, their first Top 20 hit. More than just a Punk band, the Clash were an ideological movement.

The Guns Of Brixton by The Clash (1979)
(Paul Simonon)

9.8 “All-time classic” Dubbeat
TJR saysFrom their album “London Calling”, released in December, 1979. Topper & Paul coming on like the Sly & Robbie of England; this was 'The Harder They Come' Brixton-style, rough n tough. The monster-cut was written by Paul Simenon himself, and was the first time one of the bassist’s sole compositions had been recorded by the group, as well as being the first on which he’d feature as lead vocalist. It’s yet another song from the alt-music scene depicting the feelings of discontent with British life today; the recession is bad enough but the heavy-handedness of the police against Britain’s black communities is pushing righteous men to the limit.

Bankrobber by The Clash (1980)
(Joe Strummer, Mick Jones)

9.7 “All-time classic” Reggae
TJR saysA single release in August, 1980. Fully 40 years before face masks were all the rage, the Clash were on it, staging fake bank robberies in Lewisham 'in honour' of Mick Jones's old man. Said the guitarist: “I think my dad was a bankrobber's assistant. There was talk of him driving getaway cars. He was a cab driver but he drove for other people.” Adding to this generally bonkers sketch, Jamaican producer Mikey Dread was in the house, giving it his best Lee Perry, reaching for the matchboxes and squeaky toys from out of his tool box. No bank clerks were harmed in the making of this classic.

Clampdown by The Clash (1979)
(Joe Strummer, Mick Jones)

9.5 “All-time classic” Punk
TJR saysFrom their album “London Calling”, released in December, 1979. The very essence of Strummer, “Clampdown” is another out-and-out classic; a warning to the youth to take care of their soul and not to sell it to the man. “You start wearing the blue and brown and you’re working for the clampdown. So you got someone to boss around. It makes you feel big now…” As the great Robert Nesta, fuelled by Marcus Garvey, once famously sang “Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds”.

Police And Thieves by The Clash (1977)
(Junior Murvin, Rainford Hugh Perry)

9.4 “Classic” New Wave
TJR saysFrom their debut album “The Clash”, released in April, 1977. The band’s embracing of England’s Jamaican subculture was a masterstroke. First fruits of this dalliance came via the album’s only cover, Junior Murvin’s “Police And Thieves”, which was one of those amazing historical moments in music, where one single gesture proves be completely inspirational for a generation. One Jerry Dammers was certainly paying attention. The song, addressing Jamaican gang war and police brutality, was seen to represent every bit as well in England 1977. Murvin’s first commentary was “They have destroyed Jah work!”. No Junior, they were spreading Jah word! The protest movement was alive and well, now with added culture-clash flavours.

White Riot by The Clash (1977)
(Joe Strummer, Mick Jones)

9.2 “Classic” Punk
TJR saysFirst out as a single in March, 1977, and included on their self-titled debut album a month later. Their provocative debut was in-yer-face and ready for war against the establishment. Joe Strummer and bassist Paul Simonon had been involved in the riots at the Notting Hill Carnival of 1976. Their clarion-call to the disaffected white youth was to stand up like their black counterparts. The song was a two chord wonder – fast and crude but really saying something: “Are you taking over, or are you taking orders? Are you going backwards, or are you going forwards?” The Clash would fight wars on many fronts – to the sound of police sirens, the offensive was underway.

Rudie Can’t Fail by The Clash (1979)
(Joe Strummer, Mick Jones)

9.2 “Classic” Reggae
TJR saysFrom their album “London Calling”, released in December, 1979. With a rhythm section that could twist and crawl with any of the 2-Tone greats, the Clash were ace cross-cultural communicators. Chest out, head high Rudie.

London Calling by The Clash (1979)
(Joe Strummer, Mick Jones)

9.2 “Classic” Punk
TJR saysFrom their album “London Calling”, released in December, 1979. Good evening, this is London calling. One is most pleased to inform you that “phonyBeatlemania has bitten the dust”. The opening title-track gave the group their biggest hit single to date – reaching #11 in the UK Top 40 – with apocalyptic lyrics reflecting the concern felt by Strummer about world events of the day; in particular, the reference to “a nuclear error” was concerned with the meltdown at Three Mile Island which had occurred just a few months earlier. Joe Strummer’s cryptic last words “I never felt so much a-like…” echo over Morse code feedback (the characters spelling out S-O-S). In live versions of the song, he sang a complete version of the final line, allowing his Rock n Roll roots to shine a light: “I never felt so much a-like singing the blues”.

TJR presents… Top 10: The Clash (via Spotify)

  • Runtime: 38m.
  • To access shuffle-play or overcome other issues with the embed application, it might be best playing directly via Spotify external-link.png

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