The Clash

BBC News: Clash Star Strummer Dies
NY Times: Joe Strummer, Political Rebel of Punk Era
Village Voice: Up in Heaven (Not Only Here)
New York Post: Dead Rockers Get Silent Treatment
The Nation: 'The Politics Were on the Street in Front of Us, Man'
BBC: Joe Strummer: A Tribute


The Clash at first tucked in snugly behind punk's loudest noise, the Sex Pistols (whom they supported on "the Anarchy tour"), and later became a much more consistent and intriguing force. Guitarist Mick Jones (b. 26 June 1955, London, England) had formed London SS in 1975, whose members at one time included bassist Paul Simonon (b. 15 December 1956, London, England) and drummer Nicky "Topper" Headon (b. 30 May 1955, Bromley, Kent, England). Joe Strummer (b. John Graham Mellor, 21 August 1952, Ankara, Turkey) had spent the mid-70s fronting a pub-rock group called the 101ers, playing early rock 'n' roll-style numbers such as "Keys To Your Heart". The early line-up of the Clash was completed by guitarist Keith Levene but he left early in 1976 with another original member, drummer Terry Chimes, whose services were called upon intermittently during the following years. They signed to CBS Records and during three weekends they recorded The Clash in London with sound engineer Mickey Foote taking on the producer's role. In 1977 Rolling Stone magazine called it the "definitive punk album" and elsewhere it was recognized that they had brilliantly distilled the anger, depression and energy of mid-70s England. More importantly, they had infused the message and sloganeering with strong tunes and pop hooks, as on "I'm So Bored With The USA" and "Career Opportunities". The album reached number 12 in the UK charts and garnered almost universal praise.

CBS were keen to infiltrate the American market and Blue ™yster Cult's founder/lyricist Sandy Pearlman was brought in to produce Give 'Em Enough Rope. The label's manipulative approach failed and it suffered very poor sales in the USA, but in the UK it reached number 2, despite claims that its more rounded edges amounted to a sell-out of the band's earlier, much-flaunted punk ethics. They increasingly embraced reggae elements, seemingly a natural progression from their anti-racist stance, and had a minor UK hit with "(White Man) In Hammersmith Palais" in July 1978, following it up with the frothy punk-pop of "Tommy Gun" - their first UK Top 20 hit. Their debut album was finally released in the USA as a double set including tracks from their singles and it sold healthily before London Calling, produced by the volatile Guy Stevens, marked a return to top form, and "Train In Vain" gave the band a US Top 30 hit single.

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