The Clash

  • Punk rock band formed in 1976, from London. Original members were Joe Strummer (born John Mellor, vocals, rhythm guitar), Mick Jones (vocals, lead guitar), Paul Simonson (vocals, bass guitar) and Terry Chimes (drums). Chimes was replaced by Nicky “Topper” Headon in 1977, and this foursome became the classic Clash line-up.
  • The band members played in various UK based bands. Once they connected with each other, their goal was to form a band that would rival the Sex Pistols. After practicing for a month, their first performance was in the summer of 1976, supporting the Sex Pistols at a club in Sheffield. Looking to establish their own identity, they started to rehearse intently. Strummer and Jones shared writing duties, and Strummer handled lead vocals most of the time, with Jones occasionally taking the lead.
  • Punk music was gathering momentum in the UK. By early 1977, the Clash signed with CBS records, even though they had played only around 30 gigs, and almost none as a headliner. The underground punk movement mocked the signing – they considered it a sell-out to sign with a major record label.  By March, the band’s first single, White Riot, was released. A month later, their debut album The Clash was released. The album charted well in the UK, but CBS refused to release it in the U.S., as punk music was not yet popular here. Subsequently, the U.S. release occurred in 1979. The U.S. version included the popular I Fought The Law. The album was widely acclaimed by critics – it now is considered one of the greatest punk rock albums of all time. Rolling Stone ranked it #77 on their 2003 list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
  • Their 1978 second album Give ‘Em Enough Rope was recorded with a “cleaner” sound in an attempt to be more appealing in the U.S. While it was popular in the UK, the U.S. still did not embrace them. That changed dramatically with their follow up album, London Calling. Critics loved it – Rolling Stone called it the greatest album of the 80s (even though the UK version was released in December 1979). The album cover is iconic, showing Paul Simonson smashing his bass guitar on the stage. Singles from the album included the classics London Calling and Train in Vain. 
  • The band’s fifth album was their best selling – Combat Rock, released in 1982. It contained the hits Should I Stay or Should I Go and Rock The Casbah. MTV helped, particularly for Rock The Casbah, which peaked at #8 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. By this time, The Clash had found a way to maintain a punk rock image, and still make music that was popular and catchy.
  • The band began to disintegrate soon after Combat Rock was released. Headon was fired due to drug addiction, and Jones was let go by September 1983 due to infighting. New musicians were added, and an album was released in 1985, but the band was done by early 1986.
  • The Clash was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2003.  The announcement was made in November 2002. The following month, Strummer died from a congenital heart defect. Rolling Stone ranks The Clash as #28 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.
  • I admire the music of The Clash – punk rock would have largely stayed underground without their genius. I guess the hardcore punkers would have preferred it that way? Anyway…I’m glad they made it. Check out the infectious punk classic Rock The Casbah.

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