The Clash’s monumental debut was released 40 years ago today. Let that one settle in. 40… YEARS! Yup. We, all of us, are very, very old. Anyway, happy flippin’ birthday, The Clash! Though I don’t consider you punk, you’re one of my favorite bands. RIP Joe Strummer.
I had the pleasure of obtaining a UK original of The Clash’s debut album, neatly titled The Clash a few years back. Of course, there is an alternate tracklist on the UK version that differs slightly from the Canadian and US versions, and since both of those versions came out a full two years after this 1977 original, this UK version is strongly considered the only true full-length debut from the band. For those of you into such things, there you have it. For those of you who aren’t, you can show yourselves out.
Last night we made wontons. We made wontons and listened to all six sides of The Clash’s 1980 overwhelming masterpiece, Sandinista!. We prepped, we cooked, well, boiled, and we listened… to all six sides. I honestly don’t remember the last time I listened to this prominent album in its entirety, but it was the perfect soundtrack to our adventurous evening. Whatever your plans are this weekend, make sure, that in some way, they include The Clash. Happy Friday, kids.
Double analog owner of this “Epic Stereo Cassette” MAY have cycled one official listen way back in the day, but she’s new meat now that Mr. Suave Walkman is in town. One acquires an eye for the essentials, regardless of the medium, while on the frigid hunt. 2 Record Set on One Cassette ain’t too shappy… Epic Stereo Cassette
The words “Joe” and “Strummer” have always been synonymous with “inspirational” and “brilliance,” yes, even dating back to his 101’ers days. This Turkish rock God, originally christened John Graham Mellor, headed the phoenix rise and fiery fall of The Clash, dabbled in a bit of soundtrack work, sang a duet of Redemption Song with Johnny Cash, and during his untimely death, helmed the magnificent Joe Strummer & the Mescaleros. Global A Go-Go, the band’s 2nd offering, can be best described as emotional, acoustic punk for the retired generation too set in their ways to set down the bottle or empty the overflowing ashtray. It’s greasy-haired adult contemporary with a twist of stubborn jam-rock, but with decades of recording history under its belt. It’s heavily layered, often rambling (in a good way), and demands constant and consistent spins. 50 is a frighteningly young age to die. Joe Strummer, and his creative brilliance are greatly missed.
One wonders what Joe Strummer would think of his first Clash record being released on blue / white split vinyl for Black Friday… My interjections of Joe’s disdain for this release aside, she does make for a perfectly viable reason to fork over $29 for an album one already owns three times over. One never, ever goes wrong with The Clash, and this was, most certainly, $29 very well spent.
Today’s haul from the 2015 Record Store Day sponsored Black Friday event. Only four of these were actual RSD exclusives, but we certainly couldn’t turn down $0.33.3 clearance lounge records. The Sun Records picture disc was an impulse buy, and certainly justified. We hope you’re enjoying your holiday, if in fact you actually get a holiday, and we hope said holiday involves many a spun record.
This perfect, mood setting ambience will choke out any foul stench you may find the need to cover up. Accidentally burn a fish fillet and now the first floor smells like pier 39? Pick up the phone… it’s London Calling. Sever your finger while cutting the Thanksgiving turkey and wake up sticking to a pool of your own blood surrounded by the painfully sharp aroma of iron? Answer the door… it’s London Calling.
Whatever your need for a more appealing odor may be, nothing beats the classic, lingering wafts of British thugs, The Clash, and their burning torch, London Calling.
18 tracks weren’t enough for the illustrious London Calling, the third studio album by the legendary misfits of genre-bending punks, The Clash. Unofficially hidden, or rather lopped on after the appropriate concluder Revolution Rock, the third and final single stemming forth from this prodigious album, Train in Vain (not unlike a retaliatory missile, or the first bullet fired during a revolutionary riot), was originally written and recorded as a giveaway track for the publication NME (or New Musical Express… I just found out), and was to be released as a flexi-disc single through the magazine… something that, for whatever reason, never came to be.
Certainly not news to the astute a-Clash-ionado, this little nugget of info explains why London Calling ends perfectly (with Revolution Rock), then spits out an unscheduled, and unwanted encore with Train in Vain. This is certainly not to say TiV is a song of lesser listening value, rather its inclusion on London Calling, or its position therein rustles the feathers of album perfection. Since London Calling is the closest thing to a perfect album as is (save maybe for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, This is Tim Hardin, The Shape of Punk to Come, Paul’s Boutique, Circa: Now!, The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society, or Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde) it really doesn’t matter.
It’s not often that I fire up the 8-track player quietly sitting under our big screen. The same hi-fi, wood-paneled unit solemnly connected to our living room speakers… and this is a shame for several reasons. The warm, comforting cloud of ecstatic ear food that emits from our otherwise digital spewing speakers is something that cannot be replicated (unless said scowl is shouting from our dining room hi-fi). The issue, above all others, concerning bygone audio formats, is the rapid lack of obtainable cassettes. I recently became aware that The Clash’s London Calling was released on 8-track (with some songs omitted, of course), but that fetches a hefty sum, and I already own this particular album in a few other formats (cassette, digital, LP), so the immediate “need” for such an album somewhat falls into collecting obscurity.
I love every conceivable music-replicating format, and the 8-track is certainly no exception. I just wish there were more punk-like album released… perhaps THEN would I open the expanding door to this already optional format. Instead, I’ll cycle through the disco chart toppers, the Croce hits, and the Star Wars soundtrack, until I stumble across the Mecca of 8-track gold. The burgeoning beginnings of yet another format collection may in fact be eclipsing the horizon… God help us all.
It’s The Clash kind of morning, kids; specifically their 1977 self-titled debut (1979 in North ‘Merica). The original UK cover, as you can plainly see just to the left there, showcases the sassy mainstays (until all hell broke lose with 1985’s Cut the Crap, of course) Joe Strummer, Mick Jones and Paul Simonon. Missing in all three cover variations (scroll down to see the others, won’t you?) is the 2-headed drummer, Tory Chimes and Topper Headon.
Credited on the back as Tory Crimes (misspelling?), Tory Chimes was the exclusive drummer on the UK release. Topper Headon (credited here as “Nicky Headon”) is featured on 5 of the 15 non-UK releases. Both drummers are missing from this now iconic cover because, as wikipedia neatly puts it, during the time Kate Simon took this photo, Tory Chimes had (for whatever reason) decided to leave the band. So, there you have it. Mystery solved. Someone should remaster this album sans percussion, featuring just the three sods on the cover. That would make for an interesting listen, no?
So, a bit of interesting information… Chimes, Jones and Simonon were all in the band London SS before clashing with Strummer and future Public Image Ltd. guru Keith Levene to form The Clash. Mr. Levene co-founded Public Image Ltd. with Sex Pistols’ frontman, John Lydon, or as he is more commonly known, Johnny Rotten. So you see, it’s like, all tied up and connected, man! Clash it up today. It’ll help to keep the mental demons busy for at least the next 35 minutes.
We are all book judges, are we not? It’s in our instinctual nature to see something, say an album cover, and immediately send its contents through the legal systems of our minds and instantly give it a ruling, right? I mean, when I see an album cover of a cat sitting in a Christmas box (give the gift of cats, I always say) in front of a 1950s decorated Christmas tree, I’m not thinking smooth jazz, you see what I’m saying? (The aforementioned Christmas Cat album will unveil itself during the month of December, along with the rest of my “holiday groove music.” So I’ll see the lot of you in January!)
So much (and this is painfully obvious) time and consideration is put into any given album cover, but I wonder if the guy / gal / team designing any given cover (it’s like Any Given Sunday, but with records) considers the longevity of their work. For example, let’s take a look at Elvis Presley’s 1956 debut for RCA Victor Records appropriately titled, Elvis Presley. It’s about as iconic as apple pie (“Why, is that apple pie I smell?” – A little KITH humor… really, I’m just pleasing myself at this point) and for good reason. Had the King’s (“I didn’t know we had a king. I thought we were an autonomous collective.” – MP) groundbreaking album (to put it lightly) instead displayed the man say, in a Christmas box in front of a 1950s decorated Christmas tree, pop culture may have turned out a little different. Do you see what I’m saying? Or, typing, rather… man, I’m falling out of the tangent tree and hitting every branch today it seems.
Without Mr. Blue Suede Shoes’ album looking exactly the way it does (actually, Mr. Blue Suede Shoes should probably refer to Carl Perkins, so let’s call Elvis, Mr. Tutti Frutti instead, shall we? Well, wouldn’t Mr. Tutti Frutti be the moniker for Little Richard? Good point. Let’s just call Elvis, Elvis then. There is no fun in that, but fine… whatever.), the equally iconic face of The Clash’s London Calling may have looked like say, a photo of Paul Simonon sitting in a Christmas box in front of a 1950s decorated Christmas tree. Are you picking up what I’m throwing down here? Nobody knows (Spaceballs…) the impact of anything, or rather, nobody can predict what sticks to the wall, and what is used for kindling in the living room fireplace. Only time, oh, that sweet, lactating mother of all, will tell.
Also, there is a house music comp based on the cover of London Calling which was based on the cover of Elvis Presley, and my prediction is, it won’t stop there.
If you were stranded on a remote island (that conveniently harbored electricity, speakers and a bomb-ass turntable), and you were only allowed to pick three albums with which to spin for your remaining, ocean-gazing days, what three albums would they be?
For me, the first two albums were no-brainers. Paul’s Boutique by the Beastie Boys, and The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society by The Kinks. Choosing the proper versions, both albums are double LPs (1998’s Grand Royal reissue and 2011’s mono/stereo split), so you’re already a leg up on the island dwelling competition. The third and final album requires much more, overanalyzed thought. Do you play it safe and pick Abbey Road? What about The Beatles, also known as the White Album? Or, do you skip the 12” format altogether and grab your favorite song, which just happens to be a post-hardcore thrasher by the obscure Wisconsin band, Defacto Oppression? Certainly NOT an easy decision to make (in this overly voluptuous hypothetical), second-guessing is sure to follow after the inevitably dreadful decision is (finally) made.
Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska garnishes some thought, but would probably be far too depressing… after all, these three albums will help feed, or deter the fact that you are, after all, stranded on a remote island. Emergency & I by the Dismemberment Plan is a considerably strong candidate, but would immediately be my number four pick. Bizarre Ride II (The Pharcyde), In Case You Didn’t Feel Like Showing Up (Live) (Ministry), This is Tim Hardin (Tim Hardin… duh), and Circa: Now! (Rocket from the Crypt) are all, exceptional lily pads on this thought pond, but none of them make the distinct cut.
London Calling (The Clash), Double Nickels on the Dime (Minutemen), Singles – 45’s and Under (Squeeze), Energy (Operation Ivy), Appetite for Destruction (Guns N’ Roses), which would easily be my number five pick, Black Monk Time (The Monks), and Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables (Dead Kennedys) all lay floating in the salted sea of “never to enjoy again.” Damn, this post is depressing.
And the winner goes to… The Shape of Punk to Come… the quintessential soundtrack to my evasive youth wins the number three spot, and with little hesitation, I might add. Refused’s best, and another double LP, this top three has quickly turned into the top six, and would respectfully demonstrate, and/or adequately demolish my headspace for the rest of my delusional life. To pick three out of 2,800 is certainly NOT an easy gesture… if asked again tomorrow, I’d have a completely different roster. Oh, the joy, and immediate pleasure of viable options.
I had a cat for eight years. His name was Indiana Jones. He’s gone now… damn little screen pusher was always trying to get outside. Anywho, every once in a while I’ll throw on a record and stumble across one of his hairs. If you look closely at the pic, what looks like a deep scratch near the top is actually a black, white and gray Indy hair. Presumably, the last time I listened to this, or any “Indy album” was between the years, 1998 and 2006, or as I refer to them as, The Indy Years. Kind of like The Wonder Years, but you know, with cats.
So today, I raise two glasses. The first, a whiskey neat to pay homage to the late, great Joe Strummer. The second, a tiny glass of milk to my old friend, Indiana Jones.
Thanks for the memories, guys.
No. 2) You have the right to food money, providing of course, you don’t mind a little investigation, humiliation and if you cross your fingers, rehabilitation.
No. 3) You have the right to free speech (as long as you’re not dumb enough to actually try it).
These rights, as described by the late, the prolific, the prophet, Mr. Joe Strummer, are your responsibility to learn and digest. It is of the utmost importance that you educate (and mentally set free) your immediate family, coworkers, daycare professionals, gas station attendants, hot air balloon operators, garbage disposal fixers, and sad children with orange-tinted hair. These rights need to be understood, as I imagine Mr. Strummer would have wanted it that way.
For good measure, I’ve offered a little insight into my obsessive-compulsive nature. Apparently, on Thursday evening in late July, back in 1997, I felt it was a good idea to preserve the receipt to my purchased copy of Combat Rock. $3.98! The Clash were the soundtrack to that, the first summer out of 1) high school and 2) my parents’ home. The Clash were, and will always be, at least for me, a monumental symbol of freedom. It sounds just as gigantic and paradisiacal today as it did over 16 years ago.
Know your rights.
Five days after the conclusion of a decade filled with orange, brown, swagger and abundance (the 1970s), the United States saw a paramount release that that would transcend every other album released throughout the rest of the decade. On January 5th, 1980, Americans received a message from across the pond. It was a message of conflict, disdain and unforgettable beauty. This message… the uncompromising London Calling.
Five days into the 80s, and the decade saw its best work… crazy. Released a few weeks earlier in its native land (December 14, 1979 in the UK), London Calling became the owner of the #8 spot on Rolling Stone’s list of 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. #8… all time. 8… out of 500! This isn’t news to the majority of you as you probably already own this treasured album, and if you don’t, I’ll pretend not to know you in public next time I see you… seriously… GET this album!
Bridging the weathered gap between Hard Rock, Punk, Reggae, Lounge Jazz, Rockabilly and Ska (to name a few of the many genres defining this “epic” album… it was actually released on Epic Records in the states, so HA!), The Clash were able to showcase their angst towards authority, their cry for better paying jobs, their thoughts on civil war, love, and the church, and they were able to do it by staying within the confines of the social attention span. The Clash found that the message of insolence, distrust, hope and liberation could reach more ears if the music was more accessible to a broader audience.
Everyone who has ever learned to type has written about this album, so anything I say here won’t be groundbreaking. I will however express my personal affection towards this gem, and try to offer its beauty onto others. I’m a London Calling pusher, essentially… and I’ve got a quota to meet, so shoot up!
Really quickly, I’ll get into this then I’ll leave you the hell alone. It was July 1997 and I’d just turned 18. I was sharing a room with my best friend and we were both in our infant stage of record collecting. He with his Jimmy Durante, Glenn Miller and Dean Martin, and I with my Beastie Boys, NOFX and Doobie Brothers. There is a little store in Madison, Wisconsin called Half Price Books. If you’re from the Midwest you’ve undoubtedly been there. It was at the East Side location where I found my calling of the London variety. I’d already owned 1982’s Combat Rock, and was eager for more from the almighty Clash. Anyway, to make a long, drawn-out story short, the first side to the first record (London Calling is a double LP, btw) instantly became the soundtrack to our summer, with Rudie Can’t Fail becoming our favorite, miss-quotable song (substituting “chicken-boo for breakfast” instead of the proper “drinking brew…” something I still do to this day).
Maybe it was because that summer saw us living on our own for the first time, but for us, London Calling equaled liberation. Few albums attach themselves to such monumentally important moments in an individual’s life. The acute notice these moments, and they never forget them. London Calling, for all its global importance, still manages to satisfy my local, nostalgic needs.
When the physical force from the hand-shakers, the whistle-stoppers, the marketing executives and the self-proclaimed pretty faces (telling you what toothpaste “real” men prefer) strong-arms the poor, the isolated, the abhorred, the shunned and the ugly (a term invented by pushers of beauty products as a counter for what constitutes “beauty”), the thin line separating the “ordinary” from the “irregular” breaks. Wars are started over such actions. Lives are lost and serenity is disfigured.
“Anger can be power.” – Joe Strummer of The Clash
From the charred rubble of society rockets a familiar phrase longing to reach the ears of the desperate that question if such a powerful phrase could exist. A phrase silenced and eradicated by the powerful, yet so innate to our most basic of human instincts. The phrase: It doesn’t have to be this way. Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols gave a voice to that phrase; a voice that, because of legal battles with the Magistrates’ Court, record label arrests, and outcries from the feeble masses, almost wasn’t heard.
I’m a believer in giving credit where credit is due. The Ramones are often credited as the first “official” Punk band, so, yay Ramones, but they don’t come close to matching the social impact unleashed by the Sex Pistols… and the Sex Pistols only released one studio album! Surprisingly tame by today’s standards, the music on Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols is secondary to its message. The tracks are catchy, the lyrics are in-your-face and often intentionally hilarious. Well produced and professionally executed, this album isn’t near as abrasive as one would think given all the trouble surrounding its release.
Punk is present to force the masses to question their decisions. The hoi polloi hate Punk because it makes them look at themselves and recognize their abundant shortcomings and their sheepish declarations. They know they’re feeding a corrupt and biased system but they don’t want to be bothered to remember. I know. I’m one of them. But the idea behind Punk, albeit a nightmare for some, is the saving grace for those whose voices are subdued.
Greed is a learned trait. The desire for power and wealth by means of silencing those who oppose you is the backbone of a Capitalist society. The Sex Pistols recognized this. They stood atop a mountain of vehement listeners and shouted, “It doesn’t have to be this way!”
Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols is Shakespeare to authors, columnists and poets alike. It stands as one of the most monumental moments in music, and was a turning point in 20th Century history. It is, by all means, a necessity.