Tuesday, 10 December 2013

The Ballad Of Joe Strummer (part two) The Sound Of The Westway

1976, and England really was burning with boredom now. Disaffected and disfranchised youth, waiting for something, anything, to happen.Mick Jones was one of those on a short fuse, and joined a band called London SS, with a guy named Bernard Rhodes as their manager. The Punk scene spawned many legendary bands who never played a single gig, and London SS were a prime example. The name reached legendary status, but like many, imploded with just a name for a memory. Jones and Rhodes remained in contact and contacted Paul Simonon who had previously auditioned for London SS as a vocalist. before long, drummer Terry Chimes and guitarist Keith Levene were enlisted, and Strummer soon followed when Rhodes gave him the chance to form a band that would rival the Sex Pistols.

On 4th July 1976, The Clash made their live debut, supporting the Sex Pistols at The Black Swan in Sheffield. More intensive rehearsals followed, and the band gradually improved, though Levene and Chimes would soon be out of the band; the former was fired and the latter walked out.
Word of mouth soon spread about this exciting new talent, and I jumped at the chance of seeing them play live in nearby Derby on a dream of a bill. Together with The Clash, were the Sex Pistols headlining and The Damned and Johnny Thunders And The Heartbreakers to make for an exciting quartet of acts. Unfortunately, Derby City Council met on 4th December - the day of the gig - insisted on vetting the Pistols' show. Rotten and co simply didn't turn up, leaving the council to stew for over 2 hours. In the end, the council refused permission for the show to go ahead, so hundreds of us had a disappointing trip back home, denied the chance to see 4 terrific bands perform.

So, 1976 fucked off, and in came '77 and one hell of a year was in store. At the arse-end of January, The Clash signed to CBS Records for 100 grand, releasing their first single "White Riot" in March. This white hot slice of vinyl was a stunning declaration of intent and I knew at once that all the hype was justified. Bring on the album!
Punk spawned many great albums and singles, and a whole cartload of stunning debut LP's. "The Scream", "Crossing The Red Sea", "Another Music In A Different Kitchen", "Never Mind The Bollocks", "Cut", "Real Life".... the list goes on, but "The Clash" really was something and still is. The kind of album you play loud with the bedroom window wide open, so the music goes out into the streets where it belongs. This is still a record that stands up, even more so when you consider the mediocrity of today's music scene and the utter shit perpetrated by our current government and those who have gone before.

8th April 1977 was a red letter day when the album hit the racks of my local record store, and I could not wait to get the album back home and slam it on the turntable. Right from the opening track about brothel keeper "Janie Jones", the album simply never lets up, with furious guitar, some juggernaut drumming and venomous lyrics spat out with the contempt we all felt for the wankers who sought to control our lives. Economics, class, rubber johnnies ("Protex Blue"), race, the hopelessness of unemployment and an inspired reaction to a critic who had labelled The Clash a 'garage band'... great lyrics that were soon memorised for the gigs that were to come when we were all singalongaclash down at the front. For me, one of the finest songs in this stunning album is Junior Murvin's "Police And Thieves", recorded to boost the running time of the album, and destined to be a live standard which introduced many of us to Reggae.

"The Clash" reached number 12 in the album charts, and should have made number one, but it served its purpose giving us music for the ages and whetting our appetites for seeing the band live. Happily, the wait for me was almost over.

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