Friday, 3 January 2014

The Ballad Of Joe Strummer : Rope And A Double-Bill To Die For

Originally titled "Rent-A-Riot", the second album by The Clash was released on 10th November 1978 and was called "Give 'Em Enough Rope". After their astonishing debut album, their difficult follow-up gave them the chance to cement their reputation as one of our top bands of the moment. As far as I'm concerned, the album delivered in spades, but many people I spoke to felt the sound to be sanitised, pointing the finger squarely at producer Sandy Pearlman. The album peaked at number 2 in the UK album charts, ensuring a successful outcome for the band, though Joe Strummer suffered as a result of Pearlman's involvement. Pearlman was no fan of Strummer's vocals and made sure Topper's drums were mixed louder on the whole album.
"Give 'Em Enough Rope" spawned two chart singles in "English Civil War" and "Tommy Gun" - the latter dealing with terrorism, reflecting the bands political focus, and kicked off with one of the most dynamic opening tracks you could wish for with "Safe European Home". This would go on to be a live favourite with fans and was joined by the intensely moving "Stay Free"; the swagger of "Last Gang In Town" and the immense "All The Young Punks" with lyrics that would stay with you for ever.
The album was voted 'Album Of The Year' by Rolling Stone and Time magazines and by influential UK music paper Sounds, and deservedly so, showing the band could evolve while staying true to their roots.

The recording sessions for the album also realised some terrific tracks that would grace both vinyl and concert halls in the future. "White Man In Hammersmith Palais" (in my view, their finest hour), "Pressure Drop" and "The Prisoner" were just a few of the songs recorded during the Rope sessions and showed their output to be fiercely creative.
I spent a fortnight with the album rarely off my turntable, growing to love the songs and eagerly awaiting the 24th day of that very same month when The Clash would return to the Kings Hall Derby with The Slits and The Innocents as support bands. I'm ashamed to say I missed The Innocents, due to time spent in the bar trying to spy anyone from Ashbourne who could give me a lift home, but made bloody sure I got out in time to see The Slits who were simply magnificent. I can see Budgie now, pounding the skins with Tessa providing solid backing while Ari prowled the stage and Viv layed down her wonderful skeletal guitar. The hall was naturally packed for their set, and expectations went even higher as the lights dimmed and The Clash took the stage. Late again, but I had a lift home so I could enjoy the night without the prospect of kipping out under the stars as I did a year earlier.
Beginning with the already classic "Safe European Home", The Clash tore the place up, with "Police And Thieves" and "Pressure Drop" rubbing shoulders with the more frantic "White Riot" and "Janie Jones" and "Career Opportunities" inducing mass pogoing from the front to the back of the hall. As always, I departed from the frenzy down the front and moved to the balcony to watch the band for a couple of numbers and Strummer's stage presence seemed to energize the crowd, making us think that whatever the New Year had in store, we could handle it.
It seemed the band were at the height of their powers, and I was simply drooling at the thought of what was next on the agenda. As it turned out, London was calling.

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