“I have heard the future of rock and roll, and it is The Clash.” I said that to my friend Laura. The year was 1986. The Clash had already broken up. Sometimes I’m fashionably late to the party.
The Clash released their self-titled debut album in 1977. At that time I was very much a Top 40/Disco kid, listening to KC & the Sunshine Band, The Bee Gees, Eagles, Leo Sayer, ABBA, Stevie Wonder, Barry Manilow and Fleetwood Mac, etc. I’d read about punk rockers in Rolling Stone and Billboard, with their spitting and complaining. No thank you!
I heard a few Clash songs in the few years that followed – their two US top 40 singles “Train in Vain” and “Rock the Casbah,” plus “Should I Stay or Should I Go.” I liked all of those, but assumed they were the exception. They didn’t sound like the way I read punk described.
In 1986 I was working at CBS Records. One of the perks was employees could order five records or tapes each month from the CBS Records catalogue. I got the entire Springsteen back catalogue and some Dylan releases. Eventually I got around to ordering The Clash’s catalogue. I read about them so often and the records were free, so why not?
Wow! London Calling was the most impressive and the one that led to my rave review to Laura. It was not at all what I expected. It was very melodic and very accessible, with a diverse range of styles. The other albums all had their moments, enough such moments that I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend any of their albums.
Let me amend that – I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend any of their albums except Cut the Crap, released after Mick Jones left the band.
While I’m often way ahead of the general population on songs and artists that eventually gather wide acclaim, sometime I’m slow. The Clash was one of those times. And, in retrospect, I suppose I was a tad hyperbolic when I declared Men At Work to be the new Beatles.
Today Mick Jones of The Clash (and later Big Audio Dynamite) turns 59. Here are ten gems.