The Clash. In the early 1980s, when we were still high school kids, my brother and I were re-discovering some of the English and American punk bands that we had started to listen to in Orange County, CA in the late 70s. Dylan kind of grabbed hold of the Sex Pistols first, and went from there. I found the Clash. Okay, so the Sex Pistols may have been the first British punk rock band, but the Clash were the definitive British punk rockers. Where the Pistols were nihilistic, and didn’t seem to give a damn about anything, the Clash were fiery and idealistic–they wanted to create positive change.
The Clash–Punks Stand for Something
The Clash were charged with righteousness and a leftist political ideology. From the very beginning, the Clash was more musically adventurous than so many other punk bands of that era. The Clash expanded its hard rock & roll with a mixture of reggae, dub, and rockabilly among other roots music. And, the Clash were blessed with two amazing songwriters. Joe Strummer and Mick Jones, each had their own distinctive voice and style, and they were both crucial to the band’s overall sound from the beginning. The Clash embraced their classic outlaw image–positioning themselves as rebels with a cause.
The Clash–What an Impact on a Little Kid from O.C.
A few years before, in the late ’70s, we still lived in Orange County. I was starting to get bored with what I was hearing on the radio, and my friends and I were starting to get into New Wave and Punk anyway. It was 1979 or 1980 that I heard Train in Vain for the first time. I took notice. I liked it. Soon thereafter, our family moved to the California foothills and a major resource for new music was gone.
it took a while before I heard the Clash again after October, 1980. And, it took the Clash several more years to break into the American market. When they finally did, in 1982, they imploded several months later. Though the Clash never became the superstars they always threatened to become, they restored passion and protest to rock & roll. For a while, they really did seem like “the only band that mattered.”
The thing is, when I heard the Clash’s Combat Rock, I was only moderately impressed. There are some good songs on that record, but so much of what I was hearing seemed to annoy me more than anything else. I set the Clash aside for a while.
The Clash–Over the Years, they’re Still My Favorite
In the past twenty or thirty years, the Clash had escaped and been re-incorporated into my music collection many times. I still hold their first album–released in 1977, when I was nine years old–in the highest regard. I still like Sandinista, and Combat Rock has grown on me. But, to me, London Calling is head and shoulders above anything else they have recorded.
I may be confused, but it seems that I recall that Joe Strummer died about the same time as the Ramones started dropping.