Monday, August 21, 2017

Titans of the Clash

I'm really sick for weeks with a dastardly sinus infection that's got my ears in airplane mode, but I'm dropping by to fire off a 65th birthday post about a rare muso who truly mattered, and still does.
He was born in Turkey this very day in 1952, and by 1976 he was altering the DNA of the world as the leader of perhaps the most credible and beloved band of all time.
See, once upon a time, music mattered to the larger social construct of the world. When I explain to younger people that the battle lines between folks were once largely determined by musical identifications, they often look at me like the kids in Charles Schulz's Peanuts looked at their teacher.
The idea that a band could matter -- or be referred to as "the only band that matters" -- is an anachronism of a bygone age. But 40 years ago, almost everyone looked to one group for the hard truths and sobering assessments.
For it was then -- across a bloated landscape of dinosaur Rock and Prog pomposity, with arenas and hockey rinks the world over filled with stoned hipsters rawking out to their Spinal Tap heroes -- came lurching the greatest and moat lasting of the Punk bands, dead set on kicking the Dead Set through the goalposts of Hippie Hell.
Has their been a more authentic Rock band since they split up in the mid-1980s? Hard to say... only hip-hop has provided anything in terms of true stylistic innovation and 100% realness since.
Whatever the specifics or opinions, we can all agree there will never be another group like The Clash, and there will never be another messenger like Joe Strummer. Even now, 30+ years after their demise, there simply is no substitute.
They arrived in 1976 from a UK plunged headlong into the darkness of recession and rampant unemployment, and you could argue that they more than any artists served to document England's descent into the vile, top-down austerity of Thatcherism.
Eventually the Punks turned on them, as they drifted further from their original, raw sound into all sorts of diverse musical territories. And it all terrorized the Tories, too.
Their tours are ultra-legendary... a 1981 run in Times Square in NYC -- at the old Bonds International Casino -- had to have a month of dates added to accommodate the galactic demand.
The early 1980s saw them splinter apart, with Joe insisting upon a return to Punk basics and his co-leader Mick Jones eager to explore as many different genres as they could learn. Both had other, beloved groups, with Jones fronting Big Audio Dynamite and Strummer the Mescaleros. But their most Earth-shattering output came as part of The Clash.
It's almost impossible to believe that Joe is gone 15 years already, or that he only lived to be 50. But some folks pack centuries into decades, and are remembered for their contributions eons after they depart. Joe Strummer is as firmly in that category as any musician of the last 50 years.
To mark the occasion of what would have been the man's 65th b'day, I have placed cloudward an excoriating 41 minutes of vintage Clash, taped for French TV in 1980 and provided here as a PAL DVD sourced from a pristine rebroadcast in the 2000s.
The Clash
Palais des Sports
Paris, France

01 Jimmy Jazz
02 London Calling
03 Protex Blue
04 Train In Vain
05 Koka Kola
06 I Fought the Law
07 Spanish Bombs
08 Wrong `Em Boyo
09 Stay Free
10 Janie Jones
11 Complete Control
12 Garageland
13 Tommy Gun

Total time: 41:18

Joe Strummer - guitar & vocals
Mick Jones - guitar & vocals
Paul Simonon - bass
Topper Headon - drums

PAL DVD of a 2006 Europe2 rebroadcast
I recall back to being a teenager and hearing The Clash for the first time in about 1978, my cousin having acquired their second apocalyptic blast of an LP, Give 'Em Enough Rope. To say I was hooked and hooked fast would be an understatement, and I remember distinctly when their triple-album masterpiece Sandinista! hit and my adolescent ass rolled to Sam Goody for the vinyl.
Yes, the Sharif may not like it -- he thinks it's not Kosher, after all -- but today is a day to celebrate the great Joe Strummer. So I hope you pull down this brilliant footage and find time to do so. This, because in these dark times London is still Calling -- decades hence -- and shows little sign of sinking into silence.--J.
8.21.1952 - 12.22.2002