The Clash: Artist Profile

The Clash Profile

Photo: By Helge Øverås, http://www.helgeoveras.com/concertphoto.shtml (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

Between 1974 and 1976 a musical movement happened almost simultaneously on three different continents. In Australia, it featured bands like The Saints. In the US it was The Ramones, Television, and Patti Smith. But it was in the UK that this new movement took on the greatest significance where bands went from their garages to front-page news in almost no time. Bands like The Sex Pistols, The Buzzcocks, and The Damned became worldwide phenomena almost overnight. It was here, in London to be precise, that a group rose to prominence that none of the others would achieve. Their nickname was “The Only Band That Matters” but they are more commonly known as The Clash.

The Clash was part of the original wave of punk in the mid-70s. Formed by guitarist and singer Mick Jones after the break-up of his band, London SS, the group was originally named Weak Heartdrops and the Psychotic Negatives. Along with Jones were Paul Simonon on bass and Terry Chimes on drums but the group lacked a lead singer until Jones convinced John Graham Mellow, a.k.a. Joe Strummer, to quit his pub rock band, The 101’ers and join. Strummer agreed within 24 hours, the band’s name was changed to The Clash, and the rest is, as they say, history.

The newly formed outfit rehearsed for under a month before playing their first gig in July of 1976. It was considered a failure. The band agreed not to perform again until they were properly rehearsed, locking themselves into a studio to write songs and hone their live performance. Strummer and Jones shouldered the songwriting duties with Strummer handling most of the vocals and it wasn’t long before they were not only performing regularly but also bowling crowds over with their raw power and revolutionary ideals. It took less than 30 gigs for the band to be signed to CBS Records for £100,000, an unheard of sum for such an untested band.

Their self-titled debut album came out in the spring of 1977 to relative success. The initial single, “White Riot,” reached number 34 on the UK charts while the album itself hit number 12. CBS records feared that its rough, unpolished sound wouldn’t work for US audiences and refused to issue an American release until 1979. Despite the lack of presence in the US the album did become the number one selling import in 1978.

Drummer Chimes was feeling disillusioned with the direction of the band and left shortly after the release of The Clash. After an exhaustive search, the band settled on Nick “Topper” Headon just before they set out on the White Riot Tour, headlining in front of bands like The Buzzcocks and The Slits.

Four more singles came out over the next 12 months. Remote Control was the second single off the first record which the angered the band who thought it was one of the weaker tracks. As a response to CBS Strummer and Jones penned and released Complete Control which rose to number 28. Clash City Rockers and (White Man) In Hammersmith Palais followed.

The second record, Give ‘Em Enough Rope, came out in 1978 and rose to number two behind the Top 20 single, Tommy Gun. CBS records released it in the US as well though it stalled out at number 128, well short of expectations for a band that was achieving so much across the water. A tour of the UK further cemented the band’s reputation and in February of 1979, The Clash undertook its first tour of the US. The band’s reputation obviously preceded them because this tour was an unexpected success. The band quickly regrouped in the studio to record their third album.

London Calling was recorded in the summer of 1979 and released that December. This double album featured all sorts of musical styles not typically associated with the punk scene. Reggae, ska, rockabilly, and even straight-up rock and roll combined to create what is often referred to as one of the greatest rock albums ever recorded. It spawned two singles, the title track and a last-minute recording called “Train in Vain,” that was added so late it wasn’t even listed in the original liner notes. Train in Vain became the band’s first Top 40 hit in the US but wasn’t even released as a single in the UK. The title track, “London Calling,” was and it rose to number 11 in the UK, the highest of any Clash single to date.

Their fourth album, Sandinista!, was released in 1980. A bold, diverse recording, this 3-album, thirty six song set received mixed reviews and became the band’s first album to sell more in the US than in the UK where audiences were beginning to dwindle. The band needed another big album and they delivered.

Originally titled Rat Patrol From Fort Bragg, this fifth album was supposed to be a 2-LP set but the band was dissatisfied with the production, bringing in famed producer Glyn Johns to finish the process. The album was reworked as a single LP and in May of 1982 Combat Rock was released. Two singles, “Rock the Casbah,” and “Should I Stay or Should I Go,”
received ample airplay with Casbah reaching number eight on the US charts. The album hit number two in the UK and number seven in the US, their biggest success by far.

With the release of Combat Rock Strummer and Jones asked Headon to leave due to drug problems. Original drummer, Chimes, was brought back into the fold but Headon’s drug addiction wasn’t the only problem in the band. Strummer and Jones were feuding and Chimes left a few months later due to the turmoil. In September of 1973 Jones was officially fired from the band.

Strummer and Simonon continued to tour with Pete Howard on drums, and both Nick Sheppard and Vince White on guitars. After a worldwide tour, the band entered the studio to record their next album. The sessions turned into a torturous affair with Strummer and manager Bernard Rhodes fighting for control of the band. Most of the performances were done by session musicians with Strummer eventually disappearing before the recording was complete. The final product, Cut The Crap, came out in 1985 after being overhauled by Rhodes, filling in the gaps left by Strummer with synthesizers, drum machines, and pre-recorded crowd noises. For the remainder of his life Strummer distanced himself from the album and it’s negative reviews altogether, though the single, This is England, has garnered some appreciation retroactively.

In 1986, The Clash officially disbanded. Jones had moved on to form a new band, Big Audio Dynamite, while Strummer formed Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros after taking a long break. Parts of the original line-up would appear together from time to time but the full band would never play together again. Joe Strummer died of a congenital heart defect in December of 2002, just three months before the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

In 2004 Rolling Stone ranked The Clash as number 28 on their list of the Top 100 Artists of All Time. VH-1 ranked them as number 22. Rolling Stones’ list of the Top 500 Albums of All Time ranked London Calling at number 8, the highest by any band of the entire punk movement, which seems fitting for the musical group that poured rocket fuel onto a “garage band” movement, taking punk from small clubs to arenas and onto the world stage itself.

The Clash: Artist Profile article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2022

Classicrockhistory.com claims ownership of all its original content and Intellectual property under United States Copyright laws and those of all other foreign countries. No one person, business, or organization is allowed to re-publish any of our original content anywhere on the web or in print without our permission. All photos used are either public domain creative commons photos or licensed officially from Shutterstock under license with ClassicRockHistory.com. All photo credits have been placed at the end of the article.

DMCA.com Protection Status

Add Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Cro-Mags Songs
Top 10 Cro-Mags Songs
Crowder Songs
Top 10 Crowder Songs
The Judds Songs
Top 10 Songs By The Judds
Periphery Songs
Top 10 Periphery Songs
15 Greatest Hits Albums With Best Unreleased Tracks & Non-Album Songs
18 Best Greatest Hits Albums With Unreleased Tracks & Non-Album Singles
Best Rock Albums Of 2022
Best Rock Albums Of 2022
12 Essential Jazz Guitar Albums
12 Essential Jazz Guitar Albums
Real Meanings Behind The Songs On Stevie Nicks In Your Dreams LP
Real Meanings Behind The Songs On Stevie Nicks In Your Dreams LP
Tom Verlaine Of Television Has Passed Away At 73
Tom Verlaine Of Television Has Passed Away At 73
Remembering David Crosby
Remembering David Crosby
David Crosby Dead At 81
David Crosby Dead At 81
Bono & The Edge: A Sort of Homecoming With Dave Letterman To Premier On Disney+ March 2023
Bono & The Edge: A Sort of Homecoming With Dave Letterman To Premier On Disney+ March 2023
10 Classic Rock Bands That Have Never Released A Live Album
10 Classic Rock Bands That Have Never Released A Live Album
Will Music CDs Become Collectors Items?
Why Basic Music CDs Will Become Collectors Items
Greatest Rock Bass Lines Of The 70s
Greatest Rock Bass Lines Of The 70s
Don Kirschner Rock Concert
Before MTV, There Was Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert
Christone "Kingfish" Ingram Interview
Christone “Kingfish” Ingram: The ClassicRockHistory.com Interview
Garnett Grimm Of Savoy Brown Interview
Garnet Grimm of Savoy Brown: The ClassicRockHistory.com Interview
Pat DeSalvo Of Savoy Brown Interview
Pat DeSalvo of Savoy Brown: The ClassicRockHistory.com Interview
Steve Zing of Danzig Interview
Steve Zing of Danzig: The ClassicRockHistory.com Interview
Real Meanings Behind Songs On Rihanna’s Good Girl Gone Bad Album
Real Meanings Behind Songs On Rihanna’s Good Girl Gone Bad Album
Real Meanings Behind The Songs On Rihanna's Music of the Sun Album
Real Meanings Behind The Songs On Rihanna’s Music of the Sun Album
Rihanna Albums
Real Meanings Behind The Songs On Rihanna’s A Girl Like Me Album
Real Meanings Behind The Songs On Stevie Nicks Rock a Little Album
Real Meanings Behind The Songs On Stevie Nicks Rock a Little Album
Blake Shelton Albums
Complete List Of Blake Shelton Albums And Discography
Nine Inch Nails Albums
Complete List Of Nine Inch Nails Albums And Discography
The War On Drugs Albums
Complete List Of The War On Drugs Albums And Discography
Turnstile Albums
Complete List Of Turnstile Albums And Discography