The Clash are widely recognized to have been the premier British band within the 1970s punk revolution. More politically astute than the Jam, the Buzzcocks, and other inherently pop bands, and able to sustain a high order of creativity over a comparatively long career as opposed to the incendiary Sex Pistols, the Clash supplanted the Rolling Stones as the greatest performing rock band in the minds of many critics and fans during the 1977-1986 period.
Aware of the U.S. underground punk scene espoused by bands such as the Ramones, Blondie, and the Talking Heads, the Clash—comprised of founding members Joe Strummer and Mick Jones, and shared singing and guitar roles, and later additions, bassist Paul Simonon and drummer Nicky Headon—came together in 1976. Their ability to communicate the alienation of Britain’s working class youth was evident in the crudely recorded debut album, The Clash (CBS 82000; 1977; #12 UK), which sold well at home.
With hopes of breaking into the American market, CBS hired Sandy Pearlman (known for his work with heavy metal band, Blue Oyster Cult) to produce the second LP. Give ‘Em Enough Rope (Epic 35543; 1978; #2 UK) earned kudos from stateside critics for its energy and intelligent lyrics, and sold moderately well due in part to a North American tour in early 1979. The Clash, which had previously been available stateside as an import, was released as a two-disc set—with added singles releases—on Epic (#36060), adding further luster to the band’s reputation.
On the strength of increasingly sophisticated musicianship and tight studio arrangements, the Clash’s recordings—the EP, Black Market Clash (Epic 36846; 1980; #74 US); the albums London Callling (Epic 36328; 1980; #9 UK, #27 US), Sandanista (Epic 37037; 1981; #19 UK, #24 US), and Combat Rock (Epic 37689; 1982; #2 UK, #7 US); and singles " Train In Vain" (Epic 50851; 1980; #23 US), "Should I Stay or Should I Go" (Epic 03061; 1982; #45 US), and "Rock the Casbah" (Epic 03245; 1982; #8 US)—enjoyed increasing success on the American charts. Interest was further fueled by the release of the docu-film, Rude Boy, which spotlighted a fictionalized Clash roadie along with live footage of the band. The departure of Jones in 1983 due to musical differences with Strummer, however, led to a drop-off in quality of the band’s output. While the new Jones vehicle, Big Audio Dynamite, made an immediate impact on the American charts—tt—the Clash’s next album, Cut the Crap (Epic 40017; 1985; #16 UK, #88 US), sold poorly. Opting to disband the band in early 1986, Strummer pursued a solo career, writing film music (e.g., "Love Kills" for Sid & Nancy, The Walker), acting (Straight to Hell, Lost in Space), and performing on tour with the Pogues.
|Back to New Wave||Back to Table of Contents|