Review Summary: The Clash have come for a riot.A Decade of Punk: The Clash in Six Chapters
An Account Dedicated to the Genius of Joe Strummer
Chapter I: The Clash Forming British Punk
If one were to name one classic punk group, there’s many bound to refer to The Clash
, the charismatic quartet from London, England. Its initial members were all brought together from different early punk bands in the London scene, which was then just getting started. Eventually, the first formation was created: lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist Joe Strummer, lead guitarist and vocalist Mick Jones, additional guitarist Keith Levene, bassist Paul Simonon and drummer Terry Chimes. Within the year, however, Levene quit the band, and The Clash remained a quartet ever since. Chimes left a while later, being replaced by Rob Harper for about half a year until he returned. Finally, in 1977, the line-up that was to record the band’s self-titled debut, was settled.
Their debut sees The Clash at their rawest, and is their most straightforward punk record. It’s loud, it’s rough, and it equips the typical and most important punk ethic: it goes back to the roots of rock ‘n roll. Simple three-chord riffing that makes up short songs with a simple message, often politically charged. The Clash, particularly, were known for parodying the life of the middle-class English worker in their music, shown with songs such as Career Opportunities
, obviously a comment on unemployment. Top it with equally effective topic such as England’s Americanization in I’m So Bored With the U.S.A
., and you have got a band and a record with a goal and a message. Even Police & Thieves
, which is a cover from reggae artist Junior Murvin
(and foreshadows the band’s interest in incorporating different musical genres, not normally associated with rock), nicely fits in.
Add to that witty lyrical content a charismatic combination of musicians, and you’ve got a winning formula. The main musical appeal to The Clash lies in, most notably on this first record, the two main figures Strummer and Jones. The former has just about the perfect punk voice; gruff and raw, and on top of that, it’s thickly accented with a heavy dose of Britishness, masterfully shouting its way through the songs. The latter, coming up with those simple but undeniably catchy riffs and fast, short solos, as well as providing his far different, much cleaner, poppier voice on occasions, is a powerful creative force in his own way.
By combining lyrical wit and simple musical appeal, The Clash managed to create a compelling, superb first record that would define the shape of punk to come. You have to look at it partly from historical perspective to conclude that, of course. If I were a poor, possibly unemployed middle-class Brit in the 70’s, The Clash would have come as a salvation to me. And today, while the environmental context this music was released in has vanished, it’s appeal still lasts.
- Michael Geoffrey ‘Mick’ Jones ~ Guitars, Vocals
- John Graham ‘Joe Strummer’ Mellor (R.I.P.)~ Guitars, Vocals
- Paul Gustave Simonon ~ Bass Guitar
- ‘Tory Crimes’ Terry Chimes ~ Drums
I’m So Bored With The U.S.A.
Police & Thieves
TO BE CONTINUED...