From the outside, it seemed like all was well for The Clash just after releasing their new album Combat Rock
in the spring of 1982. They had officially and successfully cracked the American market and were really experiencing global commercial success for the first time, with popular singles Should I Stay or Should I Go
and Rock The Casbah
on the charts. And the album itself was greeted with strong enough reviews. The Clash were now a mainstream band, whether they liked it or not. But all was not well for The Clash. Drummer Topper Headon was kicked out of the band because of a growing drug addiction and had to be replaced before the upcoming tour and inner tensions were beginning to start between guitarist Mick Jones and lead vocalist/guitarist Joe Strummer leaving the band to recruit former drummer Terry Chimes to play. Chimes would play some dates but would leave largely due to not being able to deal with the growing conflicts within the group. Things still seemed well outside, with Combat Rock reaching gold status; the first of any record of theirs, but still wasn't well for the band. On top of that, fans on both sides of the Atlantic for the first time were eagerly awaiting a new album, and nothing was planned. By September of '83, Mick Jones would be kicked out of The Clash by Joe Strummer and Paul Simonon citing his problematic behaviors as well as drifting apart or in a different direction from the original idea from The Clash. Whether or not these were facts about Jones, The Clash everyone knew and loved was done.
So Mick Jones took that "different direction" to form a new project called Big Audio Dynamite in 1984 (after briefly being a member of the band General Public with members of The English Beat, The Specials and Dexy's Midnight Runners). Mick hooked up with Don Letts, video and film director who did some of The Clash's videos such as London Calling
as well as the short film Clash On Broadway
which appears on the documentry Westway to the World
. Letts would play keyboard and provide backing vocals, while Mick would sing lead vocals and play guitar. Mick and Don also enrolled bassist Leo Williams and drummer Greg Roberts to complete the original band lineup. BAD toured first, opening for bigger bands such as U2 before being signed to CBS record, to record their debut album. The album was released in 1985, coincidentally the same year that The Clash would release their last studio album, Cut The Crap
. The record consisted of a mere 8 songs, but still clocking in at a reasonable duration of just less than forty five minutes with the average song averaging between four to six minutes. Those at the time that were expecting another Clash record were in for something quite different, as the only thing really similar to Mick's old band, other than the odd part here and there, was his voice.
This Is Big Audio Dynamite
is an album of a number of musical styles and genres, something that wasn't unusual for Mick. But the obvious influences here are the pop/dance ones, which are clearly portrayed in almost every song. It has often been said that Jones was the "pop" sense in The Clash, so this would make sense. Another key part of the music is the insertion of strange audio clips, adding a certain touch to each song. The album opener, Medicine Show
, gives off a perfect example of this, as within the first few seconds a poor recorded and misunderstood voice mumbles a few words before the song actually takes its effect. Also in the song is a sample of the classic Clint Eastwood Western film The Good, The Bad, And the Ugly
, the sound just before a shootout, which adds a very cool effect to the song. In fact, the clips make for an unusual plus in the majority of the songs, but may turn off a few at first. As previously stated, there is a diverse range of styles here and Sudden Impact!
has debatably the most dance/techno feel to it. The frequent use of synthesizers and keyboards, along with Mick's clean vocals being echoed makes for a very cool song. Sony
is another song similar sounding to Sudden Impact, but the major difference being Jones' voice. He sings this one with an experimental tone, hitting notes he can't make, but doing them anyway.
was the biggest single off the album and is a good representation of what early BAD sounds like. It encompasses all the key factors of the band including the audio samples, a mix of rock and dance music, Mick's vocals reminiscent of his Clash work, and a smooth, mid-tempo feel to it. Although this album features little to no "rock" in it compared to later work from the group, there is still hints of Mick's rock roots, though very faint. The Bottom Line
, like E=MC2
, incorporates a rock feel along with the signature techno beat. The Bottom Line also displays Jones vocal talent at his best, making it a better one of the eight tracks here. Almost no record of any Clash member could go without some sort of reggae influences and this album is no exception. A Party
is the most reggae sounding song here as well as the longest song at almost seven minutes. A Party
is pretty basic in terms of instruments, as it is basically a typical beat over Mick's voice of changing tempos from a normal tone to high pitched at times. And this one again, doesn't go without some random audio samples.
There are no real bad tracks here, but some average and indeed some stand out ones, for the better or worse. Medicine Show
is my pick for the best on the album. Mick's vocals carry this one, and the overall mellow feel to the song compliments his voice more. If you are familiar with the song Inoculated City
from Combat Rock
, you can get a basic feel of the album because it is the most of any Clash song that showcase BAD's work best. The album finale, Bad
, is another funky number filled with cool effects, but the main thing that separates this one from the rest is the dueling vocals between Mick and Don, which makes for an interesting contrast. Mick and Don also wrote the lyrics for the album and did a respectable job. Some would say Mick was missing his pal Joe Strummer to help him write, but Mick does fine enough with Don. Mick is also credited for writing The Bottom Line
entirely. The lyrics, while not as politically charged or world aware as The Clash's were, as that part belonged to Strummer, had indications of it, namely Stone Thames
and A Party
, but focuses more on surrealistic imagery or stories shown on tracks like Sudden Impact
. Some of the most well written lyrics fall in Sony
, which is about an experience in Japan and its increasing technology.
The first post-Clash group managed to put out a solid debut album showing more of Mick's styles. While the music may not appeal to the average listener of rock or punk, I'd say its worth checking out, especially if you are a fan of The Clash or curious just to see what Mick did afterwards. BAD would continue releasing albums throughout the late eighties and into the nineties, and this one remains one of the best. A reason I think BAD never really picked up fame until later is because perhaps people were still expecting Clash Mick Jones. Point being, although he will not be remembered for BAD, it's worth a listen. A good album, but maybe a little quirky for some at first.
The Bottom Line