Saturday, October 5, 2013

77. The Clash (1977) The Clash

  1. Janie Jones
  2. Remote Control
  3. I'm So Bored with the USA
  4. White Riot
  5. Hate & War
  6. What's My Name?
  7. Deny
  8. London's Burning
  9. Career Opportunities
  10. Cheat
  11. Protex Blue
  12. Police & Thieves
  13. 48 Hours
  14. Garageland 

Here's a question: Do I really like The Clash or do I just really like the idea of The Clash? I'm sure I'm not the only person on the planet who has declared "I don't really like Punk but I love The Clash". It's easy to love later era Clash, which is more straight ahead rock and roll, but the question is do I actually like their original punk album? It's a loud, shouty punk record which was recorded in a few weekends by a bunch of brash and arrogant youngsters who felt attitude was more important than musical virtuosity. I first heard this album when I was 16 and I bought it second-hand on cassette. I played it a lot and loved it. It was loud and angry and it said nasty things about America (it was cool not to like the USA at the time) and it was punk and I had it in my head that Punks were cool. I never wanted to put a safety pin through my nose or dye my hair in a mohawk but I liked the idea of liking punk music. It felt cool and underground.

Fast forward a few years (and a few decades) and I no longer think punk is cool but there's a part of me that appreciates having an entry point into a certain genre. I don't have to pretend there's an entire musical style that I can't access. I don't have to say "I don't like all punk" because clearly I like the Clash. But do I really or is my inner 16 year old still hanging around thinking he's with it?

That green cassette has long gone the way of all my cassettes (and millions of others) but listening to The Clash lets me make up my mind once and for all.

You know, I still like them. The Clash are great. London's Burning, White Riot, Janie Jones, I'm so Bored with the USA, Career Opportunities and Police and Thieves are all fantastic songs. They're simple, basic, unpretentious and can be played by anyone with only a few lessons on their instrument but they're fun and infectious and hold up to repeated listens. Every time each one started I was hit by a pleasing sense of nostalgia. But that's not to say I only enjoyed this album because it reconnected me with my 16 year old self. I've re-listened to a few of my teenage musical tastes lately and shaken my head in wonder trying to work out what the attraction was. But listening to The Clash made me wonder why I stopped listening to that tape in my twenties.

Looking back on it the appeal of The Clash seems to be that they took themselves seriously as musicians from the outset. They were a band and they felt like it. Other groups, The Sex Pistols most notably, felt like they were part of a movement, or more accurately a passing fad. They weren't punk musicians they were punks who happened to play music to get their attention. Consequently their album feels trapped in time and hasn't lasted as well as the music of the sixties that it claimed to rebel against. But The Clash were a band in their own right who happened to have a punk sensibility. They may have gradually moved away from their roots into more eclectic territory but initially this was the music they loved and wanted to create and it shows. It's not a means to an end, it's the end in itself and so it was the beginning of a fantastic career.

It's worth pointing out that the album I enjoyed all those years ago was the original English version which the band recorded and released back in 1977. The version that appears on this list is the American re-release that came out two years later. The US version dropped some tracks in favour of a few singles the band had recorded more recently. The result is a weird collection that sounds like a coherent album with other bits tacked on, which is exactly what it is. The later singles sound more produced and generally slicker than the original tracks.  The Clash's version of I fought The Law is fantastic but the multi-tracked vocals and overdubbed guitars meant this song probably took longer to record than the entire British version of the album. There is also a clear attempt to try and temper the vocals into a more conventional style that would be acceptable to American audiences.

Enjoy The Clash, not because it gives you some form of punk credentials, but because it's a great collection of songs and it's a lot of fun to listen to. And make sure you enjoy it in its original format. They spent three whole weekends recording and mixing it so the least you can do is dedicate 35 minutes to enjoying it.

Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: "Rock and Roll in every way, angry, but written with such panache, "

-Goodness knows punk needs more panache. I'm sick of panache-free punk. Well said that man.

So does this have panache for you or clash with the rest of your music collection? Let me know below.


  1. !st listening now. What fun.

    1. Yeah it is kind of fun. Probably more fun that Punk should normally be.