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lindtbarton said: hey jey why didn't the clash wanna play on the top of the pops?

There’s a simple and a complicated answer to that question.

The simple answer is that they refused to mime*.  The Clash, and Joe Strummer in particular, were very much into the authenticity of their performances – they always wrote for the everyman, played to the everyman, preferred smaller venues, crammed as many audience members as they could backstage after the shows, had as many people as they could in their dressing rooms, talked to everyone, helped people with guitar problems, had local artists open for them, and so on.  To be on Top of the Pops, they would have had to mime their performance, and that went against everything they stood for.

The more complicated answer is also that there was (and still is) a sort of “in-crowd” to pop music, and if you aren’t a part of that, then you’re distinctly out of place.  Despite their success, The Clash were decidedly outsiders in the pop scene, and part of that outsider status was their refusal to mime – something that most groups on the show did without question.  The Clash knew they had different perspectives and different values to the pop crowd, and appearing on the show would have damaged their credibility in more ways than one.  (You’ll notice that other “outsider” bands who’ve appeared on the show have flouted the unwritten rules in various ways; several 1970s proto-punk bands insisted on playing live, the Pogues performed with Shane MacGowan too drunk to mime properly, the Stone Roses played with Ian Brown messing about with his microphone instead of singing, and so on.)  Further to that, none of the members of The Clash were great with authority, and the producers on Top of the Pops wielded far too much over the bands they invited into the studio.

In short, The Clash were a principled band who disagreed with the artifice of the status quo, and Top of the Pops was exactly the opposite of what they wanted to represent.

* Miming, in this case, refers to performing with a specially-recorded backing track.  Band members didn’t actually play their instruments or sing, but the Top of the Pops policy at the time stated (possibly in an attempt at maintaining some last vestige of credibility) that everyone who played on the recorded track had to be present in the studio.

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lindtbarton said: Jey why is there spanish in some songs by The Clash?

Joe Strummer was fascinated by Spain – its history, its people, its stories.  He grew up there for a time when he was young, used to vacation (or run away) there whenever he could, made friends with locals, moved there when The Clash called it quits to try to escape his past; he admired the country’s attitudes and was terrified of the implications of its civil war; he loved Spanish musicians, artists, writers, filmmakers, everything.  He met a Spanish punk band called 091 and liked them so much that he wrote them music, produced their second album, and offered thousands of pounds out of his own pocket to bring it to completion.  He bought himself what he called his “Spanish-American car,” an old silver Dodge muscle car, and drove it all over Spain visiting locations that were meaningful to him.  He fell in love with the work of Federico García Lorca to the point where… well, let me show you:

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(Redemption Song: The Ballad of Joe Strummer, by Chris Salewicz)

In short, Joe loved, or at least was deeply captivated by, everything about Spain.  That’s why he wrote "Spanish Bombs," which references many of his most significant interests in the Spanish Civil War.  It’s why he decided to do the backing vocals to "Should I Stay Or Should I Go?" in Spanish*.  It’s why there’s now a plaza dedicated to him in Granada, his favourite location in Spain.  And it’s why so much of, not just The Clash’s, but all of Joe Strummer’s work, contains Spanish language and references to Spain.

* About this song: you might notice that the Spanish in this particular song doesn’t make much grammatical sense.  What happened is that Joe decided at the very last minute that he wanted to do the backing vocals in Spanish.  His own patchy knowledge of the language was all Castellano, while Joe Ely’s was all Mexican (or “Tex-Mex,” as he refers to it himself).  They got the tape operator, Eddie Garcia, to help them translate by reading the lyrics over the phone to his mum, and she was Ecuadorian, so what they ended up with was a mashed-up, not-entirely-accurate translation.

Also, hey: if you’re interested at all in Joe Strummer’s wilderness years (or, perhaps, his Spanish-American car), there’s an extremely cool documentary project here that could definitely use more publicity.  Check it out!

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This is “White Riot,” by The Clash, which most or all of you have certainly heard before.  It’s the first song they ever released, one of the first they ever played together, and – in the case of Strummer and Jones – also one of the last they ever played together (they didn’t do it often; despite its popularity, Mick didn’t think much of the song musically).

What’s really interesting, though, is this bit  – one of the first they ever played together.  Yesterday was the thirty-seventh anniversary of that gig, played at the Black Swan in Sheffield supporting the Sex Pistols.  To be strictly fair, it was too early for The Clash to be playing; they were only up on stage so that they could beat rival band The Damned to their first live show.  The Clash had been together just over a month and rehearsing for less than that; they hadn’t finalized their line-up (at the time, it was Joe, Paul, Mick and Keith Levene; Terry Chimes was drumming but hadn’t been formally invited to join the band); and, let’s face it, they weren’t great.  They weren’t actually even all that good, which is why (at Bernie Rhodes’ insistence, one of only a few good decisions he ever made on the band’s behalf) they holed themselves up in Rehearsal Rehearsals immediately after this gig and practised for five weeks before playing again, this time to a small, select audience in their studio.  As you well know, they smashed the scene with that show, earning rave (and not-so-rave) reviews and lighting the torches for their runaway career – but the fact remains that it was on the fourth of July, 1976, that The Clash made their first, unforgettable (despite Bernie Rhodes’ best efforts) appearance.

That, at any rate, is worth remembering.

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From the NME, September 10, 1983, on the announcement of Mick Jones’ departure from The Clash.

From the NME, September 10, 1983, on the announcement of Mick Jones’ departure from The Clash.

Tags: The Clash
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I think everyone needs to remember occasionally that Mick Jones actually wrote this song.  And that it was the first song he ever played with Joe Strummer.  And that then The Clash performed it, with Joe on vocals, for a year.

Also, while we’re at it, I’d like to remind you all that Mick convinced Joe to join The Clash by playing “Protex Blue" for him.

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whatwouldjoestrummerdo:

Hello, and welcome to What Would Joe Strummer Do?
This is a mostly-silly, occasionally-serious “advice” blog (we use the term loosely) full of doodles and ridiculousness.  Your questions are more than welcome, and will be answered both in words and with drawings featuring Joe Strummer and occasional guest appearances by the rest of The Clash and friends.  Have a problem in your life that only the Punk Rock Warlord himself can solve?  Feel free to drop us a line!
Our ask box is officially open as of today. There’ll be a two-week break while we collect questions and work on responses, so shoot us anything you’d like; after that, the ask box will (of course) stay open, but we’ll begin posting!
Guidelines for asking questions are here.About us is here.

So this is our next project.  Joe Strummer!  Dreadful advice!  Ridiculous cartoons!  An askblog completely dependent on audience participation!
Do you need some advice from a hapless crowd of young British punks and the voice of a generation?  If so, please send some asks our way!

whatwouldjoestrummerdo:

Hello, and welcome to What Would Joe Strummer Do?

This is a mostly-silly, occasionally-serious “advice” blog (we use the term loosely) full of doodles and ridiculousness.  Your questions are more than welcome, and will be answered both in words and with drawings featuring Joe Strummer and occasional guest appearances by the rest of The Clash and friends.  Have a problem in your life that only the Punk Rock Warlord himself can solve?  Feel free to drop us a line!

Our ask box is officially open as of today. There’ll be a two-week break while we collect questions and work on responses, so shoot us anything you’d like; after that, the ask box will (of course) stay open, but we’ll begin posting!

Guidelines for asking questions are here.
About us is here.

So this is our next project.  Joe Strummer!  Dreadful advice!  Ridiculous cartoons!  An askblog completely dependent on audience participation!

Do you need some advice from a hapless crowd of young British punks and the voice of a generation?  If so, please send some asks our way!

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"Clampdown" is one of my (many) favourite songs by The Clash, for a variety of reasons.  Generally, I’m cautious about cover versions of certain songs (some just don’t work; I don’t think anyone could ever adequately cover Joy Division’s "Disorder" or New Order’s "Regret," for instance), but this one is such a different take that it works startlingly well.  It’s haunting, it’s subtle, it’s beautiful; it’s The National, and they make something completely new of the song.

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I swear this is the last video I’ll post from the Strummerville benefit gig.  I’ve got to get it up now, so that I can move on to bothering you all with media from this past weekend’s convention and music-of-Doctor-Who panel.

This was pretty great; it was the closer at both shows (so Giles and I got to see it twice), they had everyone who’d done an appearance get back up on the stage, they had the whole audience sing it (which is something Joe used to do, especially after The Clash when he’d play this song with other bands), it was good.

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This is Jesse Malin at the Strummerville benefit show in New York.  He was pretty great (everyone was pretty damned great, but still) and he opened both times with “Safe European Home,” which is what The Clash used to do; three fast-and-furious rockers, Joe would say, and then the audience would have used up all their excess energy and be ready to listen to what he had to say.  Because of having gotten there late, this is the first song Giles and I heard of the earlier show, which is kind of cool in a true-to-The-Clash way.  (Besides, musically, it’s always been one of my favourites of theirs; I’m glad I got to hear it twice.)  It was a good night.

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Let me introduce you to the man who holds the record for least fucks given ever.  This is Willie Nile performing “Police on My Back” at last night’s double Strummerville benefit gig in New York City (covering a Clash song that is itself an Equals cover).  He was brilliant and I hope that when I am sixty-four I am as awesome as this guy.