purpleronin 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.