Wednesday, December 07, 2016

The Twelve Days of Gheorghemas: Day Three Finale

On the third day of Gheorghemas, Big Gheorghe gave to me 

Three Punk Rock Playlists 
Two Digits Throughout History 
And the debut of Mac McFis-ty

Rounding out Day Three. I'm exhausted, but I enjoyed working on this.  You're forgiven if you gloss over my meandering text, but listen to the music.  If music could talk...
  1. 1970’s punk, excepting three pillars
  2. The Ramones
  3. The Clash
  4. The Sex Pistols
  5. 1980’s through today’s punk
This Is Radio Clarence: Punk Chronicles Vol. 5 

I could talk all day about The Clash. (I won’t.) They are known internationally as The Only Band That Matters. Mattered, I guess, though they seem alive and well when you’re cranking “Clash City Rockers” at a high volume. I consider Joe Strummer to be, in addition to punk rock warlord, a high prophet and one of the coolest guys not just to rock a Mohawk but ever to roam the planet. The Clash are, and have been since the 1980’s, my favorite band of all time. Bar none.

Essential Facts 

Joe Strummer (née John Mellor) – sang and played guitar
Mick Jones – sang and played guitar
Paul Simonon – played bass and sang on rare occasions
Nicky “Topper” Headon – drummed (like a mf)

[There were others: Terry Chimes, the original drummer who plays on the first album, and the three younger dudes who stepped in and filled out what would later be called The Clash II when Joe sacked most everyone, a subsequently disavowed record and lineup. But the four above comprise The Clash to most.]

They are all still alive except Joe. Joe Strummer died right before Christmas in 2002 at age 52. I know some folks were bummed at the recent deaths of Bowie, Prince, and others they grew up listening to; I talked to our pal Otis, another huge Clash fan, right after Strummer died. The sentiment exchanged was disbelief. Not just that Joe died from an undiagnosed congenital heart defect right as he was trying to re-form The Clash, months before they would be honored at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame . . . but disbelief that the passing of someone we’d never met saddened us that overwhelmingly. It sucked, it still sucks. Years later, this article depicted people who'd obviously been hit harder by it.  Life is short. Live well. Please read this interview and listen to Joe’s BBC words to keep you on the righteous path: Without people, you’re nothing. Amen.
Whitney and Joe, NYC
The Clash began as a band owing some small credit to The Sex Pistols (and The Damned and others who get less obvious credit), a London punk band in 1976. Refusing to rest on those laurels or be caged inside hi-fi stereotype, however, they almost immediately rose above punk’s three chord din and infused a number of other elements into their mix. If you can imagine the Pistols covering “Police and Thieves,” which the Clash did in 1977, as anything but a snide send-up, your imagination is more inventive than mine. Time has been kind to The Clash; my earliest education of the band made them seem runners-up to the Pistols in the punk movement, but by now, the reputation and credibility of The Clash lapped the loutish lads in Lydon’s lot long ago.

That said, their presence on the airwaves is still nearly completely limited to the Big 4:
  1. “London Calling” (omnipresent backdrop to any TV show or movie scene where people travel to the UK…ugh)
  2. “Rock the Casbah” (I’d be sick of it and change the station at first note if it weren’t so damn good)
  3. “Train in Vain (Stand By Me)” still a classic with an oft-sampled Topper drum track
  4. “Should I Stay or Should I Go” (more on this later)
If it unspools, use a pencil
That's all you hear.  Just silly, as there are many more Clash tunes deserving of airplay. I’ll throw some at you below. When I was a kid, I had heard two of the Big 4 on the radio but didn’t know much of the band beyond that.

Then Combat Rock hit in 1982, and it was one of my earliest cassette purchases. Wore it out. Side 1 was aces, Side 2 was deuces. Rewind button hit frequently. Thinking about doing that takes me back.

Wish I’d been old/smart/cool enough to see them at William and Mary Hall that year. Dammit.
Seven years later, I took a job working for part of the summer at Willoughby Bay Marina. The once huge marina facility is now gone, leveled to make room for condos that never got built thanks to recessive times, but you see the land where it was every time you ascend from the Hampton Roads Bridge-Tunnel heading westbound. Crap job I had. I scraped barnacles off the bottom of sailboats and repainted the hulls, did odd jobs, and invented stupid games that the lifers who worked there picked up on immediately. Long hours in the summer swelter with my brain in dry-dock storage. The best hours of the day were in my folks’ car going to and fro. With AC. And a tape deck.

A somewhat random purchase at the start of the summer proved to be a real highlight and an introduction to a back catalogue that made me think that I was way late to the party, but one has kept me entertained for going on three decades since. The Story of The Clash Volume 1, on two clear cassettes. (Vol. 2 never happened.) First listens of “Complete Control,” “Tommy Gun,” "(White Man) In Hammersmith Palais,” and the like all thoroughly intrigued. Loved it. Put it in the Walkman while I painted. Wore it out.

*  *  *  *  *

The Clash formed in 1976 as a supergroup with members from the London SS and the 101ers.  The latter band actually had an album of raw but enjoyable materials.  "Keys to Your Heart" and "Letsagetabitarockin" entertain but foreshadow very little of what would come next.

The Clash's eponymously titled first record is pure punk rock. It is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up. Give 'Em Enough Rope followed, including Dave's favorite Clash song.  Softened some of the rough edges.  Once again, no hint at what would follow.

London Calling was released this month, 1979. And then it was on.  19 songs. 2 LP's.  5 million copies sold. Enough has been written on this record.  Rolling Stone named it the best album since ever, back when they wrote articles about music.  Just get it, sit down, and spend an hour with the volume way up.  ("Elevator, goin' up!")

Sandinista! followed the next year, a bloated 3-LP mixed bag of reggae, pop, experimental, dub, children singing, maybe a little punk, what have you.  Critiqued less glowingly.  Underrated.  I sent Otis a list of what it could have been as a single album.  Damn fine:
  1. The Magnificent Seven
  2. Somebody Got Murdered 
  3. Rebel Waltz 
  4. One More Time 
  5. Up In Heaven (Not Only Here) 
  6. The Sound of the Sinners 
  7. Police on My Back 
  8. The Call Up 
  9. Lose This Skin 
  10. Charlie Don't Surf 
  11. Lightning Strikes (Not Once But Twice) 
  12. If Music Could Talk
The aforementioned Combat Rock followed, after a few one-off singles.  New popular heights, which absolutely killed the band. Trust Clarence, it's hard to handle such acclaim.

Then:

Topper gets punted for being a junkie's junkie.  "The Human Drum Machine" wallows in his misery for decades.  This story here is well told and has a happy ending, but not until after some depravity. One particularly sad scene is told by Topper when he saw Terry Chimes mimicking drums in the video for "Rock the Casbah," released after Topper had been clipped from the band.  That song was Topper's own; he'd been in the studio without his mates one day and had laid down the drums, bass and piano (which comprise most of the music in the song).  Joe added new lyrics later.  Arguably the Clash's biggest hit, "Rock the Casbah" wasn't a Strummer/Jones composition for once, but Topper's brainchild, and watching Chimes at the kit for all the world to see sent him spiraling further downward.

Mick, the Keith to Joe's Mick or the John to Joe's Paul, is sent packing while Paul stays.  Follow?  Joe and Paul then pick up three young blokes to round out a pseudo-Clash that produces Cut the Crap but loses remaining street cred and is later considered to never have happened, like Rocky V, Jaws 3-D, or Highlander II.  (It did produce two songs I enjoy.  Guilty pleasure.)

And then they're done.  Big Audio Dynamite, Havana 3AM, The Good Bad and the Queen, Carbon/Silicon, and The Mescaleros ensue.  Decent to very good.  But not The Clash.  They told us lightning strikes not once but twice, but they had it in a bottle for seven years and once it was gone, it was gone for good.  Especially now that Joe is up in heaven.

*  *  *  *  *
Rob knows that I have somewhat obsessively populated my Clash library in the years that followed. Disc and digital acquisitions of every studio album, live material galore, b-sides, rarities, outtakes, demos, compilations of every sort. A bit over the top, actually. (I don't have these.) Here’s what you “need”:

Essential Viewing: I loved The Future Is Unwritten, the documentary about Joe Strummer. Trailer here. Westway to the World and The Rise and Fall of The Clash also entertain and educate. Would like to see the tangentially related London Town, out this year.  Pre-release showings in London, NYC, Norfolk, VA, and I fucking missed it.  Clarence can fail.


Essential Reading: There are dozens of books about The Only Band That Matters, including at least one with that title. Way too many. Enough cashing in already. I’ve read a few. I liked Last Gang in Town by Marcus Gray, A Riot of Our Own by former roadie and road manager Johnny Green, and the huge neon pink tome simply titled The Clash.

Essential Listening: In the album-buying era, you could do plenty worse than that Story of the Clash Volume 1 grab bag. Clash on Broadway expanded upon that. As far as studio albums, it generally goes without saying that you start with London Calling and travel wherever you want from there. That album brings it well beyond any hype about it.

Honestly, they have five albums, six if you count that the US version of the first album is markedly different than the UK.  Throw in Black Market Clash and you have a 7-pack of the best stuff ever composed and compiled.  I have tried to shy away from good/bad/better/best when it comes to artistic opinion, but come now, children.  This shit is the best.  Listening to all this music while penning this post has reminded me just how much that's true.

Anyway… in August of this year, Dave posted a Stranger Things clip at SoD that featured “Should I Stay or Should I Go.” In a tremendously pompous and music snobby retort, someone commented:
“The Clash is indeed the only band that matters. Though I would put SISOSIG at about my 37th favorite Clash tune.

I can list 1-36 if you run out of content here.”
Dave, after much consideration, here’s the list. Enjoy. And remember: without people, you're nothing.

45 comments:

Shlara said...

Day Three of Gheorghemas is "Three posts from Clarence"?

Clarence said...

Is that okay?

Marls said...

Post count!!

rob said...

hush, shlara. if he sees his shadow, we'll never get day 12.

Squeaky said...

As far as compilations of The Clash go, you also can't go wrong with 'From Here to Eternity: Live'. There is a killer 6 minute version of The Magnificent Seven on it. That CD stayed in my car 6 changer in constant rotation for well over 2 years.

Never have seen all four together but it was good to see Mick and Paul play together when touring with Gorillaz on the last tour. Throwing in a couple of Clash tunes didn't hurt either.

Well done, Clarence.

Mark said...

At Orlando airport on our way to DC. The Teej is kindly picking us up today. 80 degrees in Florida his morning. I'm guessing it will be slightly colder in our nation's capital.

rob said...

arctic front coming in at this very moment, mark. hope you packed your fur-lined flip flops.

TR said...

6.9 magnitude earthquake off coast of N Cali this morning. Nothing crafty about that.

TR said...

Or fratty, for that matter.

#autocorrect

Marls said...

So Trump is picking the CEO of Hardee's as secretary of labor. It sort of feels like he is trolling America at this point.

zman said...

Trump is beyond trolling, he's actively giving the finger to the past 20-or-so years of progressive policy-making.

Mark said...

Linda fucking McMahon is in his cabinet. This isn't trolling. It's dunderheaded cronyism at its highest levels.

And I did pack flip flops, if only to wear around TJs house. I also don't own a winter coat so I'll be cold and using that as my excuse to frequently duck in to bars over the next day or three.

Marls said...

Rick Astley at the Kennedy Center honors is going to be awesome.

TR said...

If he goes off the reservation w/ a pick, he's a clown. If he goes w/ a seasoned D.C. vet, he's lying about draining the swamp.

Trump picking successful executives who have run large businesses is low on my list of concerns about him, of which I have many.

Mark said...

Due to a technical snafu and delayed flights the wife and I were just on a flight to Puerto Rico. Realized the screw up in time though. Now delayed for an hour before flight leaves.

Mark said...

He picked Linda fucking McMahon, TR.

And he's a clown regardless.

T.J. said...

Uh...

T.J. said...

...though Puerto Rico is much warmer than DC.

Mark said...

I've got people in Puerto Rico so we definitely would've made the weekend work but that would've been a fucked up mistake.

Mark said...

Flight delayed again. Might be drunk by the time TJ picks us up.

T.J. said...

I'd expect nothing less.

Mark said...

On the flight, finally, almost missed it because we were drinking AND we left a personal margherita pizza at the bar because Jet Blue was threatening us with closing the door after multiple delays and gate changes. Traveling: always about the customer.

TR said...

I hear ya Marls. I'm partial to HHH over Linda. He's a more integral part of the WWE these days.

Marls said...

That was Mark. I have no problem with Linda. If default rates at the SBA begin to rise she will understand that it is Trump's duty to hit her with the DDT.

zman said...

My concern isn't so much his appointees' pedigrees as their worldview and how it relates to their appointment. For example, putting a guy who doesn't care about environmental protection in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Clarence said...

So the Grammy nominations are out. It's a joke at this point, but here we go again.

I'll hold off and still savor this music I love before waxing indignant.

Squeaker, I missed a chance to see Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros, telling myself that one day I would. Whoops. I'd still like to see Mick and Paul. And maybe Topper unless he's still driving a cab.

Clarence said...

When I was in college at William & Mary, there was a three-year-old girl who lived in Williamsburg at the time who started taking ballet lessons in town.

At the same time, I had an opportunity to see the Rolling Stones' Steel Wheels tour. I passed it up because those guys were way too old and past their heyday. (Unrelated: I saw them in 2013.)

That ballerina is now 29 and just had a baby. Mick Jagger is the father. Lordy. Apparently he has a great-grand-daughter older than his new son. My my.


As Buck used to say, my third wife hasn't even been born yet.

Mark said...

I feel like that Mick Jagger anecdote has been passed along here before. Not the Williamsburg part but the wife younger than his daughter part.

Marls- stop disagreeing with me or I'll DDT you tomorrow when you show up for happy hour. You are showing up for happy hour, right?

We've arrived and are drinking in one of TJ's local taverns.

The rap Grammy nominations aren't absolutely terrible for once.

zman said...

That last comment from Clarence made me do some googling.

Mick was about 28 when he had Jade, who was 20 when she had Assisi, who was 21 when she had Ezra (a girl) who is now about 2. Jade also had a kid, Ray, a few weeks after Ezra was born. So Ray's aunt is a month older than him. That's some precocious procreation.

TR said...

Unrelated - the new look in NYC for women these days is very long, very tight boots that come up over the knee. These are being paired w/ very short mini skirts. And sometimes the women wear winter coats that are longer than the skirt, but still above the knee.

Walking around looking like a naked stripper is a strong, to quite strong, look. The 20-something ladies out there trying to catch my eye will want to know this stuff.

Mark said...

That's been a look in Florida for some time. Easier to pull off because it's not actually cold in Florida. I always approve of boots and skirts. Always.

Caught a UCF student doing the yoga pants and big boots look at the Orlando airport today. It too was strong.

Dave said...

good one, clarence. the clash still really hold up-- i still listen to them often and my kids like them as well. that's a musical miracle.

i believe several clash songs made the dorm room wall in the six cd changer game hall of fame.

am i doing day seven or day eleven?

Dave said...

wtf? this post goes on for several posts. fire and gasoline! that guy has a memory like an elephant. a white elephant.

mr kq said...

Love this post, great stuff. Although I might have had Washington Bullets on the Sandinista single lp. Never saw The Clash, saw BAD a few times - at Bayou and some gym in Adams Morgan. Where's the HH drink up?

zman said...

Toto is fully operational and paying immediate dividends. No squatty potty necessary.

rob said...

life-changing, z. i expect your performance around here to pick up substantially.

zman said...

It's so choice. when I sat down for the first time and felt the heated seat I giggled like a schoolgirl.

TR said...

My Tokyo trip is 96.9% confirmed for late January, Zman. I look forward to sharing defecation tales with you soon!

Whitney said...

Mr KQ, that gym- Radio Music Hall? Future site of 930? Rob and I saw TMBG there.

TR said...

Oakland insists on making their life hard. But they also insist on making this game close, which will crush me tmrw. I blame them for the 1030 PM scotch I just poured.

Whitney said...

TR, I'm staring down yet another Dale's Pale Ale. I'm gonna win.

TR said...

We'll see about that, Whit. I'm done with both my scotch and my feeble attempt to match your pal Clarence's punk troika of posts.

That 530 AM alarm will suck a whole lot.

Bye Gheorghies.

Marls said...

Good Morning TR

"Good Morning TR" sounds like a morning program broadcast live from Istanbul bringing you all the news and top hits to rock you from the Bosporus to the Dardanelles".

Maybe the team behind "ZMan and the Teej" can get that one on the air.

Marls said...

NY post is reporting that Bobby Valentine is up for ambassador to Japan. Personally I think that Selleck would be a better choice based solely on his work in Mr. Baseball.

zman said...

Selleck will get ambassador to Hawaii.