Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Clash - 1977




I can count the three or four times I saw the Clash as among the highlights of my concert-going career. The first time I saw them was with Big Mike at the Palladium in September 79 on an eclectic bill that featured Irish power-pop band The Undertones as the opening act, as well as soul legends Sam & Dave of "Hold On I'm Coming" fame. That was the night Paul Simonon smashed his guitar onstage a la the Who, a photo which of course later became the iconic cover for the album London Calling. I still remember the stage announcer imploring the crowd to cheer for Sam & Dave -- Let's hear it for Sam & Dave! One more time! -- only to be met by loud, angry, punk rockers screaming vociferously: Piss Off! Bring On The Fucking Clash! Fuck Off! Good times...

During their famous Bond's run in Times Square in the spring of 1981, the Clash sold far too many tickets and were forced to put on an extra week's worth of shows to accomodate the overflow. We benefited from this because the first night we went security was so bad that nobody took our tickets and so we came back the next night again. That was the absolute height of Clash-mania in the States, with near riots almost every night in front of the club. The sound system inside was superb, and the Clash bravely used a series of unorthodox (at least for punks) opening acts like Grandmaster Flash, Joe Ely, Bo Diddley and Bush Tetras during their residency, if you will.

The last time I caught the Clash was at the West Side Pier around 1982 -- with, if I remember correctly, Tony & Kathy, the future Mr. & Mrs. Trentacosti -- following the Combat Rock album, which would be the Clash's last with the original lineup. Joe Strummer had a mohawk haircut then and I also remember Kurtis Blow, the rapper of "These Are the Breaks" fame, opened up for the band. A few short years later The Clash were no more, leaving behind their deserved reputation as perhaps the last great rock band, certainly the greatest punk band ever, and maybe even The Only Band That Matters, as their early ad campaigns once modestly proclaimed.

Now with regard to the famous London Calling album cover, there is some dispute as to which night the above shot was taken. I distinctly remember Simonon smashing his bass guitar against the stage floor, but the back of the album clearly states the photo was snapped at the Palladium on 9/21/79. So did he smash two guitars on two consecutive nights, which would make this destructive outburst somewhat contrived. (The Clash were very image-conscious and did have a not insignificant degree of poser in them.) 9/20 was the first of their two nights at the Palladium, a Thursday; I remember because the next night their show was broadcast live on the radio, WNEW-FM to be exact, and we all sat around listening to it in 37th Street Park. The Friday show later came out on a bootleg CD, which I have a copy of on cassette. In a review of the 25th anniversary of Calling, it's clearly stated that she took the cover shot on 9/21. So who the fuck really knows. I'm not losing any sleep over it...

2 comments:

lawnguylander said...

I was at that show at the pier in '82. Do you remember Kurtis Blow ducking bottles from some of the more assholish fans?

Wardens World said...

No I can't recall that for the life of me. Punk fans were pretty narrow minded, hah?