The Clash Talk ‘Soundsystem,’ Being Wilder Than The Kinks And Scaring The Who
Younger music fans may be confused when presented with Sound System, the new Clash box set. That’s because it comes in the shape of an old-school boombox, which, these days, is about quaint as a telegraph machine or a crankable record player. You can admire the exterior all you want (or not): what’s actually in the box is the complete discography and then some, of one of the greatest and most influential rock groups of all time. The 12 disc set includes five studio albums in full, three bonus CDs with rarities, DVDs, reproductions of fanzines, a poster, stickers, badges and more. Last week, the Clash’s guitarist Mick Jones and bassist Paul Simonon, along with Clash associate Kosmo Vinyl sat down for an interview with Rolling Stone‘s David Fricke at Wallplay in New York City. After perusing through a gallery of vintage Clash photos (and enjoying Clash-themed drinks, including “Death Or Glory” – a mixture of spiced rum, hot sauce and Pabst Blue Ribbon), the interview began. Here’s a few things we learned:
24 Hour Party People: Paul Simonon noted that being in the Clash “was a 24 hour lifestyle,” which accounts for how they created so much music in little over half a decade. As Kosmo Vinyl recalled, he and the band’s late leader Joe Strummer marveled that Creedence Clearwater Revival released three albums in one year (in 1969), and that inspired the Clash’s fervent recording pace.
White Riot: While punk rockers didn’t have the hotel-wrecking reputation that hard rock bands did, Kosmo Vinyl fondly recalled the band being banned from a hotel, and doing it in record time. At the Sydney Townhouse in Australia, the band walked into the hotel while the Kinks were checking out. “By the time they finished checking out, we were ejected!”
About that time they played in a converted department store: The Clash’s 17 night stand at the Bond International Casino in New York City (formerly Bond’s department store) in May and June of 1981 took place when the band were probably big enough to play a more conventional NYC venue, maybe even Madison Square Garden. So, why didn’t they? Vinyl said,”We didn’t want to just follow the path of other bands. We wanted something more special.”
Radio Clash: One of the opening acts during the aforementioned Bond stand was early hip-hop group Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five. Vinyl recalled, “It was the first presentation of a hip-hop act to a rock audience.” Some of the fans, however, didn’t get it. “There was a big anti-disco resentment” at the time, Vinyl said. Hip-hop was in such an embryonic stage, many hadn’t heard of it yet, and some associated it with disco.
Who’s Last: The Clash opened shows on the Who’s 1982 “farewell” tour of the U.S. Pete Townshend hung out with the band, “But the rest of the Who weren’t very friendly.” Townshend ended up spending more time with the Clash, including playing “football with a tin can” in their dressing room. Years later, however, Roger Daltrey sang guest vocals on the title track of Joe Strummer’s 2001 solo album, Global A Go-Go.
Famous last words? David Fricke quoted Joe Strummer from an interview he’d done with him: “I don’t want to clog up the airwaves with my boring old introspective solo album.” That line got a lot of laughs, but anyone who has heard Strummer’s Global A Go-Go, Rock Art & The X-Ray Style and Streetcore were anything but.
Wise words: The always-dapper Paul Simonon quoted the band’s former manager Bernie Rhodes: “If the audience is better dressed than the band, why should they listen to the band?”
— Brian Ives, Radio.com