Probably as close as you’ll get to hearing the band live today.
Susie Goldring 2007
Often compared to the Sex Pistols, with whom they hung out, The Clash had just as much raw energy, but a lot more to say. Whilst the gobbing anarchic former raged against everything for the sake of anything, the well-mannered, socially aware latter raged about injustice and poverty for the sake of revolution.
Joe Strummer, Mick Jones, Paul Simonon, Keith Levene and Terry Chimes had been spending most of their time hanging out in the bars and high rises of west London when they recorded The Clash. This band wrote about what they knew: clashes with police, clashes between black and white, clashes with each other. They couldn’t have come from anywhere other than London.
Whether it's with the Ramones-like burst that is White Riot, inciting activism in Britain’s disaffected white youth, or London's Burning which tells of drugs, boredom and apathy, The Clash sums up what it was like to be young in London in the 1970s. Elsewhere, Career Opportunities is about living off the dole, and Garageland simply celebrates being in a band.
The band raised its profile backing the Pistols on the now infamous 1976 Anarchy Tour. Despite some initial bad reviews - NME wrote, "They are the kind of garage band who should be speedily returned to the garage with the motor running" - the boys were signed to CBS and this debut was speedily recorded. Pretty soon after, Terry Chimes was replaced by Topper Headon as the band's drummer, though it wasn’t until 1979 that CBS released the album in the States, worrying perhaps too much that this London export wouldn’t go down so well across the Atlantic. As it happens, I’m So Bored With the USA was loved by fans and the band were known to open their US gigs with the track.
This debut buzzes with the arrogance of youth who have something to prove. Each member brought a slight different influence, whether it was Joe's folk lyricism and rockabilly rhythms, Mick's rock adulation for the Stones, Mott the Hoople and the Faces or Paul Simonon’s Brixton-born reggae, what you get is a unique blend.
With a fingers-up gesture to the music press, it was Micky Foote – the band's touring soundman - who was recruited to oversee the recording in an attempt to recreate the band's live sound. The Clash is probably as close as you’ll get to hearing them live today and paved the way for their classic, London Calling.