Live on British TV:
I came to The Clash late in my life, so I feel guilty laying claim to the label “Clash fan.” I know, I know, that’s kind of silly. None the less, I have more enlightened friends who’ve loved them for years – who loved them before the break-up and assorted post-band projects; who’ve loved them through Cut The Crap; who’ve loved them since before “Rock The Casbah” and “Train in Vain;” who’ve pretty much loved them from the start. They welcome me as a Clash fan and have never given me a hard time about my late interest in the band, but I still feel like I’m playing catch-up with them all the time.
From their debut in ’77 through the exit of Mick Jone and Topper Headon in ’83 – a mere six years – there wasn’t a band in existence that could hold a candle to them in terms of breadth of style or sheer energy of performance. The Clash shattered perceptions about what punk rock meant – indeed, by the time they broke up, using the word “punk rock” to describe what they played was almost ludicrous.
I’m not writing anything here that a thousand people have written before – and far better than I’m writing it. It is with some justification that The Clash were referred to as the only band that mattered.
The very first Clash album was titled The Clash and released in 1977, but this album was not released by their record company in the U.S. because they didn’t have faith in it getting airplay. Their second album, and the first to be released in the U.S., was 1978′s Give ‘em Enough Rope. This was enough of a success in the U.S. for the record company, in 1979, to release a slightly different version of The Clash in the U.S. Four songs – “Deny,” “Protex Blue,” “Cheat,” and “48 Hours” – were replaced by some of The Clash’s non-album singles – “Complete Control,” “(White Man) In Hammersmith Palais,” “Clash City Rockers,” “I Fought The Law” and “Jail Guitar Doors.”
There are folks who prefer one version to the other, but I prefer what iTunes allows me to do, which is to include all nine of these songs back to back. For the sake of these entries, I am going to follow the track listing on the U.S. version of the album and follow it immediately by the U.K. only tracks. For a complete listing of how the tracks were ordered on the original U.K. release, check out the Wikipedia entry on The Clash.
“Clash City Rockers” is one of many five star Clash songs in my library. As AllMusic.com points out, it features one of the great guitar riffs of all time. It also takes on David Bowie and Gary Glitter (at least one of whom I very much like) as the artists of the past. Its funny to think that, as early as 1978, there were already folks saying that Bowie was finished. More on that around June.
Anyhow, “Clash City Rockers” absolutely has held up over time. In fact, I would argue that The Clash, better than many of their punk contemporaries, often sound as fresh now as they did when they actually, you know, existed.