Why was the Clash the "only band that mattered"?

Insert obligatory reference to REM as “the only band that mutters”.

One big thing they had going for them was they actually cared about their fans. In the early days the band would commonly sneak people in through the dressing room or got people onto the guest list when they couldn’t afford a ticket. When their show at the Bonds casino in new york they ended up staying and playing 17 shows to accommodate everyone who bought tickets instead of canceling.

The group also fought to keep the price of their albums affordable. London Calling was originally sold as a double disc for the price of a single. I believe that Sandinista was also similarly discounted.

Musically they were were somewhat a cut above. Their first album varied it’s sound significantly more than the other original crop of brit punk bands. Police and Thieves & White Man In Hammersmith Palais both delved into reggae, which would become a prominent part of the sound in the coming years. Later on The Clash started using other styles in their songs, such as rockabilly,ska and jazz. They also managed to managed to create their own sound style. Joe Strummer’s simple guitar playing and distinct voice juxtaposed with Topper Headon’s(who was originally a jazz drummer) brilliant drumming helped to generate a uniqueness that wasn’t found in any other bands of the day. They also managed to evolve and stay significant without jumping on the new wave bandwagon.

As I said, and as evidenced by the above quote, it was largely a case street-cred snobbery to distinguish themselves from the new wave acts, which were considered by Clash fans to be artistically inferior. Nothing unusual there; fans of one genre will always see more in their favorite artists than in artists under a different genre, whether the comparison is valid or not.

Needless to say, there were serious artists and poseurs among all the genres of the 80s–as in genres of any era–but the line was pretty distinctly drawn between punk and new wave. A few acts like the Clash and Siouxsie had respect across the divide, but the Clash had a lot of fans that looked down their noses at any music they viewed as inauthentic.

Definitely true. I remember when London Calling came out, and it was the same price as other single albums, approximately $7.98 at the time. We all found it to be a very good deal, with 18 cuts for such a low price (actually 19, with “Train in Vain,” which was not mentioned on the album cover, and which soon would be a top 10 hit). There was so much ecclecticism spread over those cuts, also, with rockabilly, ska, jazz and reggae-flavoured tunes that were definitely a departure from the self-titled first album and Give 'Em Enough Rope, both of which were pretty much punk, but much less threatening punk than that of the Sex Pistols/Buzzcocks/Siouxie and the Banshees type. The other thing is that the group was on record in the rock press as fighting with Epic, their label, to keep the price down, although this was likely a marketing gimmick to ensure sales.

Unfortunately, Sandanista! which was also inexpensive with 36 (!) cuts in reminiscent of The Beatles’ *White Album *-- it would have made a much better album if it had been shortened, although it basically took the idea of an album like London Calling and expanded it to a third disc. I wouldn’t say avoid it totally, but it’s definitely not the Clash album one would start with.

Incidentally, the same idea of a longer than normal album at a regular album price would next be utilized for Elvis Costello and the Attractions Get Happy!

Combat Rock stands as the 2nd greatest rock album ever recorded, right behind The Shape Of Punk To Come by Refused.

nitpick: Joe Strummer is the reason the band had a political bent to it at all. When he joined the band, Mick was the principal songwriter, and most of his songs were (and continued to be) pop songs about love. Joe came in and the first thing he did, he heard Mick play a song called “I’m So Bored With You” and he changed it to “I’m So Bored With The U.S.A.”. Musically, what brought them together was a love for The Ramones, another loud fast band that mostly wrote pop song-style ditties.

Also, Topper was an incredibly gifted drummer, able to change styles within a song and helping the band come up with bridges. Unfortunately, he is also a heroin addict, and the time they spent in NYC recording Combat Rock also placed him in easy reach of the drug. The time they spent in NYC opened the guys’ up to new influences such as the bourgening hip-hop/breakdance scene, but it also brought Topper’s addiction to the fore. To his great credit, he acknowledges that it was his addiction that ultimately brought down the band, as issues arising from it fueled other disagreements until it was a spiral that could not be stopped. His confession and acknowledgement of this burden are very forthright and sad (it’s in either Westway To The World or The Essential Clash DVD).

For me, The Clash exist right at the pinnacle of Rock-N-Roll Mountain, up there with The Minutemen and Neil Young in that class of Musicians Who Can Pretty Much Nail Any Song Or Style They Try.

Oh, and if you don’t think Combat Rock is one of the greatest recordings of all time, I urge you to go back, listen to it again all the way thru while reading the lyrics, and then realize that most of them were about 25 years old or so when they wrote those songs (Joe Strummer was about 28 years old).

Combat Rock? Am I living in an alternate reality? A good album, but hell I’d put Big Audio Dynamites first album as a better example of a ‘perfect’ album ahead of Combat Rock.

So I just listened to the self titled album.

The album kind of starts off slowly. Remote Control was kind of mediocre and uninteresting. I’m So Bored With The USA wasn’t all that great either. I really disliked the chorus on that song. The next song, White Riot was good. The beginning reminded me of The Ramones and the rest of the song was great too. From that point on until Police & Thieves, I enjoyed it. I don’t care too much for the Reggae so Police & Thieves kind of sucked. The final two songs were pretty good.

Mark me down as a Combat Rock fan. “Straight To Hell” and “Rock The Casbah” are damn near perfect songs.

Incidentally, Topper Headon played all of the major instruments on “Rock The Casbah” - drums, piano, bass. I believe the guitars are courtesy of Messrs. Strummer and Jones. And as any Austinite knows, the video was filmed around town, featuring RF-4Cs from Bergstrom AFB and sweaty kids rushing the (old) City Coliseum. Good times.

One of the things I’m proudest of as a father is that my 2.5 year old son is a Clash fan. “Bankrobber,” “White Riot,” “Rock the Casbah,” and “The Call Up” are his favorite songs. To me, they started out like so many of the punk groups, but when Topper got on board they became multidimensional. Reggae, folk, rockabilly, and even hip hop were well within their oeuvre. Headon is easily one of the most underrated drummers of his time.

I actually like some of the songs on Cut the Crap although the album doesn’t hang together particularly well. “This is England” and “Are You Red…y” are good songs, even if it’s basically Strummer, Simonon, some pinch-hitters, and Bernie Rhodes interfering.

I will say this: The Clash are a band with one of the broadest palates I can think of. I tend to go through phases with music and I can always find a Clash song that fits my mood. Whereas if I’m listening to Joy Division (another band I love) for a few weeks and tire of it, I can’t listen to any of their stuff.

I’m speechless! :eek:

It also felt like it was dragging on. I would have liked it better as a three minute song!

Just my opinion. :frowning:

Reggae is perhaps the single worst form of music on the planet, IMO, but I love 2 of the best reggae bands in the world: The Clash and The Police.

I agree that P&T is overly long at 6 minutes, but I still find that I enjoy the song every time I hear it. It’s definitely the weakest part of the album, but as a show of talent and diversity (and a kind of nod of the head to their influences) it’s a pretty remarkable thing. I mean, keep in mind that most of the guys in the band were 20-21 years old when they wrote and recorded this album.

No man, I know it is (largely) taste - and that’s cool. Just had to laugh because I get a thrill every time I hear that bass line …

Yeah, maybe I should go back to Combat Rock and listen to it again, but I’m surprised at some of the superlatives here. I’ve just never been able to get into anything post-London Calling. Sandanista! was an absolute mess of an album, in my opinion, with a few exceptional cuts. And Combat Rock was kind of boring.

Yes. Yes you are. A horrible, taste-free alternative reality. :smiley:

As I said, it doesn’t have my favorite Clash songs on it, but those first six songs that make up Side 1 just work together. I’ve noticed that it is distinctly less awesome when one of them comes up when I have the iPod on shuffle (and that’s not just because it was better on vinyl, dagnammit).

Sandanista! is kind of a mess, due to the band simply putting everything they wrote and recorded on to the album. There was no editing process to wean them down to 10 or 12 or 15 great songs, they simply released (nearly) everything they recorded.

Combat Rock is far from boring, encompassing at least as many musical styles as there are songs, and with contributions from such diverse talents as Ellen Foley (you might remember her as the female part of Paradise By The Dashboard Light by Meat Loaf)*, beat poet Allen Ginsburg and graffiti artist Futura 2000. “Boring” really isn’t a word that can be used to describe the album, IMO.

*Many people (most?) don’t know that Should I Stay Or Should I Go Now? was about Mick Jones’ and Ellen Foley’s relationship.

I’ll have a relisten. It’s been awhile since I heard it as an album, but I always find myself skipping through Combat Rock songs when they come up on shuffle. I do like that Refused album, though, so it’s kind of surprising to me to hear these two albums mentioned in the same breath.

He didn’t realize that she was about to catapult to fame on the tv sitcom Night Court.

Well, she was only on the show for the first season, before being replaced by the terribly coifed but impressively endowed Markie Post.

Ms. Foley did appear in some movies (Cocktail, Fatal Attraction) and on Broadway (Into The Woods).

I read that she now teaches voice at one of the Paul Green Schools in NYC.

Plus she was famous before Night Court. She had appeared in the movie version of Hair and had released a couple of albums. Mick and Joe even wrote 4 or 5 songs for one of her albums and the whole band played for her at times.

Actually, her big song is on Sandinista! (and a great song it is)–does she also appear anywhere on Combat Rock?

[nitpick]
Actually, it was the second season. The public defender the first season was Paula Kelly as Liz Williams.
[/nitpick]