The Clash

The Clash

The Clash weren’t just one of the best punk bands of the 1970’s – they were also one of the best bands, in general, of the 1970’s. The simple, three-chord punk anthems of their early career grew into highly ambitious, musically sophisticated tunes that brought together genres from rockabilly to rap, resulting in one of the most influential rock bands of all time.

The members of The Clash were already seasoned musicians when they came together in 1976. Frustrated by the slickness and style of current pop music, they started writing raw punk songs in the style of The Sex Pistols, combining the sound with politically meaningful and direct lyrics. They got a record deal the following year, and released a self-titled debut featuring tight, aggressive songs including the punk anthems “Garageland” and “London’s Burning.” Their use of reggae beats on their cover of “Police and Thieves” already showed they were more than just another punk band.

The Clash became an overnight sensation in the U.K., and, although the album wasn’t released in the U.S., import sales were strong. Their live shows solidified their fan base on both continents, showcasing Joe Strummer’s raw and energetic stage presence.

Their next album, Give ‘Em Enough Rope, was released in 1978. It featured a slicker, more rock sound that alienated some of their early punk base, but contained strong cuts like “Tommy Gun” and Mick Jones’ bittersweet “Stay Free.”

The Clash really broke out in 1979. After a relentless U.S. tour schedule, they had been influenced by a myriad of American-style music. Between each burst of touring, they recorded new material reflecting these new sounds. The result was the double-album, London Calling. Covering styles from punk (“Clampdown”) to reggae (“Guns Of Brixton”) to dance music (“Train In Vain”), London Calling became one of the enduring albums in rock history. To this day it remains on the lists of the greatest rock records ever released.

The band were now international stars. They became even more ambitious with their next album, Sandinista, a triple-record set. It featured songs influenced by the modern sounds of rap, disco, and punk with cuts like “The Magnificent Seven.” Utilizing styles that ranged from gospel to reggae, Sandinista didn’t get the critical praise of London Calling, but its sound is still impressive today.

After touring throughout 1981, they came back in 1982 with the album, Combat Rock, the most radio-friendly record of their career. It featured the huge hits “Rock The Casbah,” a politically-charged, new wave/dance combo, and “Should I Stay Or Should I Go,” a catchy rocker. Then they were back on the road, opening for The Who during their farewell tour in 1983. That year, Mick Jones left the group to form the dance-rock combo, Big Audio Dynamite. The Clash put out one more album without him, Cut The Crap, before calling it quits in 1986.

In 1999, London’s Burning, a tribute album to the band, included artists as diverse as Rancid, The Indigo Girls and Ice Cube. Unfortunately, in 2002, Joe Strummer died suddenly at age 50 of a congenital heart defect. The music that he and his bandmates released throughout the ‘70’s and ‘80’s became the touchstone for not only rock/punk hybrids, but created a sound that would influence many styles of music for decades to come.

If you count yourself as one of the many fans of The Clash, we hope you’ll take a moment to share your thoughts on this innovative band in our comments section below.

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  1. TPunk says:

    “The only people who drink iced tea outta Jack Daniels bottles are the Clash, baby!”
    ~ David Lee Roth

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