Ear Candy Update Icons: The Clash

On this edition of the Ear Candy Update, we dedicated more than two hours to the history of The Clash, the only band that ever mattered.

This poster is yours. Do whatever you want with it.

Stream online here:  

Download for iTunes here: Clash City Rockers.mp3

The tracks:
(White Man) In Hammersmith Palais
Clash City Rockers
White Riot
Career Opportunities
Police & Thieves
Janie Jones (Demo)
Safe European Home
Tommy Gun
Gates of the West
Armagideon Time
Police On My Back
The Magnificent Seven
Somebody Got Murdered
Rock the Casbah
Radio Clash
Charlie Don't Surf
Should I Stay or Should I Go
London Calling
Brand New Cadillac
Jimmy Jazz
Rudie Can't Fail
Spanish Bombs
Train in Vain
The Guns of Brixton
Wrong 'Em Boyo
Death or Glory
Train in Vain (Stand by Me)
Know Your Rights
Straight to Hell
We Are the Clash

If you have any suggestions, bitches, gripes, complaints or praise, email me right here:Dukewilbury@gmail.com

The problem inherent with punk music as a genre is that it destroys itself. Perhaps it’s a byproduct of the subject matter. Disillusionment, cynicism, boredom, frustration, rage fueled by a socioeconomic stigma – all available at your local record store, front page of the paper, and the evening news. Frustration breeds frustration and before too long the pot boils over.
     The punks turn against each other in a mélange of safety pins and dog collars, and force each other back into the garage. Born of desperation, punk’s origins were, not surprisingly, unglamorous. Never mind that most punks didn’t have the musical chops of the folks gracing the cover of Billboard magazine. Never mind the vocals were not slickly honed. Hunger was the crucial ingredient there. Hunger would provide enough fuel.
     By 1977, half-talents and quarter-wits infiltrated the Top 40. A glance back at the era reveals artists like Heart, Boston, Kansas, the Steve Miller Band, Styx, the Eagles, Linda Rondstadt et al, running amok. Arena rock was big, glam was in, disco was hot, and the future of rock and roll was looking bleaker and bleaker with every Foreigner and Peter Frampton single. God help the likes of Bruce Springsteen, who hit a high-water mark with 1975’s “Born to Run.” The architecture of rock’s most stunning acts had metamorphed into pomposity, bloated arrogance, and tombstones. Led Zeppelin was buckling under the weight of their own swollen egotism, playing 25-minutes songs that went nowhere, proving the song did in fact remain the same. In response, both sides of the pond, the north and south poles of musicdom throughout the nineteen sixties and seventies, England and New York, turned their weary ears and eyes to the truth. Three chords and the truth, to be exact.
     The Sex Pistols ripped, snorted, injected, and chortled their way into the path of rock and roll’s established order. Getting banned was good for your record sales. The Ramones fired salvos in blistering four-four time like a rail-thin Chuck Berry toting a Tommy Gun. Fantastic as Rockaway Beach and Pretty Vacant are, the kids in the street couldn’t make heads or tails of who or what was punk. Was this a fashion movement? At times, yes. Was this about three chords and the truth? Rebellion? Who the hell knew? Again, punk destroys itself.
     The question “What are we fighting for?” must be asked during the launching of any good insurrection. The question was asked in early 1977 and no one could stand and deliver the answer. Punk had reduced the house the MC5 and the Stooges had built into a hive divided by territorial pissings and infighting. The emissaries of NYC’s Lower East Side, the Talking Heads, Blondie, Television, the Patti Smith Group, were artistically aware. Punk was becoming more of a mentality than anything else. Necessity is the mother of invention, they say.
     When the megaton bomb that was the Clash unleashed their self-titled first album in April 1977, the shockwave crumbled the towers and the call to arms was self-evident. Yep, it took long enough, but hell had broken loose. Somebody gave a damn. Somebody had an idea about what to do with all this hostility bred from isolation. The Clash’s unvainglorious approach appealed to the volatile punk masses in ways unheard of. They listened to reggae for God’s sake! Mick Jones, Joe Strummer, Paul Simonon, and Topper Headon paid attention to the politics of their nation and others. They’re strongest assets were keen self-awareness and a deep sense of history. They knew what they were up against before the dam broke. They knew and they were unafraid. The wave that washed over the U.K. swept right over the Atlantic and, even without the benefit of a massive marketing campaign or even a radio-friendly single, the Clash sold 100,000 copies of their first record in the states. At the time, it was the biggest selling import record ever. When the Sex Pistols finally imploded, the Clash were well on their way to punk Valhalla. The Clash LP was the call to arms. 
     In 1979, the Clash answered their own beckoning with the vast London Calling. Enormous yet tightly focused, London Calling did more than lay the groundwork. With their lyrics, Jones and Strummer stitched together the battle flag the band would carry into battle, the same flag that U2 and later Rage Against the Machine would take up once the punk legends called it quits.
     All told, they recorded five proper studio albums, an astonishing 16 sides of fury and hope infused with well-heeled politics and indignation. The Clash could play their asses off, shimmying and leaping, snarling and pumping their fists. They could focus, so much so that at times they sounded like a cross-pollination of Bombay raga and Memphis soul – raw and rollicking. The possessed the mentality of CBGB’s finest, the look of Malcolm McLaren’s pet project. More importantly, they possessed an unmistakable aura.
     Even the name of the band fit perfectly – The Clash. It fuels the imagination with scenes of a Light Brigade locked in desperate skirmish. It does not roll off the tongue per se, but rather, forces the sides of the mouth wide like a primal scream. Clash as in a mishmash of musical styles. Clash as in the raucous explosion of punk music.
    The dogmatic insistence of the band to tell the truth at whatever cost eventually tore them apart. As it should have been. A band, or any organization of people for that matter, that cannot be square with each other may as well throw the damn towel in from the start. There will be no sad ending in these words though. Jones, Strummer, Simonon and Headon understood the pitfalls of their chosen profession. Considering their brand of music, the pitfalls were deeper, wider, and much more costly than others were.
     History has shown us that a band’s success or influence (the two do not necessarily run hand-in-hand) is dependent, to a certain degree, of the times in which they arrive. The Beatles would still be the Beatles without the Rolling Stones. Would the Stones be who they are without the Liverpool beat merchants? The Stones provided contrast and a necessary evil. Nirvana’s rise came at the most opportune of times with hair metal choking on its own stiffened hair. Bob Dylan’s charred ember voice rose up as a vox populi when a nation, still in turmoil from the assassination of JFK, most needed one. The Clash did as much to chronicle their times as they did to define them. In annals of rock history, the rights to the years between 1977 and 1982 are the exclusive property of the Clash. From ’77 to ’82, the Clash owned the deed to the world, and they put the world on notice: rent was due.

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