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Why The Clash were the best fucking band in the world


I wrote a few blogs on REM. Little is mentioned on this blog regarding perhaps my all time favorite band, The Clash. Back in 1978 Tom Snyder had them on, they played sold out shows at Bonds, and the NYFD shut down some of their concerts due to overcrowding. I remember wondering who was this band who made the news in NY, the fans seems like outcasts and radicals. It was as if a riot was erupting since they could not get into the show. On Snyder’s stage were temporarily fiberglass walls. A graffiti artist used them for his work and I remember feeling this is my favorite band. They played Radio Clash. Paul Simenon on bass was a bad ass as he slapped his low strung beast. A family friend went to Asbury Park to see them and said he met Joe on the boardwalk. My walls were plastered with their pictures. I bought everything I could and they made their record cheap for the kids to afford their music. Who does this anymore? The first and only time I saw The Clash live was back in 1982 when they opened up for The Who at Shea Stadium. The weekend before they were on Saturday Night Live, and played Straight to Hell and I recall Should I Stay or Should I Go. The Who concerts were supposed the signify the passing of the baton from The Who, veterans of arena rock to The Clash, the radical punks who were making a commercialized name for themselves on the AM radio with Rock the Kasbah. I came back home from a Boy Scout trip from the Delaware River and told the truck full of good God fearing lads who they were. At Shea heard they played Train in Vain, London Calling and more. I was packed with others in the outfield. Strummer wore glasses and the band sounded loose, not really what I expected. MTV later played a live version of Should I Stay or Should I go, but that was recorded from the previous night. Someone corrected me at school when I went around declaring I was in the audience. Being a Clash fan was a radical declaration that I was a punk. I was a rebel with a fuck you attitude. I did not want to conform. The only option to Regannomics was anarchy. John Wayne was dead and so is America was a statement I would write in my social studies class. Anger can be power don’t you know that you can use it. Was a line from their song Clampdown off London Calling, my English teacher read the back of my test where I wrote the line and read it out loud to the class; I was not sure if I was in trouble or he appreciated the blunt statement. If I recall he was going through a divorce at the time, and maybe the sentiment triggered a deeper hatred. I spray painted buildings in the VA in Northport with The Clash sign, the same large font which was used off their first album. There were different versions of their record, the import with a black background and the domestic olive green. Mick and Joe and Paul stood in a stairwell and looked blankly into the future. I was given London Calling for my 16th birthday a couple of years after it came out. Uncle Bob Runyan my 11th grade social studies teacher brought an article he found in Mother Jones’s on them and was impressed with their support of the Sandinista movement. In fact we worked on having a spokesman from the movement come to our school. Soon I became consumed with every Clash record. The band ended with a fizzle. It’s a shame Joe kicked out Mick Jones and they released, This is London which I am sure I have still in the wrapper. They toured the US but the life was sucked out of them. This is London is a shitty song and when they played a local venue Hofstra University, I refused to see them since this was not the band. I still go back to the songs from time to time. Meeting Joe Strummer was lifelong dreams come true. In fact I met him twice. Years after I saw The Clash and saw him perform at The Palladium for his – I will give it three stars - Earthquake Weather album. He only played a few shows in the US and for years went sort of underground. When I learned he was playing in town I was invited to a pre-show event. Strummer was playing Irving Plaza. My sister’s boyfriend Dennis worked at KRock and he was known in town as being Joey Ramone’s favorite DJ on the radio. Dennis said he had passes for the VIP and invited me to have dinner with Joey and Tim from Rancid and some other friends. I think Jesse Malin was there. I sat next to Joey and didn’t have a dime to get anything to eat nor did I add my input to the conversations. There was little I could say except when it became obvious this outsider was sitting at their table, he looked at me, asked casually, “And who are you?” I explained who I was and who brought me; he nodded and shook his head. He was a gentleman. Tim was quiet, sitting across from us, barely audible above the clamor in the place. From what Dennis explained Strummer was on his label, Black Cat records, Tim was a millionaire. Not bad for a tattooed punk from California, I think they were from California, I remember one of their songs I saw on MTV. One of them spat into the camera, but they appeared too professional. California has a way to make sweat appear glossy. I’m getting away from the first time I met Strummer. Up in the VIP section at Irving Plaza, Matt Dillon was there, Jim Jarmuch the director, Joe was in some of his movies. There were other artists and actors. Strummer did a shout out to Joey Ramone, and he also yelled out to the house manager shut off the air conditioning. Soon the place was sweltering. “I got something for you,” he said dripping in sweat and belted out the open power chords to London Calling and the place flew into a riot. Heads rose up and rejoiced, falling back into the crowd, their arms flung and twisted, hundreds of bodies were sporadically lurching to get closer to the man. He also played something he rarely played Rock the Kasbah as a shout out to Topper Headon. After the show we walked through the village with Matt Dillon who had three girls on him over to Jesse’s bar. We had the downstairs VIP to ourselves. Matt was standoffish, a dick for the most part, had a stuck up Hollywood attitude. Maybe it was my drunken state? Then Strummer came down and Dennis came over to me and said, “I got’s someone who wants to meet you.” He brought me over to Strummer and we shook hands and another DJ took our picture together, Joe leaned his sweaty head into mine and I wish I had that picture. Joe signed my concert ticket and we were off to cause drunken destruction in Queens. The second time I met Strummer, his last release received critical acclaim and he seemed to back in the game. The show was at the St. Anne’s Warehouse in Brooklyn. He played six shows and was his last in New York. Rudy Can’t Fail was sung and the crowd sang along with him. He looked somewhat overweight, his black shirt stuck to his sweaty skin. The concert was incredible and he played a good chunk of his new material. I thought the night was over, but we walked down to a bar from the club to have a nightcap. Strummer walked in with a cheer. He wore a light blue jacket and I approached him asking if he would sign my poster. He was a nut job for the most part, pretended to speak to someone who had their back turned to him, just to throw me off. It didn’t stop me. “Can you please sign my poster?” He did and we shook hands. As always I have a question, “What was it like playing with The Pogues?” “They’re all a bunch of drunks.” Later I cornered him in the basement of the bar, a drunken Asian woman begged him to sign her breasts but he wouldn’t. I nudged her off and had one more request, this was the one song I never heard and wanted to hear, even just a few lines. My sister was with me and I leaned in. “Joe can you sing me a couple of lines from Broadway?” He said, “No Michael….Nope…No…” I thought I lost. Then he leaned over and sung into my ear. “It ain’t my fault it’s six o’clock in the morning.” We drove home (Green Lights…drive) I had a fixed smile and one of those memories that never fade away…

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