The Explanation
(for those who require one)

And, of course, that is what all of this is -- all of this: the one song, ever changing, ever reincarnated, that speaks somehow from and to and for that which is ineffable within us and without us, that is both prayer and deliverance, folly and wisdom, that inspires us to dance or smile or simply to go on, senselessly, incomprehensibly, beatifically, in the face of mortality and the truth that our lives are more ill-writ, ill-rhymed and fleeting than any song, except perhaps those songs -- that song, endlesly reincarnated -- born of that truth, be it the moon and June of that truth, or the wordless blue moan, or the rotgut or the elegant poetry of it. That nameless black-hulled ship of Ulysses, that long black train, that Terraplane, that mystery train, that Rocket '88', that Buick 6 -- same journey, same miracle, same end and endlessness."
-- Nick Tosches, Where Dead Voices Gather

Artists in Action #125


The Clash perform 'Tommy Gun' on BBC TV (1978)

17 comments :

Testify said...

Absurdly overated The Clash. At a point when punk was fracturing, and becoming something stranger and more interesting The Clash opted for traditional Stadium Rock bluster with albums such as London Calling and Combat Rock.They cleared the way for other tedious trad rockers such as U2 and The Alarm. Strummer knew what he'd done and, in May 1985, performed a bizarre act of self-flaggelation, (that I like to think was intended as penance)busking in the car park outside an Alarm gig! Sadly it was not recorded for posterity. Clash's first albums good i suppose, after that forget it.

Mike D said...

like the jam - i always thought they were a good singles band rather than an album one. even their supposed magnum opus, london calling, has a lot of filler.

still - white man in hamersmith palais, for that alone their place in the pantheon is deserved.

but joe strummer and johnny cash doing 'redemption song' is an abomination unto man and lord. JC's bit os alright but Strummer makes Bruce look like astrud gilberto on it. (shiver...)

Matt Blankman said...

Heresy! The Clash are truly worthy of their place in the Pantheon. I'll grant you that Sandinista! is has tons of filler, but the best stuff on it is mind-blowing. "Stadium Rock bluster?" Go back and listen again, my friend. If you don't find things strange and interesting on London Calling and Sandinista! (hell, even on Combat Rock), you owe them another listen. There's a lot of sonic experimentation and genre bending going on. Yes, the singles post '79 or so tend to be in a traditional rock'n'roll structure, but...um...whats wrong with that?

Anonymous said...

The Clash overated?
Not even close.
The Clash were probably the most versatile rock band since the Rolling Stones (prior to and including Exile on Main Street).
When the Pistols' novelty has faded, the Clash will have endured.

Testify said...

erik hogstrom wrote:
"When the Pistols' novelty has faded, the Clash will have endured."
The point wasn't to endure but to DESTROY.
Surely novelty is preferable to a dreary churning out of Rock n Roll bilge.
The Clash sold out and, yes, turned into punks very own Rolling Stones, heaven help us.

swac said...

Try to remember London Calling in context; in 1979 that record was a complete bombshell that blew my 12-year-old mind, and I think it still stands up today. At the time Sandinista came out, I thought there was one pretty good record buried between six sprawling sides (in fact, there was a single promo disc given out to record stores that had all the good songs on it...which was better than the record it was being used to hype). I think I listened to Combat Rock once before filing it away forever.

In retrospect, there was a lot of dreck that followed in The Clash's wake (anyone ever see that dreadful "tribute album" that came out a few years ago?) but the posturing didn't always overwhelm the politics.

Richard Gibson said...

Testify said...
Absurdly overated The Clash. At a point when punk was fracturing, and becoming something stranger and more interesting The Clash opted for traditional Stadium Rock bluster with albums such as London Calling and Combat Rock.

Interesting point. Like most of these things I got into it all a lot later. I actually like London Calling but agree with your description of Combat Rock as stadium friendly rock. I think what 'London Calling' has in it's favour is it's got that melee of styles, at least that's why I like it.


Testify also said...
They cleared the way for other tedious trad rockers such as U2 and The Alarm. Strummer knew what he'd done and, in May 1985, performed a bizarre act of self-flaggelation, (that I like to think was intended as penance)busking in the car park outside an Alarm gig!

Dreadful stuff, but sadly we have Big Country, Simple Minds and other dreary stadium rock pretenders.


Testify also said...
Sadly it was not recorded for posterity. Clash's first albums good i suppose, after that forget it.

After I saw this clip I dug out 'Give Em Enough Rope' - I liked it, I hadn't played it a lot, I really liked the first album but definately think their most disappointing album is 'Combat Rock'.

I saw Mick Jones earlier this year going into his flat in West London, I had to do a sort of double take but it was definately him. Afterwards I thought of the Television Personalities song "I know where Syd Barrett lives".

Rudie Can't Fail.

swac said...

I hope you don't mind Richard, but I've included a link to the actual performance in this post.

God bless YouTube.

Matt Blankman said...

Wow...I'm surprised. How is releasing a single like "This is Radio Clash" a sell-out? Or recording with Allen Ginsberg on Combat Rock?

The Clash outgrew the confines of punk rock. If that doesn't suit your taste, well, non gustibus, y'know? But that hardly makes it a sell-out. Yeah, they had some hits in '82, but one of them was overtly political. Maybe the marketplace caught up to them, not the other way around.

Testify said...

Sugar Hill released Rappers Delight in 1979,PIL released Metal Box album, the Raincoats released their eponymous album and the Slits released Cut all, it could be argued, sought to make something sonically innovative in the bombsite playground that was left after the Pistols laid waste to the musical landscape.They found their way blocked by, yawn, boys with guitars and a desire to rawk. Instead of a brave new world the Clash made a world safe for U2, Big Country etc. Try and imagine what the world would be like if, say, Wire (or even the Buzzcocks) had had the Clash's prestige. See what I mean?

Matt Blankman said...

But testify, you keep willfully ignoring the sonic experimentation that WAS done by the Clash. Sandinista! is packed with it - frankly, TOO much of it. Have you ever listened to Sandinista!?

Even Combat Rock, their big chart hit album had oddball tracks like Ghetto Defendent with Ginsburg.

Testify said...

Its not wilful ignoring, I would simply contend that the Clash's sonic innovation is as nothing compared to those other artists I've mentioned or indeed compared to the suffocating image of the Clash themselves guitared up, bedenimed and leathered, splay-legged in traditionl boys own rock n roll narcissism.
It's interesting you mention (again) the Ginsberg collaboration as I would contend his inclusion on a Clash album proves MY point. By the time Combat Rock came along Ginsberg had become (as a symbol if not as an artist) a genial "underground" poet laureate (with an uncanny resembelance to Bert Lahrs Cowardly Lion I think). The Beat movement had long ago been dissipated and absorbed by mainstream culture. Ginsberg is on a Clash album simply as a signifier that says something like "Oooh look we belong to a tradition of dissent that includes the Beats and Dylan and stuff". its not real, its empty, obvious posturing like those pictures of the Clash in front of Red Army Faction banners.The Pistols somehow recharged Situationist slogans whilst the Clash only adopted all the obvious old time symbols of "Rock n Roll rebels" an iconography that punk was meant to draw a line under. The Pistols music has never been used to sell Jeans.

Matt Blankman said...

Look, I love the Pistols, but what exactly did that have to say beyond one record and a handful of singles? I mean, as great as that one LP is, let's not forget the Pistols essentially a "constructed" band ala the Monkees. (And I *like* the Monkees and a lot of Mike Nesmith's later stuff).

Okay, I get that you don't care for The Clash, but while you blame them for stadium rock blather (which I think is silly, I mean, do we *blame* Bob Dylan for Jonathan Edwards?), you give them no credit for using their position to bring early rap, reggae, dub, noise rock, etc to their mostly white audience. Hell, they brough Joe Ely and Butch Hancock to a British pub/punk audience. Also, your comments on Ginsberg don't quite mesh with the idea of a mass-market sell-out. Yeah, okay, maybe he was an underground Santa Clause by the 80s, but he still wasn't Top 40.

But 'nuff said - we disagree and that's fine. Stimulating argument anyway.

Testify said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Testify said...

"Sold Out" was stupid choice of words I guess, I didn't really mean in terms of Top 40 success (after all the Clash consistently refused to appear on the TV chart show Top Of The Pops, a stance which would have unquestionably would've curtailed their chart position here in the UK).What I meant was that the Clash reneged on the (perhaps romantic) idea that punk was something more than mere pop product. The Pistols one album raised more questions than answers and cleared a space in the culture, those that followed then had to decide what to do with and in that space. The best saw it as a playground, a place to both escape and challenge the sterility of everyday life as it is sold to us.The Clash, faced with this space, retreated to the safety of good old rock n roll pantomime which culminated in them becoming a stadium rock band.
As you say "nuff said". Your a gentleman, sir, and its been a pleasure debating with you. I'm gonna take my sacred cow kickin' boots off now and put my feet up.

Louis said...

Q: Sex Pistols or the Clash?

A: The Ramones.

Richard Gibson said...

Q: Sex Pistols, The Clash or The Ramones?

A: The Rezillos.

Exhibit #1: 'Can't Stand The Rezillos'.