Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Clash Review

The Clash – Live at Shea Stadium (CD/Legacy) and THE CLASH by The Clash (Book/Grand Central Publishing)
The Sex Pistols get points for being there first, but The Clash are by far the most influential punk rock band. Formed in 1976, just a year after The Pistols - a band known more for safety pins, studs and a heavy dose of brattiness - The Clash focused more energy on songwriting than publicity stunts, injecting a heavy dose of working class politics and a touch of anarchy into their songs.

The Pistols, though a goofy band and influential in their own way, only released one proper album before imploding, while The Clash kept their heads down and focused on their music, inspiring an entire generation of punk rockers in the process. Consider the best known punk and punk-inspired bands playing today: Green Day, Rancid, Dropkick Murphys, Rage Against The Machine; None of these bands would be around if Joe Strummer, Mick Jones, Paul Simonon and Topper Headon hadn’t first paved the way.

The band may have finally gained entrance into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002, but the back to back releases of the “Live at Shea Stadium” concert on CD and the new book THE CLASH by The Clash, do more to honor one of the greatest political music acts to ever record.

“Live at Shea Stadium” is the only full show live album released by The Clash. Recorded in 1982, when the band opened up for The Who, the sound quality is flawless. The recording starts off with an introduction by sometime manager and longtime band friend Kosmo Vinyl who prods the crowd for not being loud enough then proclaims: “We ain’t got no baseball tonight, we ain’t got no football tonight… but what we have got is a little bit of what’s going on in London…” before bringing out The Clash, who jump into “London Calling.”

Playing during a steady downpour of rain, the band tears through 15 songs in under an hour. The set list is tight for the most part, with the band playing all of their hits that were out at the time including “Train in Vein,” “Tommy Gun,” “Spanish Bombs,” and “Should I Stay or Should I Go.”

The Clash sounds a bit testy at times, telling the audience early on to “Stop yakking!” Not very punk rock, but then again I’ve never played in a stadium in front of tens of thousands and had to sing over people talking.

Not every track’s a winner, (Paul Simonon’s turn at the mic for “The Guns of Brixton” was probably a good time to go get a t-shirt), but taken as a whole, the album is a fantastic snapshot of one of the world’s best rock bands, at their peak, playing a brilliant show. Because of Strummer’s death from a heart defect in 2002, most of never got a chance to see The Clash play. “Live at Shea Stadium,” though hardly a substitute for the real thing is still a decent memento worth getting.

Equally impressive is the book THE CLASH by The Clash, crammed with hundreds of color photos and interviews with the band. There have been plenty of Clash bios over the past few decades, but this is the first time the band has given their own story of The Clash. Every band member is included (Strummer participated in several of the interviews before his death).

Though the interviews are great, it’s the pictures that justify the book’s hefty $45 price tag, with many never before or rarely seen material like tour posters, artwork, and pics of the band at home, on stage, in the studio and on the road.

There will always be great punk bands, but there will never be a band like The Clash, the first to combine incendiary guitars and strong political themes railing against everything from fascism to Thatcher’s right-leaning version of England. Long live The Clash!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Ever Get the Feeling You've Been Cheated?

Sex Pistol's front man Johnny Rotten (ne John Lydon) doing a butter commercial. Seriously. Filthy Lucre indeed.