The Clash

The Clash were an English rock band that was active during the late 1970s and early-to-mid ’80s. Between 1977 and 1982, the band issued five albums — including two multiple LP sets — and assorted singles under the classic four-piece lineup of Joe Strummer, Mick Jones, Paul Simonon, and Topper Headon. In 1985, a reconstituted five-man edition of the band recorded one additional album.

Initially, The Clash echoed the brisk buzz-saw sounds endemic to London’s late-’70s club scene. As the band’s musical and cultural vernacular broadened, they mastered a range of idioms and arrangements, a maturity heralded by the 1979 production triumph London Calling.

Members: Joe Strummer (guitar, vocals), Paul Simonon (bass, vocals), Mick Jones (guitar, vocals, 1976-83), Terry Chimes (drums, 1976-77, 1982), Keith Levene (guitar, 1976), Topper Headon (drums, vocals, 1977-82), Pete Howard (drums, 1983-86), Nick Sheppard (guitar, 1984-86), Vince White (guitar, 1984-86)

The Clash formed in June 1976 when guitarist/singer Mick Jones and bassist Paul Simonon teamed with ex-101ers frontman/guitarist Joe Strummer.

Jones hailed from London SS, a garage band that rehearsed throughout 1975 and recorded one demo but never played a concert. The band was managed by Bernie Rhodes, an associate of Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren, who insisted that his boys would have the strongest possible impact if similar bands formed in their wake.

As the Pistols picked up steam, London SS fell apart. Bassist Tony James hooked up with William Broad, an aspiring singer who frequented gigs as part of the Bromley Contingent, the Pistol’s main fan posse that included young scensters Siouxsie Sioux and Steve Havoc. James and Broad linked with singer/model Gene October in the band LSD, assembled by haberdasher John Krivine, who ran the Kings Road boutique Acme Attractions, an up-street competitor to McLaren’s S&M/punk boutique SEX at World’s End. (LSD would play one gig opening for Throbbing Gristle at the infamous COUM Transmissions exhibit in late 1976. James and Broad, who’d now taken the stagename Billy Idol, split from October to form Generation X. October’s band morphed into Chelsea.)

Elsewhere, London SS guitarist Brian James and drummer Rat Scabbies (aka Chris Millar) were taken under the auspices of Andy Czezowski, who worked as McLaren’s accountant. He linked the pair with bassist Ray Burns and vocalist David Lett, who respectively adopted the stagenames Captain Sensible and Dave Vanian. A prospective fifth member, American singer/guitarist Chrissie Hynde, quickly dropped out of the new band, which became The Damned.

Meanwhile, Rhodes continued managing the remnants of London SS, which by now consisted of Mick Jones and two late-arrivals, bassist Paul Simonon and drummer Terry Chimes. The camp had their eye on singer/guitarist Joe Strummer, whose 101ers topped the Pistols on an April 3, 1976, bill at London’s Nashville. Strummer was instantly proselytized by the Pistols’ devil-may-care aesthetic. Following the release of their May 1976 Chiswick single “Keys to Your Heart,” Strummer disbanded the 101ers and joined Jones and Simonon in their new group.


Non-album sides:

  • “Complete Control” / “City of the Dead” (1977)
  • “Clash City Rockers” / “Jail Guitar Doors” (1978)
  • “(White Man) in Hammersmith Palais” / “The Prisoner” (1978)
  • The Cost of Living [EP] (1979)
  • “Bankrobber” (1980)
  • “This Is Radio Clash” (1981)

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