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After the Clash

By Steve Auto of Point Blank Poznan

Posted November 10, 2015
the clash live in norway
Before the split: The Clash on stage in Norway. (Check bottom for credit)

If you like your punk, you may have heard of the Clash. But what happened after they spilt? Steve Auto's on the case...

If there's one band that's been covered enough over the years, it's the Clash.

Everyone's aware of their time in NY, their transgression from punk to soul and the mad story behind how Rock the Casbah was written.

So I'm not here to regurgitate all the stuff you already know, but to look at what happened to the four main men once their day was done.

Basically this is post-Clash – what happened when the final curtain went down.

"I've still got a Clash Busking Tour bootleg CD recorded in 1985 somewhere under my bed..."

Following Combat Rock in 1982 the band just disintegrated.

An ad was put in British music paper Melody Maker for a "young, hard guitarist (under 25, over 5'9"!)" and Nick Shepard was drafted in.

With additional guitarist Vince White and Pete Howard on drums, the boys hit the road in true Clash style – by doing what people least expected them to do.

I've still got a Clash Busking Tour bootleg CD recorded in 1985 somewhere under my bed and it's actually pretty decent.

They hit the streets, playing outside pubs up and down the UK in an effort to garnish interest and prove to their fans (and more importantly to themselves) that they were still a force to be reckoned with.

But it didn't last long and the band was pretty much dead by the time the final album Cut the Crap was released.

It's a shocking LP, save for one song: This is England, which could easily have been a lead single from any of their later albums.

Check it out.

The reason I include this period in the article is, while the band were still performing under the name 'the Clash', it's not the Clash I know and love.

And I reckon most fans will say the same.

joe strummer of the clash
The man could strum: The late Joe Strummer in action. (Check bottom for credit)

What can you say about him that hasn't already been said?

I saw him play twice with his new group Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros in Leeds and Newcastle and the first gig is the only time I found myself with tears in my eyes whilst watching a band.

His dedication to former drummer Topper Headon before playing Rock the Casbah was amazing and worth the entrance fee alone.

Their three albums are great and full of tunes you'd imagine the Clash to be playing if they were still together today – 'world music' fused with rock and folk.

Hard to put into words without sounding like a wanker.

He also provided the music for the cult film Sid and Nancy, which most music fans will have seen.

I must admit, I've never listened to his 1989 Earthquake Weather solo album but there are plenty of Xmases and birthdays left (I hope).

Coma Girl and Johnny Appleseed from his Mescaleros years are tunes to be listened to.

I read a review of his final album Streetcore – released after he passed away in 2002 – saying it had an "unfinished" quality to it, and it's true.

It sounds unfulfilled, almost demo-like.

Don't get me wrong, it's a great little LP but it has something a little haunting about it which the previous two don't.

mick jones of the clash
Better than the Roses: Mick Jones in 1987.(Check bottom for credit)

When I first got into the Clash, I was Strummer all the way.

But over time I began to appreciate just what Mick Jones brought to the band.

The two couldn't have existed without each other, and they didn't.

Following his sacking (Strummer kicked out practically everyone else bar himself), Jones formed Big Audio Dynamite (BAD) and released a few albums.

I bought a couple of them hoping for something special and to this day they've yet to impress.

Perhaps someone would care to prove me wrong.

Jones has collaborated with many musicians over the years but I think his best post-Clash moment came in 2002 when he produced the Libertines' debut album Up the Bracket.

There's a definite 'Clash' feel to it and their follow-up self-titled album follows suit.

A couple of years ago I was at Heaton Park to see the Stone Roses on their comeback tour, a gig I was at with a few old school mates.

I was buzzing.

Then who steps up on stage with his guitar to play with support band Justice Tonight but Mr Mick Jones himself.

The band, a campaign act in aid of the Hillsborough football tragedy, has had a number of musicians and stars play with them over the years (I read somewhere that Eric Cantona has even picked up the mic for them) and is even named after a lyric from Clash-covered reggae number Armagideon time.

It was a complete surprise.

Jones and the guys played a couple of Clash tunes (Train in Vain being the one I remember) and he smiled the whole time through.

Not many Roses fans will agree with me but seeing him playing that song was actually better than the whole Roses set put together.

I'd pay triple the amount of that gig to see him play those numbers again.

topper headon of the clash
Sacked for smack: Topper Headon in 2008. (Check bottom for credit)

After being booted out of the biggest rock 'n' roll band in the world for drug addiction, Nicky 'Topper' Headon found himself driving cabs and wondering what the fuck went wrong.

He basically penned their best-selling single (Rock the Casbah) and had to watch his former band mates perform it on TV with a new drummer hitting the skins.

Just listen to some of the band's output following his departure and then you'll appreciate just what a driving force this man really was.

A classically-trained jazz drummer, he could turn his hand at anything and was one of the main reasons the Clash moved on to play soul, dub, reggae, music hall and whatever other genres you want to pin them down to.

But Headon's 1986 solo album Waking Up barely graced the charts and his time in prison cemented the fact he was a spent force.

Just watch the various Clash documentaries (Westway to the World being the main one) and see just how genuine, yet messed up he is/was.

He was initially asked by Mick Jones to join Big Audio Dynamite but apparently decided to fuck it off when he began receiving Clash royalty cheques.

I read a recent interview with him (courtesy of your good Rake & Herald editor) and he sounded like he was a man on the mend.

I really hope so.

paul simonon of the clash
Always in key: Paul Simonon in 2007. (Check bottom for credit)

There's no reason why I put Simonon last but there you go.

From what I gather he was originally drafted into the band due to his good looks and attitude but I could be wrong.

He certainly wasn't brought on board for his bass skills – although over the years his skills developed well and Guns of Brixton is testament to that.

As well as designing artwork for BAD and starting up Havana 3am, Simonon now plays in the Good, the Bad & the Queen with Damon Albarn of Blur.

He's also stuck bass onto tracks for Albarn's other band Gorillaz and is a keen artist, with his work having been shown worldwide.

Never heard of him?

Google 'London Calling' and have a look at who's trashing his guitar during a particularly bad gig – I think you might know who we're talking about.

I've never seen him play live but as a fellow bass player (haha!) he's on my list.

Chief hacks' note: Thanks, Steve. I can't believe that the Clash did a gig somewhere under your bed in 1985. That's well impressive. Anyway, there's a lot of Clash-related vids I could embed here on the tune-tastic Rake & Herald but it seems most appropriate to go for the following, a documentary about Joe Strummer nabbed from onemediamusic's YouTube channel, which you can check out here.

On the whole it's pretty good, although be warned: there's one 'talking head' who seems to do very little other than talk out of his arse. Ten points if you can spot the bloke I'm on about.

See also A bit of a Dü, posted 8/10/15, among others.

Steve Auto
is the editor of Poz-based punk and alternative music fanzine Point Blank Poznan, a publication we've very kindly been allowed to lift a fair few stories from, such as this one here, for example. Cheers, Steve! There's a load of Jaffa Cakes and mayonnaise in the shed if you're hungry.

Picture credits

Top and thumb: The Clash in 1980 by Helge Øverås.

Second: Joe Strummer by Masao Nakagami.

Third: Mick Jones by © Nancy J Price.

Fourth: Topper Headon by Steve Haughey, Cedar Tree Design.

Bottom: Paul Simonon by Erin Chandler.

For licensing information, click the above links.

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