The Clash was one of the major influences in British punk music. They included various musical styles like reggae, dub, funk, ska, and rockabilly in their music. The band was comprised most of the time by Joe Strummer on the lead vocals and rhythm guitar, Mick Jones on lead vocals and lead guitar, Paul Simonon on additional vocals and bass guitar, and Nicky “Topper” Headon on drums and percussion.
THE CLASH’S ORIGINS
Before the Clash was formed, its members had been parts of different bands and music scenes around London. Paul Simonon auditioned as Mick Jones’ former band, London SS, but did not qualify. Nicky Headon also played with London SS for awhile. London SS disbanded and Jones reached out to Simonon and persuaded him to learn another instrument so that he could join his new band. Keith Levene served as the guitarist while Simonon played the bass as they continued their search for a vocalist.
Joe Strummer was contacted to come to one of the band’s rehearsals on Davis Road. As soon as Strummer appeared, Levene started playing one of Strummer’s original songs, Keys to Your Heart.
Strummer then joined the band while Terry Chimes joined as the band’s regular drummer. It was Simonon who came up with name the Clash inspired by the newspapers that he read and where the word clash just kept on popping up.
THE CLASH’S MUSIC CAREER
The band’s first performance was on July 1976 in Sheffield. Afterwards, they went along with the members of the Sex Pistols and other punk fans to watch a concert by the Ramones at Dingwalls club.
After rehearsing for a month, the band performed again in their Camden studio in front of select people. A couple of week after, they made another public appearance by opening for the Sex Pistols at The Screen on the Green.
Levene was eventually fired from the band and the Clash would continue to perform without him at the 100 Club Punk Special together with the Sex Pistols, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and Subway Sect. Before they went as support for the Sex Pistols during the Anarchy Tour, Chimes left the band and Rob Harper took over his position.
In 1977, the Clash signed a contract with CBS Records worth £100,000. Many people were outraged by this move and most thought that the band had sold out.
White Riot became the band’s first single which was released in 1977 followed by their first album, The Clash. Composed mainly of punk tracks, the album made it to the number 12 spot in UK charts but CBS did not want to release it in the US. After becoming the best-selling import album in the US, a North American version of The Clash was released.
Because his goals were different from the those of the band’s, Chimes did not become its full time drummer. The band would eventually hire Nicky Headon who badly wanted to become a member of the Clash back then.
During the White Riot Tour, the band headlined together with the Buzzcocks, Subway Sect, the Slits, and the Prefects in May of 1977. That same month, Remote Control was released. Meanwhile, Complete Control was the first song that Headon played with the band. It reached the number 28 spot on the British charts. In 1978, the Clash would release the Clash City Rockers and (White Man) In Hammersmith Palais.
The band was asked by CBS to produce a cleaner sound in the recording of their second album, Give ‘Em Enough Rope. The members did not have much fun doing it but the album received positive reviews nevertheless. Meanwhile, the single Tommy Gun, hit the 19th spot on UK charts. Afterwards, the band went to do a series of concerts in the Sort It Out Tour which would eventually end up in a tour of North America in 1979.
In 1979, the Clash started recording a double album called London Calling which would reach the 9th and 27th spot on the British and US charts, respectively. The track Train in Vain which was added during the last minute of production, bagged the 23rd spot on the US Billboard chart and the 11th on UK.
In 1980, the band released Bankrobber before the 3-LP, 36-song Sandinista! came out. The album catered a variety of musical styles never heard from the band before like rap and extended dubs. Though it received mixed reviews, the album hit the 24th spot on American charts.
The band’s next single was This is Radio Clash which came out in 1981.it was followed by the release of the LP, Combat Rock in May 1982 with its single Should I Stay or Should I Go. The song Rock Casbah which was composed by Headon would become the band’s biggest hit in the US, reaching the number 8 spot on the charts.
After the release of Combat Rock, Headon left the band because of his heroin addiction while Chimes filled in for him. During their tour, the members continued having disputes which would cause Chimes and Jones to leave. They would hire Nick Sheppard and Vince White as new guitarists afterwards.
After the release of the song This Is England from the album Cut the Crap, the Clash would eventually disband.
The period after the fall of the Clash consisted of the members collaborating on some projects. Jones helped Strummer in Sid and Nancy soundtrack while Strummer co-wrote some songs for Jones’ band, B.A.D.
In 2002, Jones and Strummer played together again for a benefit show before Strummer’s death in December. Jones would also play with Headon in 2008 during the performance of Jones’ band, Carbon/Silicon.