Although the Sex Pistols are often credited with popularizing punk rock in the 1970s, when the dust settled in that rebellious musical era, another group of British punk rockers was labeled the “only significant band”: the Clash.
Formed in London in 1976 by guitarists/songwriters Mick Jones and the late Joe Stromer, and bassist Paul Simonon (the band was later joined by drummer Topper Headon), Clash has matured with remarkable speed from junior riders to pioneering court musicians. Reggae, jazz, rockabilly, ska and other terms in their indelible sound. Although they broke up 10 years after forming, Clash’s first five studio albums – clash (1977), Give enough rope (1978), London asks (1979), Sandinista! (1980) and fighting rock (1982) – among the most famous in rock history, with London asks He was inducted into the GRAMMY Hall of Fame in 2007.
More than 35 years after their self-titled debut, Clash will release on September 10 Sound system, a 12-disc collection featuring all five of the original studio albums, reworked by GRAMMY Award-winning engineer Tim Young, plus three-disc demos, non-album singles, B-sides, and rarities in a boombox-style package, which was designed by Simonon. Additionally, the bundle will contain a DVD of Clash’s music videos and unseen footage from the archives of director Don Letts (who won a GRAMMY Award in 2002 for Clash’s Best Long-Term Music Video). Westway to the world) and two-time GRAMMY Award nominee Temple Julian.
In an exclusive interview with GRAMMY.com, Letts and Young discussed life with Clash in the ’70s, the band’s upcoming box set and the eternal legacy of punk rock.
After the Sex Pistols, how did Clash help define the punk movement of the 1970s?
Don Lets: Clash was one of the first bands to realize that the punk movement was painting itself in the corner. They were the first [band] Out of a quick guitar thing. See the difference between [The Clash] And London asks. One is a kind of statement of intent. By the time they [got] to London connectionAnd [they embraced] Everything the world has to offer. There was a common misconception that punk was all about passivity and nihilism. It wasn’t about that; It was about empowerment, freedom and individuality.
Tim Young: punk rock [aimed to] Destroy Progressive Rock. She was going to restore everything to its original, raw form. …you didn’t have to respect the kind of ideas that were set in the rock. …Mick [Jones] and atmosphere [Strummer] She was actually very broad-minded from a musical point of view.
Looking at the footage included with the chest set, it appears that Clash has also made an impact in terms of fashion.
Letts: The English did two things to music: they gave it style and they politicized it. …The Clash has understood the currency used by young people, particularly in the UK. Style, fashion and music are inseparable in the UK.
small: When they came to the studio to produce the first album… they had all these colorful scattered [clothes] Just like Jackson Pollock worked on one of your T-shirts for you, that was the idea. You’ve never seen anything like this before, really. Then by 1979, Mick [looked] Like [he was] Trying to look like James Dean or something. [He had] The rockabilly look with the wrap with the painted hair and all that. And Joe Stromer as well. All of them [looked] Like plugins in [the 1953 outlaw biker film] wild.
In their short time together, Clash has rapidly grown from young pranksters to sophisticated punk rockers.
Young people: Exactly. But the gameplay is great. … If you are [compare] the band [from] Going [into] Studio at the beginning of 1977 to present their first album [to] November 1979 [after] They’re done London asksthe musical sophistication on this recording, compared to two years for the band [prior]It’s unbelievable how many have developed.
Lets: Yes, they were young, [but] Clash has been the fastest to mature.
Don, your history shows how quickly the clash arose.
Letts: Those five albums happened in a short amount of time. And then, dig in, they’re not even five solo albums. There’s a double album there [and] Triple album. Then you have to look at how many rounds they made in that period. I mean, no wonder these guys blew up, man, or blew up, [I should] Say.
How did you end up in their circle?
Lets: It was the social, economic and political climate at the time. We all grew up in London. We are all affected by the same [bull s***]. [Luckily] For me, I had a soundtrack to ease my pain, which was reggae. White friends were not very lucky, so they had to create their own soundtrack, which became punk rock. …in the mid-1970s, many white working-class children adopted Jamaican music for their rebellious reform, particularly people like Joe Stromer and Paul Simonon, and [the Sex Pistols’] John Lydon, too. …we became friends through our mutual love of reggae and Jamaican music and my respect for their DIY ethos. This is how I really became a filmmaker. The bulk of this sinister thing was the whole DIY thing. So I look around and this evil thing [is] I explode and my white folks all pick up guitars and I’m like, “I’d better pick up something too.” This was a strength not only of the Clash game but the entire punk action; They inspired people to take in the energy they put out there, and they informed everything that people did. So you had punk writers, punk journalists, punk photographers, punk fashion designers, punk filmmakers. I actually think that’s why punk has such an enduring legacy; It wasn’t just a soundtrack, it was a lot like an entire subculture.
Tim, were you happy to get the chance to go back and rework those five core albums?
small: I was just happy to hear all of that again. London asksAnd, in particular, it’s probably one of the best three or four albums I’ve worked on in my career.
Don, are there more items that haven’t made it to the chest set?
Lets: Anything worth sharing, I’ve shared. It was not meant to be stored. … It’s not just about looking back and going, “Wow, Clash was really cool.” The clash did not come out of nowhere. There is a whole heritage and lineage to this position. Look at Woody Guthrie, look at Bob Dylan, look at Jill Scott-Heron, look at Chuck D. The point is, if people are brave enough and have an idea, they can be part of that lineage too. It does not start and end with Clash. A lot of the things they were talking about still needed to be said, perhaps even louder. A lot of people on this planet, like me, still believe in music as a tool for social change.
(Austin-based journalist Lynn Margulis has contributed regularly to American Songwriters, The Christian Science Monitor, Paste, Rollingstone.com, public radio, newspapers around the country, and numerous regional and local magazines. Contributing editor to The Links That Link: Bruce Springsteen A-ZShe also writes biographies of new and established artists.)