One of the most highly innovative and musically diverse bands to come out of the British Punk scene was The Clash. Their name, plucked directly from British tabloid headlines referring to increasing social conflicts concerning race and class, reflected their own political beliefs and a desire to affect change through musical expression. Their militant look with camouflage fatigues, combat boots and berets added to their persona as musical and social revolutionaries.
The Clash formed in 1977 after lead vocalist and guitarist Joe Strummer (1952 - 2002) attended a Sex Pistols show. He was joined by Mick Jones (1955), who also played guitar and was a vocalist, Paul Simonon (1956) on bass, and the drummer Topper Headon (1955).
Inspired to form a band that would approach more political themes, the Clash blended garage, thrash, funk, rap, and rhythm and blues with reggae to back themes transcending the empty rebellion and nihilism of bands such as The Sex Pistols. Referred to by their fans as "the only band that ever mattered", the Clash were viewed as more positive than the other Punk groups, addressing such social issues as racism, oppression, and class conflict that effected not only late 1970's Britain, but the entire world.
In the spring of 1977, the Clash released their first, self-titled album under the management of Malcolm McLaren's (manager of the Sex Pistols) friend Bernard Rhodes to a highly receptive young British audience. However, their message proved too leftwing for American consumption and was prevented from being released in the United States for nearly two years. By then they were selling out stadiums in their homeland, and their second release had reached Number 2 on the British charts.
In 1982, The Clash eventually achieved mainstream American success with the release of their most musically experimental and innovative album, "Combat Rock." With their only US top ten single, "Rock the Casbah" in heavy rotation on MTV, The Clash had finally made it in America. But success proved destructive to the four members of the Clash, who finally broke up in 1984. By the then, their internal conflict had escalated beyond resolve. Vocalist and guitar player Mick Jones left the band to form Big Audio Dynamite, which emphasized techno, pop, and a broad range of sampling and dance tracks in the late 80's. Joe Strummer continued to produce music that reflected his interests in reggae, techno, and the roots rock rebellion so closely associated with The Clash. Joe Strummer died from a heart attack at the age of 50 in late 2002.
Page author: A.E.