Now that I’m finally finished putting up all of my chronological mixes on this blog I thought it would be a great time to bring back the top five feature, which is considerably less taxing, time consuming and hopefully will be a conversation starter with plenty of viewer participation. In the first months of this blog I used the feature to rate my favorite five tracks for whole genres, such as rap, metal, disco & punk. While I may continue with those genre exercises some in the future, I thought it would be more fun to focus on bands. Some of these bands will likely contain be under appreciated bands that I hope to spread some love and info about, other groups will be well known and nearly impossible to narrow down to their best five tracks.
My first band, the Clash, clearly falls into the latter category. They are much loved by most rock music loving people. They were part of the first wave of British punk bands. Though their first singles and album was released after the first songs of the Damned, the Buzzcocks & the Sex Pistols, the Pistols were the only other UK punk group to match the Clash’s popularity. The Clash’s self-titled debut is widely considered, along with “Never Mind The Bollocks Here’s The Sex Pistols” and “The Ramones”, to be the best of punk’s first wave. Though the debut has straight up punk classics like “White Riot” in lead track “Janie Jones”, my favorite song on it is “Complete Control” (actually only on the U.S. version but released as a stand-alone single in 1977 in the UK). It is the most musically varied and shows that the Clash was headed toward bigger things than punk in the future. While most bands flamed out quickly after 1977, the Clash expanded their sound. Their second album, “Give Em Enough Rope”, was an artistic disappointment compared to the debut, but still held classic Clash tunes like “Tommy Gun” and “Stay Free”. The group released the “White Man In Hammersmith Palais” single in ’78 as well, which is my favorite Clash song of all-time and a severe left turn from their more straight forward punk songs of the debut. The track contained a more slowed down ska rhythm, the first instance of a punk band using Jamaican rhythms. It was more lyrically sophisticated as well, addressing racial tensions during al all night Reggae showcase in London.
The end of 1979 saw the release of the double album “London Calling”, widely considered to be one of the best rock albums of all-time, punk or otherwise. While still falling under the punk genre “London Calling” expanded their sound further into reggae & ska, along with rock n’ roll roots music, New Orleans style R&B, lounge jazz & even a pop crossover hit with unlisted track “Train in Vain”. “London Calling” is so loaded with gems that it actually pains me not to include songs like “Guns of Brixton”, “Lost In The Supermarket”, “Rudie Can’t Fail” and the aforementioned “Train in Vain”. The title track is one of the bands signature cuts and despite current oversaturation on classic rock radio, remains a monster. “Clampdown” defines the group’s populist ‘us vs. the man’ blue collar ethic. 1980 saw the Clash letting it all hang out with the triple album “Sandinista!”, a warts and all album which showed them even further expanding their sound. Though it contained classics like the Eddy Grant cover “Police On My Back”, the rap-influenced “Magnificent Seven” and “Somebody Got Murdered”, there was also much filler and experiments gone wrong. It would have made a much better single album, but is still a worthwhile and interesting listen.
After “Sandinista” and the great 1981 single “This Is Radio Clash”, the Clash seemingly had nowhere to go but toward the radio. They had their biggest radio hit with “Combat Rock’s “Rock The Casbah” (which just barely missed the cut here). The awesome single somehow managed an stellar dance beat, while commenting on Middle Eastern geopolitical oil issues. “Should I Stay Or Should I Go” was the lead single off the album, and remains one of the Clash’s most recognizable hits, ironically becoming a ‘jock jam’ omnipresent at sporting events. But the best track on the album was double A side single (with “Should I Stay”) “Straight To Hell”, a slow, trippy masterpiece, decrying world injustice, specifically toward the poor and new immigrants. The track was later sampled by M.I.A. on the amazing “Paper Planes”. After “Combat Rock”, they booted co-vocalist, songwriter and band leader, Mick Jones, out of the group and released 1985’s “Cut The Crap” album, largely considered one of the biggest artistic failures of a major band ever, though it did contain the excellent “This Is England”. After “Crap” the Clash was finished.
The Clash are one of my favorite groups of all-time. While listening to their best stuff sometimes I think that they are my favorite.
So please let me know if you agree or disagree with my choices. Let me know what you think of the Clash. What’s your top choice by them? What did I miss?
COMPLETE CONTROL – FROM “THE CLASH” (1977)
WHITE MAN IN HAMMERSMITH PALAIS – FROM “THE CLASH (U.S. VERSION)” (1978)
LONDON CALLING – FROM “LONDON CALLING” (1979)
Buy London Calling
CLAMPDOWN – FROM “LONDON CALLING” (1979)
STRAIGHT TO HELL – FROM “COMBAT ROCK” (1982)