Recorded over three speed-fuelled weekends
Classic Albums: The Clash - The Clash

Harlesden Colisseum, March 11th 1977: “Well, we’re really excited about it, I mean, AN ALBUM! It’s destined to be a classic!” Mick Jones is draped over a threadbare seat in the balcony of a rundown old cinema more used to Asian porn films, where The Clash have just finished soundchecking for their first major self-promoted event in London. “It’s great isn’t it,” he enthuses, “Our own gig...I’m really excited. This is more than a gig, it’s an important event!”

This burst of innocent enthusiasm, followed by disbelieving laughter, betrays how he might occasionally still pinch himself at how fast this is all happening, though his mood also carries the relentless self-belief which has helped propel The Clash to their current white hot status. 

I was writing about the group for original music monthly Zigzag, having first experienced their West London total assault the previous October at a Leighton Buzzard leisure centre. Even in those six months, the group had improved and progressed at a staggering rate. After the doomed Anarchy tour, there had been the controversial signing to CBS, incendiary ‘White Riot’ debut single, now album, recorded over three speed-fuelled weekends the previous month at London’s Whitfield Street Studios, with live sound engineer Mickey Foote producing (the whole thing cost £4,000). That was the last time I’d seen Mick, then a study in intense graft. He’d been dreaming of doing this his whole life. 

They basically captured the live set, with minimal studio enhancement (although ’White Riot’ comes from the Beaconsfield demo sessions). “We knew what we wanted to do, so we went in the studio and learnt as we went along,” explained Mick. “We used the studio to make it sound good.” That day, his favourite track was a new song called ‘Garageland’, last to be recorded and last track. “It’s where we’re moving on next. The chorus is “We’re a garage band and we come from garage land”. That’s just what we are. It’s also commenting on the current situation with all the groups being signed up.”

The most radical departure was their version of Junior Murvin’s ‘Police And Thieves’, which would kickstart the punky reggae party. “It’s a logical progression. There’s obviously a lot of links between us and what’s happening with the Rastas. It just seemed right to do it. We had lots of our own material, but we wanted to do one song by someone else. What would we do? Not a ’60s rehash...let’s do something which is ’76, right? Let’s try and turn people on. This is a rock ‘n’ roll track in 4/4, but it’s experimental. We’ve incorporated dub reggae techniques. We’ll probably get slagged to bits for it, but we don’t care. They can’t understand that what we’re trying to do is redefine the scene and make it clear to people the way to move...You’ve got to take risks all the time.”

My review was unashamedly over the top, raving about, “the most stunning debut for years...I believe it’ll be as important as the first Rolling Stones album in shaping a new direction for rock ‘n’ roll….I’ve only heard it once, but I know this is the most exciting album I’ve heard in years. I can’t think about it for more than a minute without feeling like I’m going to explode. It’s one of the most important records ever made.” Let the thesaurus-busting intelligentsia show off later. Although writing again today from a perspective of The Clash still standing as the most exciting, important rock ‘n’ roll band of the last thirty-five years, I still stand by every word.

Words by Kris Needs


Released: April 8th 1977
Producer: Mickey Foote
Joe Strummer - vocals, guitar
Mick Jones - guitar, vocals
Paul Simonon - bass
Tory Crimes [Terry Chimes] - drums

1. ‘Janie Jones’
2. ‘I’m So Bored With The USA’
3. ‘White Riot’
4. ‘Hate And War’
5. ‘What’s My Name’
6. ‘Deny’
7. ‘London’s Burning’
8. ‘Career Opportunities’
9. ‘Cheat’
10. ‘Protex Blue’
11. ‘Police And Thieves’
12. ‘48 Hours’
13. ‘Garageland’

• German Federal Prosecutor Siegfried Buback and driver shot dead by two Red Army Faction members. 
• Severe tornado strikes northern suburbs of Birmingham.
• London Transport launches silver buses for Queen’s Silver Jubilee
• RAF members Andreas Baader, Gudrun Esslin, Jan-Carl Raspe sentenced to life imprisonment at Stuttgart court 

Peter Hammill - ‘Over’
The Stranglers - ‘Rattus Norvegicus’
Dave Edmunds - ‘Get It’
Klaus Schulze - ‘Mirage’


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