33. police + thieves

“More Clash because one track never really suffices with this outfit, as this overall list makes clear. More Clash tracks than from any other artist. With Police and Thieves their highest placing because it cuts to the truth of it: you’re not looking at the world with clear eyes as long as you think it’s cops versus robbers, police versus thieves. It’s the two of them together, fascists and mobsters, working flip sides of the same venal coin. The trick is to stay the hell out their crossfire. I would’ve been at least twenty-two before I finally had this even remotely figured out. With the Clash and their overall worldview a huge part of my education, Police and Thieves being a cover of an old Junior Murvin reggae tune, which is cool itself. But The Clash’s take, found on their first album, kicks things into full-on anthem status, all the while keeping both the reggae and the punk. Which reminds me of young Ryan and his oft-heard claim that the Clash were the world’s best white reggae band. Amen to that. And to the Clash in general. Maybe not ever the only band that mattered, but it sure felt like it at times.” (Philip Random)

34. clampdown

Clampdown‘s the second song I heard from London Calling, the album that ignited the possibility that yeah, maybe the Clash were the only band that mattered. I heard the title track first, and I immediately loved it – all that rage and insurrection down by the river. But for whatever reason (probably because I was pretty broke at the time), I didn’t dive in and buy the album until fellow cab driver Dennis pulled me aside and forced Clampdown on me. It was simply that important, that urgent.

Because as Dennis put it, ‘You’re a young man and a young man’s gotta watch himself when it comes to simple explanations as to how the world really works — fascist bullshit being so easy to fall into, so easy to end up with the bully boys wearing blue and brown. Say goodbye to your living soul.’  Dennis (who was about five years older and recently arrived from England) being the kind of guy who always had a spliff rolled, ready to go. We’d book off for a few minutes, crank the tunes in his cab, always something British, punk or new wave, which past a certain point in summer 1980 meant pretty much non-stop London Calling — the Sgt. Pepper’s of the 1980s, he called it, ‘But better than that hippie shit.’ Punks moving beyond punk, trying to embrace everything goddamned thing, succeeding for the most part. Thanks, Dennis, wherever you are.” (Philip Random)

87. if music could talk

“Second of two in a row from the Clash‘s absurdly abundant 1979-80 phase which culminated in the six sided monster known as Sandinista – If Music Could Talk being (for me anyway) probably that album’s key track. Not for any grand power or standalone attainment, but simply for its inclusion — that a band as righteously raw and committed as The Only Band That Mattered™ could deliver such an oddly sweet and beatific ode to not rebellion-revolution-insurrection, but music itself. Which gets us back to that suburban house fire, 1981 sometime, the mixtape I had playing on the walkman care of my good friend Simon Lamb. If Armagideon Time was more fuel for the fire that was our whole broken and corrupt Cold War western culture, then If Music Could Talk, which came after, was some kind of next chapter, an odd little path leading wherever it is that only music can go, not even poetry can keep up with it, though there is a pile of poetry in If Music Could Talk, the words spilling like rain down both channels of the stereo mix, not making sense so much as easing beyond it, because we already knew it way back then even if we couldn’t quite find the words: the revolution, or evolution, or whatever it was going to take to somehow NOT annihilate ourselves in some kind of forever war – it could not be rational.” (Philip Random)

88. armagideon time [justice tonight]

The Clash‘s take on Willie Williams’ Armagideon Time wasn’t included on Sandinista. In fact, it was released the previous year on the Black Market Clash 10-inch (a loose and cool collection of various b-sides and whatnot), but it came to my ears at almost exactly the same time as Sandinista care of a mixtape a friend made which was all Clash, all to some degree not punk or even rock, more the groovy, strange, dub-induced stuff which comprised so much of Sandinista‘s six sides, pissing off so many of the old school punks (but f*** those reactionary idiots anyway), and very much sucking me in, affirming me in my growing impression that whatever was going on out there culturally speaking, the world had changed profoundly in the last year or two.

My world anyway. Something to do with apocalypse, end times, armagideon – not coming, already upon us, and not really that bad, not if you had the right kind of eyes (and ears). I can even remember the precise moment it all came clear. I was tripping on some middle-grade LSD, out wandering the suburban sprawl with a house fire in the near distance, a calamity of sirens, smoke, people coming and going in the encroaching dusk, a whole block like a war zone. But I was somehow okay with it. Maybe because I had that mixtape playing on my walkman, Armagideon Time, the stretched out dub version guiding me through all the smoke and confusion like it was all just a movie, but not one I was watching, one I was in. Like, here it is, pilgrim, the Apocalyptic Now. Get used to it, because it ain’t goin’ away. It’s not pretty but it may be beautiful.” (Philip Random)

133. straight to hell

Combat Rock is far from the Clash’s best album. Yet Straight To Hell may well be their best single song, working an oddly open groove to make room for a gush of Joe Strummer passion and consciousness that manages to cover all manner of unstable ground from British Colonialism to American interventionism to junkiedom to everything else. ‘Could be anywhere – any frontier – any hemisphere’ being a key line, speaking to the universality the (r)evolution that the Clash were always propounding, though not always so eloquently as here. Want to get to the heart of 99-percent of what’s wrong with the planet? Start with everybody who’s been just shoved aside by history and its dubious intentions. We need to be needed. All of us. Every frontier. Every hemisphere. Else it’s straight to hell. All of us. The only band that mattered maybe the last time they mattered.” (Philip Random)

(image source)

173. one more time

“Second of two in a row from the Clash‘s last truly great, truly world beating album, the six-sided monster known as Sandinista. In the case of One More Time (and it’s dub), that means the ideal soundtrack for an ironic walk through an upscale suburban enclave on a warm spring evening (‘must I get a witness for all this misery?’), particularly if there’s a house fire in the vicinity, sirens a-howling, black smoke rising, and you’re a little high on LSD. This actually happened to me, 1981 sometime. I ended up watching it all from maybe a block away, and thinking (not for the first time) that the Apocalypse wasn’t something that was coming, it was already here, and I was in the middle of it – and so was everybody else. Armagideon times indeed.” (Philip Random)

(photo: Hulton archive)

174. Broadway

“Have I raved enough yet about Sandinista, the vast and multifaceted Clash album that doesn’t generally end up on Best Of All  Time Lists? London Calling being the one that tends to get all the glory. Which it deserves, of course, but I would submit that sometimes more really is MORE when it comes to art, beauty, meaning, rebellion everything. Which, in Sandinista‘s case means thirty-six tracks spread across six sides of vinyl, enough to drown in if necessary. And maybe it is. Necessary. Because Sandinista is the greatest band in the world (at the time) firing all of their guns at once and hitting way more often than they miss. Broadway shows up at the end of Side Four. A slice of Beat-like poetry that may start out weary and down for the count. But never count this band out. Ever. Not in 1980-81 anyway.” (Philip Random)

Clash-1980-rooftopNYC

(image source)

 

221. bankrobber

“I first discovered Bankrobber via Black Market Clash, a compilation of various singles, b-sides, versions etc that came our way toward the end of 1980, perhaps driving home the point that no other outfit in the world mattered more. I mean, consider the evidence. In 1979 and 1980, The Clash release London Calling (two record set), Sandinista (three record set) and Black Market Clash which, as a subsequent CD reissue would prove, was itself just a tip of the iceberg in terms of unreleased stuff. And these non-album ‘rejects’ were often straight up brilliant as Bankrobber’s pumped up dub grooving rather forcibly argues. Hell, I know one guy who seriously considered going into a life of crime based on its simple logic of stealing form the filthy rich but not hurting anybody in the process. Then he sobered up.” (Philip Random)

Clash-1980-airplane

(photo source)

249. E=mc2

“Speaking of Performance (the movie), it features prominently in Big Audio Dynamite‘s sample rich E=mc2, along with other bits and pieces from various films directed by Nicholas Roeg. And what a cool track it was (and still is), promising so much from Mick Jones in the wake of the Clash‘s rather ridiculous crash and burn, except they never really got any better, which can only mean they got worse. Not that Big Audio Dynamite were ever really bad (even if they were definitely B.A.D.) – just lacking Joe Strummer‘s overall sandpaper edge, I guess. Rather like Paul McCartney operating without John Lennon post-Beatles. At least B.A.D. never did a Christmas song.” (Philip Random)

bigaudiodynamite-1985-promo