A very good morning Clash people and welcome back. I’m up at stupid o’clock today to get a few miles cycling in so while I wait for the daylight to get cracking I thought I’d start today’s post. (football reference warning) Yesterday I saw something I’ve waited over five years to see, Theo Walcott actually shouldered an opponent off of the ball. That was odd.
Today I’ve got some great news for those of you who enjoy a good read / collect books about The Clash. You’ll perhaps remember that back in February I wrote my review of ‘Stealing All Transmissions-A Secret History of The Clash’ by Randal Doane. It’s a terrific read that explores the exact environment that helped lead to The Clash breaking through in North America which consequently coincided (in my humble opinion) with the band being at the very height of their creative powers. A fascinating look back at a time now eroded, the author studies the importance of the support the band received from FM DJs and those who helped govern the buzz back in 1978/9.
I’m pleased to say that the book has now been published for the UK market and is now available at WH Smith or via their website if you simply follow this link at a special price of just £6.86 which is a bargain you should take advantage of. Randal has also been writing his own blog stealingalltransmissions.wordpress.com that you should visit, as he takes a regular look back at punk/post-punk music on both sides of the Atlantic. You can also follow him on Twitter @stealingclash, as you can see the man is wired.
Randal was also kind enough to humour me by answering a number of questions about himself, The Clash and of course the book which I’ve reproduced below. It hopefully tells you a great deal more about the book itself too. You know me by now, I tend to go on so it’s a bit lengthy but to be fair so does he therefore I’ve split it into two parts. My thanks to Randal for taking the time for the interview, part two to follow soon.
You’re a little younger than me, tell me more about how The Clash influenced your early days of not just listening to music but considering the potential of it?
RD: I got turned onto The Clash when I was 13, during the summer before I started high school. As I note in the book, football players, cheerleaders, and the Friday-night home games dominated the school’s culture, and the place abounded with the triangles of homosocial male bonding of muscle cars, after-market stereos, and Van Halen. So The Clash–and a host of other bands from the UK–kept me mindful that the future was unwritten, and that things could be otherwise. (Kudos to JulienTemple for picking such a great title for his Strummer biopic.) In other words, The Clash saved my soul.
How vital do you think the support of deejays and journalists was in the success of The Clash in North America?
RD: Absolutely vital! The rock scribes and the deejays shared with The Clash the conviction that music and culture mattered, that culture was political, and that the stakes were high. When more people listen to The Clash rather than, say, Poison, the world is a better place. The folks at Epic served as good allies, too, and did some great things to help promote London Calling and the LPs that followed.
As an American, why do you think The Clash made the crossover to the American market where acts like The Damned and The Jam never had the same impact despite huge success in the UK?
RD: Good question. I’m not sure I know the history of The Damned or The Jam well enough to venture an accurate guess, but I’m still happy to offer one. Now I dug *Machine Gun Etiquette* and the upbeat tunes on *Phantasmagoria*–very groovy stuff. But The Damned especially, and The Jam, too (if less so), sound inextricably English in a way that The Clash did on a handful of tracks on *The Clash,* and then they didn’t. *Rope*’s difficult to pin down in this regard: it’s English and American rock, and the production is more Phil Spector than Bill Price. It’s certainly more clear cut with the next two: *London Calling* teems with a variety of great sounds from England, the Caribbean, and urban America, as does *Sandinista!* Let’s also consider the possibility that The Clash simply made more interesting music.
Can you think of other bands from the UK who might have been able to step in the space that The Clash opened up in the North American market if The Clash never existed?
RD: The Police, maybe. They made their debut appearance in the states–and New York–about the same time as The Clash. They were on A&M, so they had major-label support, and they also had an awesome drummer and an amazing lead guitarist, if a comparatively less-suave bass player. Sorry Gordon! The Police, though, due in part to their prog-rock roots, didn’t inspire kids to start bands the way The Clash did, so the DIY-post-punk scene in the US especially would have consequently been, well … I shudder to think.
RD: Back then, I could identify the grain–or, say, the dominant center of western popular music. I don’t know if there is a center today, and it’s one of the key points you can glean from The Replacements’ documentary *Color Me Obsessed,* when sales figures from Replacements’ albums are compared to LPs by Springsteen, Bon Jovi, and a couple others. *Slippery When Wet* has sold over 12 million copies in the US alone! I don’t see anything quite like that happening again. Is that a good thing? Possibly. Anything is possible.
Care to say a bit more about that?
RD: More bands are out there, making fantastic music, but with Pandora, Spotify, and the rest, it appears to be a race to the bottom in terms of royalties for the musicians. I don’t want my favorite bands to “keep it real” by having day jobs. I want them to have the money that allows them to have the freedom to make great songs over the long-haul–or at least for a few years.
The relationship between New York and The Clash is considered (after London) the most important one the band built, at times perhaps more so. What do you put that down to?
New York’s the US’s most international city, and its bars close at 4am. It also has a rich rock’n'roll history, and of course the growing popularity of rap and hip-hop culture circa 1980 held quite the allure for The Clash, too. New York, then and now, teems with possibility for long-time residents and interlopers alike, and The Clash made the most of the vintage clothing shops, the recording studios, Studio 54, bars in midtown, the Village, and in Soho, and then there was Bob Gruen, who ensured that they could tool around in 1954 Buick as if they were stars in a noir thriller.
Clashblogger again now and we’ll end part one right there with the remainder coming up soon. If you happen to be in Cleveland or NE Ohio Randal is giving a reading of the book and it also be on sale this Saturday evening May 18. Full details below: