Hello again good people and thanks for coming back or perhaps arriving here for the first time in which case welcome aboard. It’s far too hot here today, partially because it is mid-October and partly because it should be about 72f at this time of year and instead today reached 103f. Too hot by far and whoever is in charge of this weather ought to know I moved away from Phoenix to escape this.
Do you remember the sort of heat you’d get from the mass of bodies down the front at a Clash concert or at others when things got a bit tasty? It has been a bit like that this afternoon. I think the hottest concert I ever attended was The Wedding Present at The Town and Country in London (now the London Forum) in about 1989. It was unbearable but that didn’t stop the manic dancing down at the front, I remember having a suede jacket that was actually soaked through as if it had been raining afterwards. Now I get tired if I decide to shuffle for more than two consecutive numbers, those were the days. I remember that my first decade of concert going would invariably result in a handful of people getting pulled out of the crowd either onto the stage or into the pit due to the heat at the most crowded or rowdy concerts. Either tickets were often oversold or ventilation was just that poor. It didn’t even matter if it was the dead of winter in London, small to medium venues would often have sweat dripping off the ceiling especially in low-roofed places like ULU. What was the hottest gig you ever attended or the most impacted by weather or other strange turn of events? I’ve got tales such as Mark E Smith of The Fall having a banana smashed up in his face and leaving after 3 songs or the National Front turning a Redskins/Smiths concert at the South Bank in London into a near riot and accidentally starting a fire in a waste paper basket at an Aztec Camera gig, that was the same night I also accidentally went into the ladies toilets. Not a great night overall. One day I’ll need to chronicle some of my concert memories before I forget them all. It’s hard to remember specifics of that much before 1985 or so although I was lucky enough to see so many great acts from that era.
My overriding memory of Joe Strummer remains him adlibbing into the microphone a lot between songs with one hand against his ear, his elbow forming a triangle to his upper body with his right hand holding the mic stand with his guitar hanging down. Fortunately it is one often seen in photos but is burned in my memory anyway for safekeeping. The other memories always involve Mick Jones; constant movement and often running diagonally across stage as if he was wound up like a mad toy whilst Paul seriously looked like he would smash someone over the head with his bass with no hesitation. He wasn’t quite as animated onstage as Mick or Joe from my memory but he cut the most dynamic figure with the more limited movement always seeming to have more gravitas, or maybe that’s my cloudy memory. As for Topper, he was the glue that kept the sound on track.
I was looking at a list of music venues in London where I saw concerts during the years I lived there and it was really depressing just how many are no longer there. I know London isn’t unique in that but are other cities quite as quick to tear down venues that have decades of wonderful history and memories? What is the best place you ever say a band play live – and is it still standing? In London I’d have to say that The Brixton Academy, Hackney Empire, Kilburn National and The Astoria would be four of my favourite bigger live venues. Brixton is now the O2 Academy, The Hackney Empire is still just about there after 111 years and The Astoria was torn down in 2007. According to what I read the Kilburn National still stands and will reopen under a new name in the new year. Honourable mention to The Lyceum where I first saw our boys and now The Lion King graces that stage…sigh.
One of these days I’m going to chronicle every venue that The Clash ever appeared at, a series that I optimistically began back in 2009 under the heading ‘Clash Landmarks’. If you have a local venue that you know or knew well that The Clash played at and would like to write about it please get in touch. More soon – Tim