Friday again, I’ll have some of that. Welcome back to the blog and the extra good news is that you don’t have to read me prattling on at length but instead I’ve got part two of our very special guest editorial from a key member of The Clash camp – The Baker.
If you somehow missed part one go back and read that immediately so that what follows make sense. I’d also encourage you to read the comments on the first post even if you have read it as The Baker was kind enough to answer some of the questions posed so far. He also wanted me to share that he’d welcome other questions relating to his editorial and hasn’t ruled out future articles or Q&A sessions although we’ll have to wait and see, please pose questions in the comments section – or email me. As you’ll appreciate if you are of similar vintage to myself or him, it takes a lot of work to recall all of the details of events from 30 years (and more) ago but if he can address specific moments and questions he might do so at a later date.
This is an exclusive one time article published here for the first time, please join me in thanking The Baker for writing for us, he stressed to me that it is the nature of the readers of the blog that encouraged him to write; so be on your best behaviour. Over to The Baker:
Echoes of a lifeless arena (part two):
Once the band strode out onto the stage, another jolt of adrenaline heightened the senses and awareness. The gigs themselves were a total blur of color, sweat, light, and sound; it was chaos most times, turned up white hot with noise to match. Time sped-up like a street-fight, and we reacted to each second instinctively. A string would break; a skin would split; a mike-stand would fall; there was no time to consider, you just leapt and responded. Coded nods were given; messages sent out – panic, exhilaration, brilliance and fuck-ups, for both band and crew. We lived right behind our eyes, performing as one and desperately trying to cover each other’s backs. Joe loved the fuck-ups and would purposely collide with equipment, knocking things over. The three of them would run back and forth throughout the show, purposely tangling the guitar leads as badly as possible and delighting in watching us scrambling to untangle the growing ball of spaghetti. Stage invasions, fights on and off stage, unconscious fans, bottles, cans, and gob all rained down on us. Looking back, it was uncontrolled mayhem on a dangerous scale.
And then after the last glorious encore, it was suddenly over. Pressure released, the adrenaline drained away, and reality seeped back into consciousness. You might suddenly realize you were drenched in sweat (or gob), or you’d been cut by flying broken glass. No time to rest though, only time to get a second wind, tear down, and put it all away. Every night, with ears ringing, we packed up the gear amidst the thrown beer cans, crunching through the smashed glass and debris of another battlefield. By the time the truck doors closed, the band left, and the last few fans drifted away, the hall would become quiet and empty. It’s hard to describe how utterly surreal it was to stride the empty stage, where just hours before such passion, emotion and frightening intensity had played out. The dreams and lifelong memories that had been created were now just ghostly echoes in a lifeless arena.
If we were in town for the night, there was time to re-live the highlights of the day with the band back at the hotel and much riotous behavior would inevitably take place. Mostly though, we climbed back on the crew bus and hit the road hard, fueled by Heinekens and high spirits (despite our tiredness), only to wake-up in a new town the next morning and do it all over again.
By the second tour, I had thankfully become numbed to the rigours and trauma that the lifestyle inflicted. Both band and crew became battle-hardened along the way and even today we all bear the physical and mental wounds of that improbable fiction – Paul’s hip, Topper’s back, and of course, Joe’s mortality – no one escaped without injury of some sort.
The music stopped long ago and after the intervening 30 years, just haphazard scenes and random images remain in my memory – the individual minutiae of each gig is now the property of not only the journalists and photographers who chronicled the events, but more importantly, of the fans who were there each night, who made such memories possible, and who remember it incident-by-incident. Every one of them also had a part to play in the journey.
Of course, there were another two thirds of the journey which were spent rehearsing, recording, and playing football – but that’s a story for another day….
Back to me readers (sorry) and that simply leaves me wanting more, I’d be happy to hear more about those semi-famous football games that The Clash were so keen on and about four hundred other things. My sincere thanks goes to The Baker once more for writing, so please join me in that appreciation and by all means ask him whatever you’d like and we’ll see if he can help. I’ll even transcribe to save him time if he wants! Enjoy your weekend, I’ll be back soon. Tim