Strange day….after spending a nice break in Los Angeles it took coming back to Phoenix to feel an earthquake (or two) earlier this morning. Not a big shake but enough to notice and rattle the cat. Is this Earthquake weather?
Speaking of enough to notice; I’m tired of people sampling/borrowing/lifting music from The Clash unless I’m sure Strummerville or Jones-Headon-Simonon are getting the deserved royalties. Whatever happened to a straight cover version? The Clash themselves were always keen on covers a did a bang up job on a number of them. I Fought The Law being the one that some even assume The Clash wrote – on that topic it (I Fought…) made this list of the 50 best cover versions ever coming in 9th which is decent, til you see a cover of a Tears for Fears song at number 3. Covering Tears for Fears?? Isn’t that a bit like trying to cook like McDonalds…what’s the point?
Back to my concern….M.I.A. ‘taking’ the melody from Straight To Hell for the song Paper Planes was one thing, however it was a known thing and not presumed or implied. Mathangi “Maya” Arulpragasam (for that is her real name) didn’t hide the fact the song was essentially built around the Clash track saying:
I always took pride in being a little underground — it really is a very unlikely record to cross over – MIA
Just a little underground
I’m not sure how ‘underground’ it is to take one of the best known Clash songs from their biggest selling album? I would imagine that was why she used the word ‘little’ but I should watch my step as my name is neither as long nor do I have a cool three letter moniker. Maybe she means underground like the Piccadilly line is once you get toBarons Court? She might have done better to pick something from side 5 or 6 on Sandinista! All that said if it makes (and I’m sure it does) a certain percentage of kids who heard that track want to investigate The Clash then that’s a good thing right? Anyway if you somehow missed it – it’s below and is good, basically as it’s Straight to Hell with a hip hop beat.
My lingering question is do The Clash get paid when it’s out in the open? Music industry lawyers or Mathangi – feel free to write. Now onto my other less obvious example which was sent to me by a Clash fan in Tokyo. This one is far more subtle as only the intro 12 seconds or so plus briefly at the end demonstrate The Clash theft.
The song in question (to these ears) is The Call Up from Sandinista! A more distinct opening to a song is hard to imagine and the timing and and nuances are essentially exact especially Topper’s little drum roll. Or is just me? The ‘song’ in the middle is dire, pointless and not likely to cause a stir but that’s not the issue. Again did I imagine it? Incidentally here is a brilliant live version.
Try this on for size and let me know:
Sampling is what it is, and in principal if you confess your source I’m alright with it but still not an admirer of the concept. I’m feeling very 42 as I wrote that last sentence!
What's this then?
Two last things – The 2nd Clash related photo from my L.A. trip is above, can you name it? Also just added this section to the site for a laugh and essentially for stuff too naff to make the actual front page posts.
Continuing the series of looking at locations that were significant in the history of The Clash we move North to Sheffield.This was the site of the first ever live appearance by the band. July 4th is a date most obviously associated with US history but in 1976 The Clash, still a band that were only really at the rehearsing stage made their live debut. Sheffield is a long way from their home turf of West London but it was to be in South Yorkshire that the band would first face an audience.
I’ve always liked Sheffield, a city of 550,000 that sits between the M1 and the hills of the Peak district. The city is forever associated with steel and the industrial revolution but there is more to it than that. I used to go there on business and studied there also. Over the years I met many residents and Sheffield certainly becomes part of who you are. Sheffield boasts a rich musical lineage of it’s own, in fact for a city of it’s size it is pretty remarkable. ABC, Arctic Monkeys, Cabaret Voltaire, Comsat Angels, Human League and Pulp to name the bigger acts. None of these bands had even formed when The Clash pulled up in a transit van to support the Sex Pistols in the summer of ’76. So what of The Black Swan?
Black Swan now (2009)
Located right in the heart of the city centre the pub and the area around it have changed greatly over the years. Central Sheffield is a maze of narrow roads surround by 3-6 storey buildings that snake around Arundel Gate, Sheffield Cathedral, shopping and civic buildings. The area has been slowly rebuilt over the decades and now boasts a (light railway) Supertram system
Just North of the major shopping precincts lays Bank Street and Stig Hill and where these two roads meet is the location of The Black Swan. The Black Swan was also known as the ‘mucky duck’ and has hosted live music since the late 60′s and still does. It no longer goes under the name The Black Swan however and is now The Boardwalk. Before The Clash acts such as Joe Cocker, Nick Lowe, Dr. Feelgood, Genesis, Mud, Sweet and more.
In part 2 I’ll look more at the history of the venue and the very short set that the Clash played 33 years ago. If anyone knows what year the building was added to (offices above as current) please let me know as I’m keen to know if it essentially looked as it does now in 1976. Beneath is an image of the pub in 1965.
Black Swan then (1965)
Incidentally to review other posts in the Clash Landmarks series click on the title of this post and then scroll to the bottom of the post where you will see most similar posts.
You don’t have to be a Clash historian to realise how integral to the steady transformation of the band Topper Headon was. Nor do you need an advanced level of rock band breakup knowledge to know that reaching a position for Topper to ultimately get kicked out/get himself kicked out was by all logic the catalyst that brought The Clash to their premature demise just as they were reaching new heights of success.
A basic awareness of Topper’s path since has not made for light reading, too self-destructive to work with Mick Jones after he also was ‘sacked’ preceded a long dark trip into the regions of drug and drink abuse and illness that I wouldn’t wish on an enemy. My memories of Headon are charged with a drummer who could do anything he wished when sitting on that stool, but it was his time away from the kit that was to be his achilles.
If you saw Westway to The World at the end of the 90′s you’d have been forgiven for thinking the man interviewing as the former Clash drummer was close to the end of his existence, so frail and lacking in hope he seemed. Legend has it Mick Jones had to loan him clothes to wear as his dirty shirt was covered in cigarette burns, Nicky ‘Topper’ Headon was in a dark and low place and I remember thinking I doubt he’ll recover.
Headon has now been clean for five years and is putting his weight behind helping others who may already have slipped down the slope he fell. It’s so great to see his story (which was so bleak) be his cause as he gives time to Porchlight – a charity that helps the homeless in his home territory of Kent. The newspaper story is linked in the preceding paragraph and here on the porchlight site is a brief video that includes Topper speaking about his role with the cause. His words are far weightier than mine
“When I was homeless the last thing I thought was I won’t have a drink or use heroin. I needed heroin to keep warm and I needed a drink to keep the fear away”
I’ve said it before but I’ll repeat myself – I wish him sincerely well in his continued clean and sober lifestyle and think it’s brilliant that he elects to help others who have addictions that take you to the fringes. A frightening place I’m certain. In a recession charities hurt just like everything else – so I want to extend gratitude to the work organizations such as Porchlight do.
Totally unrelated – please visit a new section on the site - Cut The Crap – featuring bad/wrong or simply weak posts and newspaper articles.