Right then, as promised the third and final post about Finsbury Park’s Rainbow Theatre and The Clash. Part 1 & 2 covered the venue itself in more detail and focused on the White Riot tour and the appearance in May ’77.
1977 was the year that the band took hold of the youth of a nation that just 12 months earlier had been oblivious to the seeds of this newest wave of music originating from London. With the debut album finding its way into houses and flats across the country the band (as would always be the case) didn’t stop and let the grass grow under their feet. Punk was now approaching it’s pinnacle in the UK as bands seemed to appear overnight throughout the land. Despite The Clash being only in their second summer they were already at the head of the movement, a movement they’d shortly break away from.
From the White Riot tour the Clash played a series of shows throughout the continent and returned to England Oct 10th. Amazingly just 10 days later they began the Out Of Control tour a further 31 dates right through to December. Near the end of the tour the Clash rolled back to London and had 3 consecutive nights at the Rainbow Dec 13-15. Just 7 months from playing the venue the simple fact that three nights were booked tells you all you need to know about the momentum of this very special year.
Tickets went briskly at just two pounds fifty, and the Clash were home and in residence. A Rat Scabies/Levene collective and Sham 69 offered support and expectancy ran high. The Clash relationship with fans had grown all year and these shows were no exception. Championed now by (most) of the music press the concerts had the expected edge of aggression and chaos but when a fan was being smashed about by security (been there!) the band halted playing entirely and dragged the battered kid onto the stage. The enemy wasn’t on the stage it was the staff at the venue and The Clash made it clear. The lad famously remained on stage for the final two songs of the night and offered vocals.
The tightness of the band was building after such a hectic year and Topper Headon was now most clearly a key member. Complaints about Strummer’s
voice I think are unreasonable, he’d been on stage all year long and any weakness in vocal delivery was surely offset by his growing control as a front man. The fury of ’77 meant the band had to deliver again and despite an undercurrent of violence all three nights they managed just that. Elitists were already complaining about the largeness of the venues the Clash were so quickly filling as if wanting to see a band leading the charge that changed music as we knewit should be by invitation only. The debut album was now all but exhausted as were the band, but owning the Rainbow again was the dividend for a year of hard work.
The Rainbow, well it ceased hosting concerts just 4 years later in December 1981. It sat empty for 14 long years with sporadic small exceptions until 1995 when it was taken over by a Church. I remember being a well lubricated 21 year old in May 1989 celebrating Arsenal winning the league and buzzing around different pubs near the ground. My friend and I missed the last tube home and started walking down the Seven Sisters. We got to the Rainbow about 1am and both having been too young to have seen the Clash in ’77 there but feeling blessed by our North London experience 12 years later and a bit drunk now decided instead to sing much of the first album into the warm night air as cars drove past heading to central London.