40 years since the release of The Clash’s classic debut album. Peter Hooton from the Farm
The Clash April 8th 1977
The Clash’s debut album is one of those key albums. It set the template for punk rock with its short, sharp shock songs full of passion and words that were snapshots of the UK decay at the time. The album, like the band, sounded incendiary and thrilling and the lyrics and performance and explosive passion of Joe Strummer were matched by Mick Jones brilliant songwriting that made the complex seems simple and were loaded with melodies that have become folk songs. The album is one of the great rock n roll records – it may be old fashioned now the idea that a record can change the world but it did and still stands up to this day as a brilliant document of the times and also a brilliant and revolutionary pop record. Peter hooton – the lead singer from the Farm – was one of those teenagers whose lives were changed by the band and their astonishing debut as he recalls below…
‘The first thing I ever liked about The Clash before I had even heard a note was their name.
The Clash The Clash The Clash you knew they weren’t going to be singing love songs. The next thing was the way they looked – their first single cover had them leaning facing a wall with 1977 and White Riot crudely sprayed on the back of what looked like jump suits. Then I heard the single and it hit you like a machine gun. It was everything you hoped for and had been inspired by Joe Strummer and Paul Simonon’s experiences at the Notting Hill riots of 1976.
In the summer of 1977 I went on holiday to Newquay – my first proper holiday away without my parents. We frequented a bar there and met up with a load of lads from South London. They heard Scousers asking the DJ for White Riot and they immediately befriended us. That was the effect of The Clash. The group were internationalists so these Millwall, Chelsea, Spurs fans forgot about our football rivalries because we were into The Clash. A few weeks later we visited them in Camberwell were The Clash’s debut album was played over and over again as we all pogoed in the front room of a lad called Mark Webb – I’m still in touch with him. Every word to every song was sung as if our lives depended on it. This was a band capturing the moment. They were ours!
I became obsessed with The Clash and knew the words to most songs (that came in handy many years later when I sang White Man In Hammersmith Palais, Bankrobber and Armamagideon Time with the Justice Tonight Band raising awareness for Hillsbourough in 2011/12. Review here) I was distraught by the bad reviews for Sandinista but I still loved it and do to this day there are so many epic poetic songs on it. I saw them play live on numerous occasions and I even followed them to Paris in 1981 and saw them play seven nights at the Mogador Theatre with The Beat and Wah Heat! Their tour manager was from Liverpool so he got me backstage passes for every night. I was in their dressing room most nights and they welcomed me like a long lost brother. Mick Jones told me in later years that he had followed Mott The Hoople around in his youth and they had always treated him well so The Clash adopted the same philosophy. On the last night they wanted to go to a nightclub so with 50 or more in the entourage they wandered the streets of Paris until a club would let the whole lot of us in. A couple of clubs had said the band only but the group insisted it was everyone or no one. They truly were the ‘people’s band’ and the best live band I have ever seen!’