The first Clash album is 44 years old today. Richie Tomlinson reflects on album that changed the world.
What set this record apart from the other punk releases at the time was that it was really the first record to document just how boring and frustrating it was to be young in the mid to late 70’s. Even if you were lucky enough to have a decent job, hobby or interest, there was little hope of pursuing them after 11pm as everywhere shut down. Most people’s salvation was in music, and in this album they found that their lives were being mirrored perfectly. When you listen to this album, you can easily find one or more songs that relate directly to your life.
Janie Jones. The frustration of being in a job you hate, but a job you have to stick with because you need to fill the car with petrol, and be able to have a social life. And how many of us have wanted to tell the boss exactly how we feel?
Remote Control. ‘Here it comes, 11 O’clock, Where can we go now’? Perfect words for a society that controlled your every move. ‘They had a meeting in Mayfair, Got yer down they wanna keep you there!’
I’m So Bored With The USA. The band rant against the Americanisation of the UK. ‘Yankee detectives are always on the TV’ And the creeping threat of American imperialism ‘Yankee dollar talks to the dictators of the world, in fact it’s giving orders, and they can’t afford to miss a word’ More than a song, it turned out to be prophecy.
White Riot. A song inspired by the Notting Hill Carnival riot of 1976, in which Strummer and Simonon participated. ‘All the power in the hands, of people rich enough to buy it. Primitive lyrics, but spot on lyrics!
Hate & War. The hippy slogan of Love & Peace turned on it’s head. There was no room for sentiment in the UK in 1977. You fought to survive and to be yourself.
What’s My Name? The continuous search for youthful identity. ‘What the hell is wrong with me, I’m not who I want to be’. Few of us are at that age. We need to live and grow first.
Deny. Written about original guitarist Keith Levene and his drug intake. ‘You said you ain’t had none for weeks, baby I’ve seen your arms’. Direct and to the point.
London’s Burning. As was the whole of the UK. With boredom and frustration. Tower blocks, loneliness and speeding. When that’s all you’ve got, you have to fight for more. Perhaps more than any other song, this sums up England 1977.
Career Opportunities. Or lack of em. ‘Every job they offer you is to keep you out the dock’. Ain’t that the truth? I remember my careers advice, I didn’t even have time to warm the seat. When asked what I wanted to do when I left school, I answered I’m not sure. I was told ‘You’re best staying on, send the next one in’. I was there for about 30 seconds. I did not wanna make tea at the BBC, and I most certainly did not wanna be a cop!
Cheat. When the system is stacked against you, you have to hit back. ‘Cheat, Cheat, no reason to play fair’ Make you own rules, and live your own life.
Protex Blue. Mick Jones love song to condoms. Almost throwaway, but there is some great interplay with the instruments here. And the guitar/drum intro is superb.
Police & Thieves. The first of many curveballs the Clash would throw at us in their career, and most peoples introduction to reggae. A great cover of the Junior Murvin classic. The song simply states that the law makers and law breakers are the same. And as the years have gone on, this has proved to be true. An amazing version of a truly classic song.
48 Hours. You work all week for 48 hours recreation, so you need 48 thrills. Because as the song says, Monday is coming like a jailor on wheels!
Garageland. Inspired by the Charles Shaar Murray review of their third ever gig, when he said. ‘The Clash are the type of garage band who should be returned to the garage with the motor still running’ How ironic he became one of their biggest fans. A great way to round off one of the best albums of 1977. ‘The truth is only known by guttersnipes!’
As important now as it was 44 years ago.