Friday, April 13, 2012

Clash on Times Square

Volume Magazine recently revisited the February 1982 visit by The Clash, thanks to some splendid photos from their Auckland show taken by Jonathan Ganley. I used one of Jonathan's photos of that gig for the book cover design I did last year for London's Burning by Hans Versluys (pictured above).
Here's a tv interview with The Clash shot during their NZ jaunt in 82, noted in the comments as "possibly the last interview featuring Topper who leaves abruptly during the interview." He doesn't leave abruptly tho - he gets up and says "I'm gonna go sunbathing, see ya!" Interviewer is Dylan Taite, and it is unedited raw footage, including the "5,4,3,2..." countdown leader from NZBC.

The Clash did a run of shows the previous year in New York - they had planned to do 7 shows, but the promoter allegedly oversold them, resulting in a riot at one of the first few shows when ticket holders couldn't get in, so they did 17 shows in all. The show on June 9 1981 was recorded for radio broadcast, and there's bootlegs of other shows floating round the internet.

NYC TV news reports on The Clash at Bonds, watch below... the news reporter in the last item says that The Clash sold 3500 tickets for each show, but fire marshals determined only 1800 people could safely attend, and that this was the first time they'd made such a ruling, despite previous shows at Bonds having higher capacity.

Check for some amusing name spelling in the news captioning (Kosmo Vinyl identified as Joe Strummer?), and see Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five getting pelted with cups at 5.30. Joe got on the mic and told the crowd off, more on that shortly.

One fascinating aspect of The Clash and their legacy since splitting is how carefully the band members stage-manage their archival releases - they seem to be able to get fans to buy the same songs in different release packages again and again. For example, take best ofs - there's The Story of The Clash (1988), Clash on Broadway (1991), The Clash - The Singles (1996), The Essental Clash (2003), The Clash - Singles (2006) ... then there's London Calling the 25th anniversary edition (2004), followed by London Calling the 30th anniversary edition (2009).
They put out an official live album Live: From Here to Eternity in 1999, and then another live album, in 2008 - Live at Shea Stadium. Meanwhile, there's this stunning concert from 1981 lingering in the vaults. Track it down if you can, it's an incredible document of the band in their prime.

The other thing that amazed me is that there's almost no gap between songs. They finish one song, take a breath, Strummer barks the next song title and the band launch into it. And they keep that intense pace up for an hour and three quarters. Over 17 shows. No wonder Joe Stummer described this run of shows by saying "We took a stand and it nearly killed us."

Joe Streno is a photographer who was friends with a woman who worked for The Clash, and she got him into as many of the Bonds shows as he liked. His photos of the shows are great - check out his shots of The Slits hanging outside Bonds with Mick Jones. They were opening one of the shows.

From Dangerous Minds: "Not a lot of footage exists from the Clash’s legendary Bond’s Casino residency [apparently it was destroyed when former Clash manager Bernie Rhodes forgot to pay the money on a storage locker where it was being kept], apparently not even one complete show was shot, but there were some tantalizing clips in Don Letts’ Grammy-winning Westway to the World rock doc (released in 2000), as well as in the abandoned short “The Clash on Broadway” (on Westway as a DVD extra).

"Sadly the sound quality is not great, so the performances lacked the hinted at oomph they should have had. Letts’ Bonds footage was apparently shot on the same day as the FM recording was made. Luckily an enterprising Clash fan has restriped the stereo audio from that source and synced up some other angles found in various places. The results are probably the best glimpse we have at what went on at these shows. Ain’t the internet great?" See below.

Berkeley Press notes that "On May 28, 1981, the band took up residency for two weeks and 17 shows. The had opening acts of such magnitude and variety as Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five, the Treacherous Three, Joe Ely, The Dead Kennedys, Bad Brains, The Fall, The Sugar Hill Gang, The Slits, and even ESG." Other acts included the Bush Tetras, The Brattles, and Lee Scratch Perry.

On the opening night, the crowd were warmed up by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, who got a mixed reception. Joe Bosso writes that "Halfway through the Furious Five’s set, as trash pelted the stage, the music stopped abruptly and the voice of Joe Strummer himself boomed over the PA. “Cut the crap and give them a chance! The Clash picked Grandmaster Flash to play for you, and if you don’t treat them with some respect, then you don’t deserve to see the Clash!” Chastened, the crowd cooled down, and the show continued..."

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