65 years ago today (August 21) Joe Strummer was born. As part of The Clash, he would go on to create an rock and roll punk legacy. Celebrating his amazing career, here’s 50 Clash facts, starting with their first ever gig – a summer 1976 blowout supporting The Sex Pistols at the Black Swan in Sheffield.
Most of the debut LP The Clash was written on the 18th floor of a council high rise on London’s Harrow Rd. The flat was owned by Mick’s grandmother, who regularly turned up at Clash gigs.
During the filming for the ‘Bankrobber’ video, Clash roadies Baker and Johnny Green faked a bank job in South London. They were stopped and questioned by the police, who thought they were the real thing.
The first Clash gig in Belfast was stopped by the authorities. Undeterred, the band went sight-seeing around the various trouble spots, getting their pictures taken beside security gates and confused-looking squaddies.
‘Train In Vain’ isn’t listed on the sleeve credits for ‘London Calling’ because it was originally going to be a flexi give-away with NME. Unfortunately, the idea proved too expensive and the track went on the LP instead.
‘Should I Stay Or Should I Go’ was written by Mick about American singer Ellen Foley, who sang the backing vocals on Meatloaf’s Bat Out Of Hell LP.
Mick Jones tried to teach Paul Simonon to play the guitar (as he had no previous experience), but he couldn’t grasp it so he took up the bass because ”it’s easier and has only 4 strings”.
The Clash weren’t always into combat fatigues. When Mick Jones and Paul first got involved with the punk experience, they used to customize ladies’ car coats.
In the early days the Clash often went hungry. Once, after a long night spent putting up posters, Paul Simonon heated up the remainder of the flour and water paste on a rusty blade and ate it.
During a tricky period in the late 70’s, Manager Bernie Rhodes tried to replace Mick Jones with Steve Jones from The Sex Pistols.
Joe Strummer once directed his own movie Cops & Robbers, staring Mick, Paul, and Clash photographer Pennie Smith.
Joe Strummer was born in Ankara, Turkey. His dad was a civil servant.
In defence of the violent reputation which punks had at the time, Joe Strummer said in an US interview that the people who threw bottles at gigs weren’t the punks but the ‘mummy’s boys’.
“Strum Guard” is a term used solely by Joe Strummer to describe the bandana taped around his right hand to protect it from his own vigorous guitar-flailing.
Throughout 1977 the band were arrested for some strange crimes, for example Strummer and Headon were arrested for stealing pillowcases from a hotel room in Newcastle.
When American writer Lester Bangs toured England with The Clash, Bernie Rhodes tried to set him on fire.
Strummer’s real name is John Mellor, but he changed his name as a reference to his strumming skills when he was a busker in the London Underground.. Mick Jones’ real name is Mick Jones
The cover of the ‘London Calling’ album is a rip-off of Elvis’ ‘Rock And Roll’ LP from ’56 and was taken by our own Pennie Smith.
The American branch of their label (CBS) decided that their music wasn’t fit for radio play, so the album was not released in America. However, the import of the record became the largest import of all time!
‘Rock The Casbah’ was the very first rock video that starred an armadillo, zoo fans.
Simonon got into a scuffle with the bass player of The Stranglers (J.J. Burnel) at a Ramones gig.
Songs that mention Clash members and associates: “Walk Out To Winter” (Aztec Camera), “Punky Reggae Party” (Bob Marley), “Posing At The Roundhouse”, “Part-Time Punks” (TV Personalities), “Gangsters” (The Special AKA), “The Feeding Of 5000” (Crass), “Tear Stained Letter” (Richard Thompson), “Death Threats” (Throbbing Gristle), “Joe Strummer’s Wallet” (The Stingrays).
Mick Jones played guitar on the Elvis Costello song ‘Big Tears’ on the B-side of ‘Pump It Up’.
The spread-’em-against-the-wall pose on the cover of ‘White Riot’ was borrowed from a dub LP called ‘State Of Emergency’ by Joe Gibbs And The Professionals
The Blockheads (they of Ian Dury And…) once turned up unexpectedly at a Clash recording session dressed as policemen, causing Mick Jones to flush all of his illicit substances down the toilet and the rest of the band to flee.
Captain Sensible once invaded the stage during an early Clash gig on the continent. He was booted off and landed on some fencing, causing great damage to his testicular region.
They also sold their double and triple album sets ‘London Calling’ and ‘Sandinista!’ for around the price of a single album (£5.99). This meant that they had to forfeit all of their performance royalties on its first 200, 000 sales. They were constantly in debt to CBS and only started to break even around 1982.
Joe Strummer once said that listening to John Peel was like a dog being sick in your face.
Strummer disliked the punk practice of gobbing. Especially after someone landed a greenie in his open mouth and he got hepatitis.
The Clash II went on a busking tour to promote the “Cut The Crap” LP. They weren’t any good.
After leaving The Clash (and being namedchecked as ‘Tory Crimes’ on the sleeve of The Clash), original drummer Terry Chimes joined Bowie clones Cowboys International, who were one of the least successful bands of the late 1970’s. He also drummed with Black Sabbath and Samantha Fox.
Mick Jones’ band ‘London SS’ was originally a hard rock group which was revamped and evolved to become ‘The Clash’.
Joe once sent the fanzine Alternative User a thank-you present – a consignment of lawnmower parts!
Whilst at public school, the young Joe Strummer was an avid stamp collector.
There were 204 drummers auditioned before The Clash settled for Nicky ‘Topper’ Headon.
On the TV show Something Else, Joe Strummer once suggested that band managers should be put in concentration camps.
In 1977 when The Clash were signed to CBS some people believed they had ‘sold out’ to the establishment, particularly Mark Perry, founder of the leading London punk periodical, Sniffin’ Glue. He said: “Punk died the day The Clash signed to CBS.”
Joe Strummer toured America as an honorary Pogue in winter ’87, replacing Phil Chevron who was ill with a stomach ulcer. The Pogues took advantage of this situation by playing faithful versions of “I Fought The Law” and “London Calling”.
Paul Simonon was once voted the world’s hunkiest man in Playgirl magazine.
Sandy Pearlman, producer of “Give ‘Em Enough Rope”, so disliked Joe Strummer’s voice that he mixed it more quietly than the drums throughout the album.
Shane MacGowan was victim of a famous ear-biting attack at an early Clash gig.
Joe Strummer once said his favourite record was Van Morrison’s “Gloria’.
Drummer Nicky Headon was nicknamed ‘Topper’ by Simonon, because he thought he resembled the Topper comic book character ‘Mickey the Monkey’.
The Spanish lines in ‘Should I Stay Or Should I Go’ and ‘Spanish Bombs’ are not grammatically correct.
Joe Strummer played a bearded dishwasher in the mercenary army who gets thrown into a river in Alex Cox’s Walker. No-one has ever seen said film.
The Clash temporarily became The Lash when they became studio players for vice queen Janie Jones. They appear on her single, “House of the Ju Ju Queen”.
Both Paul Simonon and Viv Albertine of The Slits modelled for a Laura Ashley calendar.
Joe has run both the London and Paris marathons. Slowly.
British Telecom wanted to use ‘London Calling’ for an advertising campaign. They were told to bog off.
The Clash were the first (and last?) white band to have their likeness painted onto the wall of Lee Perry’s famous Black Ark recording studios in Jamaica.