50 Things You Never Knew About The Clash


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.


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.


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”.


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.


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.


“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.


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!


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.


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.


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.


Shane MacGowan was victim of a famous ear-biting attack at an early Clash gig.


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.


Both Paul Simonon and Viv Albertine of The Slits modelled for a Laura Ashley calendar.


British Telecom wanted to use ‘London Calling’ for an advertising campaign. They were told to bog off.