We are the clash
Reagan, thatcher and the last stand of a band that mattered
Mark Andersen and Ralph Heibutzki
Anyone who knows me knows I love the clash. From calling my dog Strummer to listening to them every week the works of Joe et al had a huge influence on me. When the authors here state that the clash without politics is a wretched ghost I am on their wavelength. Whether they meant it or not the band had a huge influence on so many peoples politics. Be that travelling to Nicaragua or just a general interest in equality.
My first band played Garageland as a cover and each time our vocalist andy sneered out the words “I don’t want to go to where, where the rich are going” I was moved to sing along and believe that this band of former art school students were a band of my class. Working people trying to make ends meet not by kicking against the pricks but by clocking in for them.
Like us all mistakes are made along the way and perhaps the bands biggest one was having one final record and a new line up. Strummer and Simenon drafted in Three session musicians and went on tour. In many ways these were a clash cover band but it was this line-up I saw play live in Dublin and it is a gig I remember so well. I loved every second the band were on stage. I was enthralled by their presence. I cared not for other people In The band. I could hear and see Joe Strummer and was completely blown away.
This is a tale of that band, taken from bootlegs and interviews both recent and at the time. It is also a look into the mind of strummer as the band were clinging on to the last vestiges of life. It was a time in politics of Reagan and thatcher. The clash were outspoken in that manner but it does feel that maybe they could have done a bit more. We place our faith in artists, expectations that they can lead the way and in many ways they are the ones looking for guidance when the curtain goes down or the amps get turned off. Strummer was no Billy Bragg and the clash weren’t the redskins. This was a band giving their all on stage each night, trying to forge a way to be positive but that wasn’t their 24/7 lifestyle. When the miners were on strike looking for any support and solidarity many in the punk scene were only too willing. The Clash played some support gigs for the cause but it was 9 months into the dispute.
The book delves into the politics of the day, the re-election of Thatcher and Reagan and subsequent hounding of the left. Interesting that they were on the rise as the clash was in the demise.