That’s The Sound Of The Man Working On The Chain Gang

I don’t know where this photo of Mick Jones comes from (or where I got it for that matter)- long hair, floral shirt, red trousers all makes it post Clash I think. This curio came my way via email recently too from old friend/reader Dub Robots. 7 Years was a Big Audio Dynamite demo from 1988 just Mick, drum machine and spare guitar. Someone called IndieGround and Heston have re-imagined it adding samples, instruments and more voices and turned it into a nicely B.A.D. piece of work, totally unofficial but rather good. There’s a link on the Youtube page if you want a download version.

There are multiple B.A.D. bootlegs available out in the internet, The B.A.D. Files, running up from Volume 1 through to 9, containing all kinds of odds and ends. This, if you’re interested, is Mick’s original demo of 7 Years.

7 Years (Original Demo)

In Full Effect

One of the things music blogs are for is going deeper and further, plucking out the out of print, the lost and forgotten, the obscure b-sides and alternate takes. Today I’ve got two Big Audio Dynamite B-sides for no reason other than I was scrolling through a folder and the first one caught my eye. Mainly because looking at the track name I couldn’t place it at all.

The spirit of forward momentum and trying new ideas, new sounds and new technologies that led Mick Jones through The Clash and then into Big Audio Dynamite is in full effect on In Full Effect. It was on the Contact 12″, the single that promoted 1989’s Megatop Phoenix, an album that married B.A.D.’s guitars, choruses and samples with acid house. In Full Effect is a seven minute instrumental credited to Mick and Greg and shows they could do a pretty convincing version of what was then the new thing.

In Full Effect

Three years earlier V Thirteen had a similarly dance floor bound B-side, this time soaking up electro and giving it a B.A.D. spin.

Hollywood Boulevard (Dub Mix)

Latino Joe

I came across these two clips at the weekend, Joe Strummer and Latino Rockabilly war playing a benefit gig in Notting Hill in 1988. The film was recently re-discovered by the cameraman who was part of a community video group at the time. The quality isn’t perfect- the bass in the first clip sounds like a repeating fart-but they’re worth watching. First up is Joe and the band covering Big Audio Dynamite’s V Thirteen, a song Joe and Mick Jones co-wrote. Joe giving it plenty with the riffing arm. If The Clash had survived intact after Combat Rock this is a pointer as to where they might have gone.

The other one is this version of Straight To Hell, taken down a notch or two but no less intense. Zander Schloss’s guitar playing is a little over complicated but this is nicely done.

Romeo Romeo You Gotta Have Your Say

Just to prove this isn’t solely a dance music blog here’s one of Big Audio Dynamite’s clubbiest songs. Hmm, maybe this has become a dance music blog. The Bottom Line is arguably the highest highpoint of the debut album and the 12″ mix, all eight minutes forty seconds of it, shows exactly how far Mick and B.A.D. were moving on from the wreckage of The Clash. It’s worth bearing in mind that Joe’s Clash Mk II put out Cut The Crap at the same time. On the 7″ and album versions the song fades out with Mick singing ‘Let me take you to, let me take you to, Part Two’. The 12″ mix follows through with the second half. At just past the five minute mark the beats toughen up at bit, Mick raps about Romeo and the whole thing continues with that juddering bassline and a joie de vivre that make it irresistible. The lyrics in the first half are great, full of catchy one liners, ‘dancing to the tune of economic decline’ and that brilliant use of the ‘the horses are on the track’ sample. There were multiple versions of the single, including a U.S. one with a Rick Rubin Def Jam mix. But this is the one. Taken from the UK 12″ release, it has never been re-issued or released digitally or on cd as far as I’m aware, which is baffling, because it’s the version of this song that you really need.

The Bottom Line (UK 12″ Mix)

Free Flashback

In 1990 the original line up of Big Audio Dynamite released their last song, Free, for the soundtrack of a film called Flashback. Dennis Hopper and Kiefer Sutherland starred in Flashback- a radical hippie on the run for twenty years (Hopper) and an FBI agent sent to bring him to trial (Sutherland). I’ve seen it, many years ago, 1990 probably- I seem to recall enjoying it at the time. The song didn’t appear on any B.A.D. albums except the Planet Bad compilation although it turned up in a re-written and re-titled form on BAD II’s Kool Aid. It’s a very late 80s becoming 90s house influenced, Stussy-clad number. Good, catchy fun if not the best way to remember the line up of the band that had achieved so much over the previous years.

Free (Film Version)

Free (Club Version)

The video has Mick and the B.A.D. boys lip syncing and dancing/shuffling over footage and clips from the film. Gives you a flavour of both in one handy package.

Sing Michael Sing

If anyone missed it my contribution to JC’s Imaginary Compilation Album series appeared at The Vinyl Villain earlier this week, ten songs and a bonus track that make up my Big Audio Dynamite compilation. You can read it and listen to the songs here if you want to. It led me to thinking about a Mick Jones Clash ten track compilation and then also a Mick Jones career one. The Clash one would have to be songs Mick sung and could look something like this…

Side 1. The Prisoner//Jail Guitar Doors//Stay Free//Gates Of The West//Lost In The Supermarket

Side 2. Train In Vain//Up In Heaven (Not Only Here)//Police On My Back//Somebody Got Murdered//Innoculated City

That means leaving out Protex Blue, I’m Not Down, Hitsville UK and Should I Stay Or Should I Go. I’m open to suggestions- and could easily change my mind tomorrow.

A career spanning compilation would need side 1 to be entirely by The Clash and side 2 B.A.D. and beyond I think.

Side 1. The Clash Jail Guitar Doors//Gates Of The West//Train In Vain//Lost In The Supermarket//Up In Heaven (Not Only Here)

Side 2. B.A.D. Medicine Show//B.A.D. V Thirteen// B.A.D. Contact//Carbon/Silicon Why Do Men Fight?//Carbon/Silicon Big Surprise.

I could take off a C/S song and put another B.A.D. one on quite easily. If you don’t know Mick’s work with Carbon/Silicon there’s a ton of stuff out there, much of it freely available. Why Do Men Fight? was a rollicking guitar tune. Big Surprise sounds like the beginnings of a solo project, a man looking back, misty eyed. It’s also a gorgeous little tune.

Rewind

I was listening to Big Audio Dynamite’s third album, Megatop Phoenix, released in 1989. In 1988 Mick Jones contracted chicken pox which then spread to his lungs causing double pneumonia. He was close to death, in intensive care and in a coma for several days. Hence the phoenix of the title. It was also the last album made by the line-up of Mick, Don Letts, Leo Williams, Dan Donovan and Greg Roberts last album. BAD had already pioneered sample based songs, using drum machines, films and hip hop and reggae influences. By 1989 they were soaking up house sounds too. The album shows the quality of the group’s songwriting, the wide range of Mick’s lyrics (James Brown, love and romance, the UK, football, the emerging house scene, Victor Tretchikoff’s famous Green Lady painting, Tower Bridge and World War II all make appearances) and the scope and wit of the sampling- Charlie Watts’ drumming, Bernard Cribbins, The Great Escape, Noel Coward, George Formby, Alfred Hitchcock, The Who and The Pretty Things and James Brown (again) are among the credited ones. House music is all over the lead single Contact, essentially a verse-chorus house song sung by Mick and the song House Arrest is pretty convincing too- pianos, jackhammer bass, whistles. There are songs which are cut and paste experiments and songs which are more crafted. It’s an album that intends to be modern. It’s not easy to get hold of currently and doesn’t seem to be in print- but if you go second hand you’ll find an overlooked but fine lp. Rewind is sung by Don Letts, digital reggae inspired, diverting off into Tenor Saw’s Ring The Alarm at one point and including part of the later song Stalag 123 played backwards. Ideas busting out all over the place.

Rewind

The band shots on the inner sleeve are superbly late 80s. Mick went to the photoshoot dressed like this…