Situation No Win

This picture was from an NME interview, Mick Jones photographed in Portobello Road following his recovery from chicken pox and complications with pneumonia in 1989 that nearly killed him. I was hoping to find other similar pictures of punks on bikes and do a semi-regular feature called Punks On Bikes but alas I’ve not found any others (apart from Paul Weller in that Style Council video).

Mick always had the ability to rise from the ashes of defeat and disaster. He came back from being sacked from The Clash with Big Audio Dynamite and a debut album that was chock full of tunes and hits. When the original line up of B.A.D. walked out in 1990, partly in response to his ‘intolerable’ attitude after getting over his near fatal illness in ’89, he put together a new line up and came back once again. Rush was a big hit in the US (on the back of the re-released Levi’s tie in Should I Stay Or Should I Go? admittedly but it also gained B.A.D. II plenty of airplay and curiously they also won the Billboard Modern Rock Song of 1991 award). In Rush Mick sings of no regrets and of keeping moving…

‘If I had my time again
I would do it all the same
And not change a single thing
Even when I was to blame

For the heartache and the pain
that I’ve caused throughout the years
How I learnt to be a man
Through the laughter and the tears’

The song is so full of Mick Jones joie de vivre you can practically hear his wonky toothed grin as it plays and his continuing love of sampling is evident with borrowed sections from The Who, Deep Purple, Tommy Roe, The Sugarhill Gang and Peter Sellers.

‘Now I’m fully grown
And I know where it’s at
Somehow I stayed thin
While the other guys got fat

All the chances that I’ve blown
And the times that I’ve been down
I didn’t get too high
Kept my feet on the ground’

Mick was still playing Rush when touring with the Justice Tonight crew in 2011- hedefinitely played it The Ritz in Manchester, Pete Wylie sharing the mic and The Farm backing him. The release of it as the AA side to Should I Stay Or Should I Go? caught him a bit of flak from people accusing him of cashing in the back of The Clash’s belated number 1 single, but the whole Levi’s re-release was a cash-in, so why not? Across a multitude of formats there are at least eight different versions of Rush. This one is the album mix.

Rush

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You Said You Stand By Your Man

Under Bernie Rhodes’ tuition Joe Strummer and The Clash were encouraged to write about the world around them, real things that mattered. Joe said as far as love songs were concerned ”subject covered” and he had a tendency to be a bit sniffy about Mick’s love songs. But as Viv Albertine pointed out in her autobiography Clothes Music Boys in some ways it’s Mick’s love songs that have been among the most enduring of The Clash’s tunes, Train In Vain and Should I Stay Or Should I Go among them.

Train In Vain was a last minute addition to London Calling, added right at the end after the sleeves had been printed (which added to the notion that the group were embarrassed about love songs). It was also intended for an NME flexidisc but that never happened so onto London Calling it went. Train In Vain rides in on a railway rhythm and Mick’s twin riffs- harmonica and guitar- and the country and western inspired lyric, which may be about Mick’s relationship with Viv which broke down around the time of the London Calling sessions. It was also the first single that got into the top 30 in the USA, the country they were bored with and enthralled by. Throughout his time as leader of Big Audio Dynamite Mick barely wrote a love song, in either incarnation of the band- in fact I can’t think of a single one off the top of my head.

I saw on Twitter over the weekend that it is now 6 years since the Mick Jones/Pete Wylie/The Farm tour that played Clash songs up and down the country. It was a great moment to see Mick play Train In Vain and do his little shuffle and grin on stage at The Ritz. Later on Ian Brown and John Squire turned up for the encore, their first appearance on stage together since announcing the Roses reunion. Train In Vain is a great little song, one which always raises a cheer when I hear it.

Train In Vain

BAD Birthday

Mick Jones turned 62 years old last week so this is a belated happy birthday from me. The photo was taken for a music press interview (either NME or Melody Maker) c.1989, after Mick had recovered from a life threatening bout of pneumonia. Those Stussy bucket hats were highly sought after around this time (and still are today).

Mick was on a roll around this time, despite slipping out of fashion, with Megatop Phoenix coming out in 1990, a hit single with Roddy Frame and The Clash hitting number 1 on the back of the Levi’s advert. BAD II’s Rush was on the B-side, a good Mick song and one of the best the second line up recorded. It was a decision which go down very well with Joe and Paul apparently.

This song was the B-side to the E=mc2 single.

This Is Big Audio Dynamite

Clash Piano

Clash week day four. Two songs from round the old Joanna. When the Clash On Broadway box came out in 1991 one of the unreleased songs was a cover of Every Little Bit Hurts, Mick at the piano and giving it loads with a reverb drenched, soulful vocal. According to the booklet it was recorded during the Sandinista! sessions after Chrissie Hynde had dropped in. Mick and Chrissie used to sing it together and Mick gave it a go in the studio a few days later, with Norman Watt Roy on bass (which dates it to when Simonon was away filming Ladies And Gentlemen The Fabulous Stains) and Topper splashing away on cymbals and percussion.

Every Little Bit Hurts

Originally sung by Brenda Holloway in 1964 it was covered by The Spencer Davis Group which is where Mick knew it from. A couple of years earlier The Clash had been the subjects of a film, Rude Boy, a semi-fictionalised account of the life a roadie called Ray Gange. The film is a brave but flawed stab at documenting life in 1978-9 in Britain. But it does also feature some of the most incendiary Clash live footage committed to tape/celluloid which still makes the hairs on the back of neck stand up and the blood pump a little faster. In this section Joe finds a piano and starts hammering away while Gange stands around drinking beer. After a minute and a half and some muttering/swearing from Gange about Sam Philips and Elvis Joe breaks into Let The Good Times Roll, a Shirley and Lee song from 1956.

Give ’em a piano and a couple of minutes and both Joe and Mick would reel out the pre-punk songs. What Year Zero?

A Long Time Ago There Were Pirates

I found this image on the web the other night so it gives me a good excuse for a gratuitous Clash post and one of the most hair raising, adrenaline infused songs they recorded. The original Capital Radio was a freebie with the NME and the second hand price of it sky-rocketed. This appalled the band whose insistence on value for money and fans not being ripped off was a founding principal. So the song was re-recorded and included on the 1979 Cost Of Living ep, pound for pound one of the best value for money 7″ records ever released (a four track ep led by I Fought The Law and supported by two of their best lesser known songs Groovy Times and Gates Of The West plus this one here).

Capital Radio starts with Mick playing a sweet acoustic finger picked riff. At twenty nine seconds Mick, off mic, shouts ‘1-2-3-4’ and hits the main riff, a massive jolt of electric guitars. Joe joins in with a line about ‘the Dr Goebbels show!’ Topper’s drumming is on the money. Joe and Mick alternate call and response style, railing against London’s number one commercial radio station and it’s refusal to play punk records and celebrating the pirate stations of the 60s- now silent ‘cos they ain’t got government license’. They make radio programming sound like the biggest injustice of modern times. At two minutes the band breaks it down and Joe comes in with ‘hey guys, come on’. ‘Yeah wot?’ Mick responds, surly as you like. Joe then explores the possibility of The Clash being radio friendly and having a hit before they end with a brief breakout into You’re The One That I Want, then at the top of the charts with Travolta and Newton John. Mick’s strings squeal. Topper doubles the beat. More exciting and more fun than you can possibly imagine (as Obi Wan never said).

Capital Radio Two

While I’m here these pictures have been sitting in a folder waiting for a post so I may as well put them here or I’ll end up doing a week of Clash posts.

Here’s Joe and Mick in the USA, 1983, hanging by the pool- everything you need in late period Clash… Joe in Docs with mohawk and a busker’s ukulele, Mick having raided the army surplus store.

Paul live in Paris, raising standards.

And lastly Topper and Paul, on tour c1979 somewhere far from the Westway.

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)