Return To Brixton

Paul Simonon realised after a while that the money was in songwriting. During the sessions for what became London Calling he worked up a tune into what would become one of the group’s most recognisable and best-loved songs, thanks in large part to ‘the bassline of the twentieth century’. The swagger of Guns Of Brixton comes from the swing of the bassline and Paul’s rough and ready vocal, the ripping sound at the start (velcro being peeled off the studio chairs apparently) and the chanted backing vocals. One of my favourites.

In 1990 Norman Cook borrowed the bassline for his number one hit Dub Be Good To Me. Without asking permission. Paul and Norman settled in a cafe and according to Paul at the time the cash injection was much needed. I happen to love Dub Be Good To Me, an updating of The SOS Band’s Just Be Good To Me with harmonica pinched from Ennio Morricone and the rap half-inched from Johnny Dynell.

CBS, sensing a hit, decided to get a top dj to remix Guns Of Brixton, for the club scene. Jeremy Healy was the dj and a 12″ single with three new versions (two are below) was put out. It stormed into the charts reaching number 57. I don’t remember the clubs and bars of 1990 being awash with this version either. Well done CBS, good work.

To be honest I quite like the remixes, they present the song a bit differently, give it something else. They’re not as good as the original no, and yes, they’re probably for completists and the curious only.

Return To Brixton (Extended Version)

Return To Brixton (SW2 Dub)

Jeremy Healy was in Haysi Fantayzee previous to his dj career. I’ve been watching the Top Of The Pops re-runs from 1983 this year and the January editions had Haysi Fantayzee on several times doing Shiny Shiny,a sort of pirate, nursery rhyme, tribal, glam, anti-nuclear thumper. Having recorded it, I re-watched it a few times too. Two words- Kate Garner.

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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.

Without People You’re Nothing

Joe Strummer died on 22nd December 2002 and I’ve got into the habit of marking it here. God only knows what he’d have made of the events of 2016 but his famous quote that gives this post its title is as relevant as ever.

I finish work today for the Christmas holiday and I cannot remember ever feeling so tired. I’ll be raising a glass to Joe’s memory tonight. This song from Global A Go Go typifies Joe’s multicultural look at the world and his joy in other cultures.

Bhindi Bhagee

His bandmate and friend Paul Simonon turned 61 on the 15th of December so happy belated birthday to him too.

A Tale Of Two Cities

Strummerville, an annual mini-festival set up to commemorate Joe Strummer and his influence and enable a load of likeminded souls and bands to get together isn’t happening this year. Instead there is A Tale Of Two Cities, a twin city event with a full line up at The Ruby Lounge in Manchester and another at Off the Cuff in Herne Hill, South London, all filled with the spirit of the man himself. Tickets are £15 and some are still available. Ray Gange (from the film Rude Boy) and Clash and Strummer collaborator Tymon Dogg both appear in London and I can personally vouch that the between act DJ in Manchester, El Gadge, will be spinning some great records because I’ve heard him before. So if you’re free, and in either vicinity, get down there.

This song from Sandinista! was Paul Simonon’s tribute to blues parties ‘across the river in South London with a rocking bass and drum’ and has a very cool walking dub bassline.

The Crooked Beat

Them And David Bowie

The crazy, beautiful stream of all things David Bowie related this week has been both wonderful and very sad. The sheer amount of music is one thing, the words and memories another and then there’s the pictures. This one of two South London boys enjoying a beer backstage at Shea Stadium popped up. As did this one below…

Big Audio Dynamite in New York in 1987, with Bowie, Peter Frampton, Jimmy Cliff, Dave Stewart (ugh) and Paul Simonon again (Havana 3am supporting B.A.D.) One of the later B.A.D. line ups did a cover of Suffragette City which I thought I had a digital file of but don’t. I can’t find it anywhere on the internet and can’t rip my vinyl right currently either. You’ll have to imagine it. The influence of Bowie on the punks is well documented. This picture of a pre-Sid Vicious Simon Ritchie on his way to see Bowie at Earl’s Court has been widely shared too…

Bowie was enormous in 1970s Liverpool. Pete Wylie tweeted this week that Liverpool’s 70s youth had to reject their city’s homegrown music and find something new- and that was Bowie. Wylie’s old mucker Ian McCulloch released an album of acoustic songs called Pro Patria Mori in 2013, coupled with Bunnymen songs done live at the Union Chapel. This was Mac’s tribute to the Thin White Duke.

Me And David Bowie

And just because a Bowie post isn’t complete without some music from the man himself, this is an absolute highlight, his best moment from the 1980s, a soaring, romantic song from a widely panned 1980s film, plucked out of nowhere with a hastily scrambled together bunch of musicians sometime in London in 1986. A favourite of mine (and Simon and Drew’s too).

Bowie with Absolute Beginner Patsy Kensit. I had a bit of a thing for her in 1987.

Guns Of Sixty

Paul Simonon, Bagging Area hero, bass player for The Clash (and Havana 3am, and more recently The Good, The Bad And The Queen and Gorillaz), painter, motorcyclist and ‘the most handsome man in West London’, turns sixty today. So, Happy Birthday Mr. Simonon- hope it’s a good one. Paul brought the ska, the dub and the reggae influences to the band along with the visual sense that served them well in their clothes, record sleeves, posters and stage backdrops. His bass playing by 1980 was vastly improved from the early days where he put his fingers on painted on notes on the neck of his guitar. The bassline in Bankrobber is one of his best.

Robber Dub

In fact, December is a big month for Clash anniversaries- Sandinista was released thirty-five years ago this month and London Calling thirty-six. Releasing double or triple albums a few weeks before Christmas, too late for end of year lists- all part of the grand Clash plan.

People Always Talk About Reputation

Yesterday’s post- Garbage sampling The Clash- led me to thinking about who else has sampled The Only Band That Matters, which immediately led me to this song from 1990.

Norman Cook, fresh from The Housemartins, lifted Paul Simonon’s bassline from Guns Of Brixton. Lindy Layton sang The SOS Band’s Just Be Good To Me over the top. Add a snatch of a rap from Johnny Dynell’s Jam Hot, the harmonica from Once Upon A Time In The West, some scratching and a funky beat and you’ve got a number one single. According to legend Norman hadn’t cleared the use of the bassline with Paul and the pair met in a London cafe to come to an arrangement. This song says 1990 to me almost as much as any other.