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

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Any Frontier Any Hemisphere

Traditionally a British camping trip should combine sunburn with hours of pouring rain and this one delivered on both. Friday evening was gorgeous, the tail end of a day where the temperature gauge in my car read 30 degrees when I left work. Saturday afternoon was spent around and in a tarn on top of a hill near Water Yeat before at 3.30 pm the heavens opened and it rained all night. Sunday gave us sunshine and sunburn around Coniston Water followed by more rain of biblical proportions yesterday. But its definitely worth getting away from the world, going offline and spending evenings sitting round a fire drinking booze and talking bollocks with friends, especially so after the events of the past week. A dripping wet tent that needs to be dried out is a small price to pay for living outdoors for a few days.

Back in the music world I’ve been spinning this a few times recently and prompted by my friend Meany offer it for your delectation today, Horace Andy’s cover version of The Clash’s Straight To Hell. I’ve written about Straight To Hell recently, a Strummer song of immigration, refugees, suffering and dislocation. Horace recorded it many years ago but was never happy with the rhythm. A conversation with Eric Blowtorch led to the pair digging the track back out and fixing it (out now, 10% of all proceeds going to Doctors Without Borders and a Big Youth dub on the B-side). This is reggae roots style, Horace’s vocal floating over the organ, bass and drums. Campfire music.

Strummercamp

We’re away this weekend, camping up in the Lake District. If we weren’t I’d be going along to Strummercamp, the annual Joe Strummer bank holiday festival held at Manchester Rugby Club in Cheadle. This year’s line up features Spear Of Destiny, The Membranes, TV Smith and Department X, and good vibes with good people. If you’re nearby and at a loose end, day tickets and weekend tickets are still available. Say hi to DJ Gadge if you see him.

Clash time. This is a ten minute unofficial mix of Bankrobber plus it’s versions Robber Dub and Rockers Galore (with Mikey Dread on the mic), flowing into one another. Turn up the bass.

Bankrobber/Robber Dub/Rockers Galore

Want To Join In A Chorus?

The Clash, day five. I’ve tried to avoid the obvious songs but for today I’m going with one of their best songs and a high point of the later years. In Straight To Hell Joe delivers a state of the world address, taking in Thatcherism, industrial decline, unemployment and racism in verse one, abandoned children, cultural imperialism and the Vietnam War in verse two and the lives of immigrants universally in verse three. Mick comes up with the guitar hook and Topper thumps out a sort of Bossa Nova with a lemonade bottle with a towel wrapped around it banged against the bass drum. This is the longer version which was edited down for Combat Rock, complete with extra lyrics- at seven minutes long it is possibly Joe’s finest hour lyrically and vocally. From the Sound System remasters, this is the version you want/need.

Straight To Hell (Unedited version)

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?

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.

Pressure Drop A Drop On You

Don Letts is a man who looms large in The Clash story- the dj who played dub for the punks, the man who dressed the bands who couldn’t afford Malcolm’s clothes, the film maker who went with them to New York and the cover star of Black Market Clash (later expanded into Super Black Market Clash), a compilation of B-sides and assortments. One of the highlights inside these two albums is Pressure Drop, an amped up take on the Toots And The Maytals song (and originally the b-side to 1978’s English Civil War). The Clash’s enthusiasm for reggae was a gateway into Jamaican music for many fans. Joe often worried about covering reggae songs, stung by Lydon’s criticisms, and he referred to them as trash reggae but this cover is way more than that.

Pressure Drop