(#3 in a series – 10 albums that shaped my musical taste)
1977 – Sixteen years of age. Every week a new NME to pore over, every week a fresh crop of original new music to investigate, the scene just bursting with life. It was hard to keep up. Each new acquisition felt more personal than it does today.. you’d found something special, with sounds that hadn’t been made before. Small dynamic record labels, a brilliant DIY design ethic, bands springing up from nowhere.
The NME pumped up The Clash like nobody’s business (the zenith a staggering nine page screed by Lester Bangs spread across three issues), so it was inevitable I bought the album. It looked fantastic, ripped up, fluorescent, controversial. It opened with a tubthumping flurry and a headlong rush into a new world.. “He’s in love with rock and roll, woahh..”. It was itchy, it buzzed, it had drive and determination, it had.. reggae! I was exhilarated but confused, and later to find out that the Clash were too – a Mott The Hoople fan who thought he was Keith Richards, a pub rock idealist posh bloke called Woody, a punk Stuart Sutcliffe following the dots he’d printed on the neck of his bass, plus a drummer who never quite fit (and not on the sleeve as a result). But somehow it all stuck together, glue in a brown paper bag, and The Clash rode a wave of disaffection, dodging brickbats and a hail of gob, committing the unbelievable heresy of signing for a major label, and becoming an ultimately irresistible live force.
To some it was just a load of Jackson Pollocks – rudimentary drumming, mindless terrace chants, fakers, charlatans, amateurs – but their paint splattered battle fatigues looked great to me. They didn’t articulate how I felt, but they did articulate how I thought I should be feeling. I was always a follower, but what a gang to be in.
The Last Gang In Town, no less.
P.S. Part 4 of The Sacred Days You Gave Me: another one from 1977.