Thursday, October 06, 2011

A Brief Tribute To The Clash

I never understood the punk culture any more than I do the current hip-hop scene but then I’ve never been the rebellious type. Both genres are filled with way too much venom and in the case of the punkers their rebelliousness often included large doses of self-loathing. Somehow, no matter how ticked off I am at something or someone, I've never had a desire to stick safety pins in my cheeks.

It was all too much for someone who grew up during the days of flower power, and peace, love, and understanding. Unlike many bands of the 1960s, Johnny Rotten and his ilk were truly rebels without a cause but, fortunately, there was one big exception: The Clash!

Why were The Clash different and far better than their so called peers? First, they weren't just shooting bullets indiscriminately at targets that included everyone but themselves. Joe Strummer, Mick Jones, Topper Headon, and Joe Simonin, never appeared to hate just for the sake of hating. They had a social conscience to go along with their anti-establishment persona.

Also, Strummer and Jones could write music. They possessed a flair for melody and song construction that others didn't have and they understood that a good tune often needed those deep hooks that get under your skin and won't let go. (Listen to "London Calling" and "Train In Vain" for examples). In addition, they weren’t afraid to turn the amps down below "10" when the mood called for it. That helped "Hitsville UK" become a perfect pop record that was hardly identifiable as a punk song. Even the stadium friendly "Should I Stay or Should I Go," and "Rock the Casbah" from the otherwise quite unfulfilling Combat Rock, are more pop than punk.

The English quartet's deep appreciation of ska and reggae often showed up in their work and they also held their rock 'n roll ancestors in high regard, a quality not commonly found among punk-rockers. The group's affection for Elvis Presley became apparent on their album cover art to 1979’s London Calling. They also released a remake of Bobby Fuller's "I Fought the Law."

The Clash weren't just the best band of their genre. They were a legendary outfit that deserve the accolades they've been receiving for over thirty years.

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