Deadly Serious (RL50508)
Disc 1: Clash City Rockers (demo); Apollo, Glasgow, UK – 4 July,1978: (White Man) In Hammersmith Palais, I’m So Bored With The USA, Janie Jones, White Riot; Music Machine, London, UK – 26/27 July, 1978: Complete Contol; (White Man) In Hammersmith Palais (Rock Against Racism studio version); Polydor demos – November, 1976: Career Opportunities, White Riot, Janie Jones, London’s Burning, 1977; Music Machine, London, UK – 26/27 July, 1978: What’s My Name; Barbarella’s, Birmingham, UK – 1 May, 1978: Police & Thieves; Garageland (Rude Boy demo); CBS promo video shoot, Dunstable, UK – 17 April, 1977: White Riot (no backing vocal); De Montfort Hall, Leicester, UK – 28 May, 1977: I’m So Bored With The USA, Hate And War, 48 Hours, Deny, Police & Thieves, Cheat, Capital Radio, What’s My Name; Protex Blue, Remote Control, Garageland, 1977
Disc 2: CBS promo video shoot, Dunstable, UK – April, 1977: 1977, White Riot, London’s Burning; Autumn 1977: The Prisoner (demo); Elizabethan Ballroom, Manchester, UK – 15 November, 1977: Capital Radio, Janie Jones, What’s My Name, Garageland; National Film And Television School, Beaconsfiled, UK – January, 1977: Studio Chat, I’m So Bored With The USA, London’s Burning, White Riot, White Riot, Career Opportunities, 1977, Janie Jones (Instrumental); The Roundhouse, London, UK – 5 September, 1976: Deny, 1-2 Crush On You, I Know What To Think Of You, I Never Did It, How Can I Understand The Flies, Protex Blue, Janie Jones, Mark Me Absent, Deadly Serious, 48 Hours, I’m So Bored With You, Sitting At My Party, London’s Burning, What’s My Name, 1977
This varied collection of early live and studio performances by “the only band that matters” opens with a demo version of Clash City Rockers, the song which was released as The Clash’s fourth UK single. It is largely similar to the single version, though a little more raw, with the guitar sound being somewhat similar to that of the songs on the eponymous debut album. However, the song here comes to a distinct halt, rather than fading out like the single version. The sound is full and clear, though the vocals are recessed during the “bells” verse and some hiss disfigures the very beginning of the song.
The following four songs from the Glasgow Apollo show of 4 July 1978 are those featured in Jack Hazan and David Mingay’s film Rude Boy. However, what we hear is not what the Glasgow audience heard, as Pat Gilbert points out in Passion Is A Fashion: The Real Story Of The Clash: “When the film reached the editing stage, David Mingay dropped the bombshell that the sound for all the live appearances was nowhere near broadcast quality. This meant that The Clash would have to overdub every song, taking cues from footage projected onto a screen. They booked into Air Studios on Oxford Street, with Bill Price as engineer…’It was a bit of a chore,’ recalls Price…’We got very good performances in the end.'” The Clash’s road manager Johnny Green, in A Riot Of Our Own: Night And Day With The Clash – And After, gives further details: “Mingay was disappointed to find the sound quality of the live sets was duff and seemingly couldn’t be improved…The Clash agreed to dub over them…the film [was] projected on a big screen so the band could play in synch. The rhythm section was looped, and Joe went through the same vocals over and over again…Joe sang full blast, and engineer Bill Price had to turn the vocals right down to mix with the backing track…Mick and Joe weren’t fazed at all at coming face-to-face with their own giant moving image, re-played over and over again, while they attempted to reproduce the urgency and excitement of a roaring Friday night in Glasgow in the sterile cell of the studio.” The extent of the overdubbing has, however, been disputed, as Keith Topping notes in The Complete Clash: “Green…suggests that, except for the performance of ‘I Fought The Law,’ everything else in the film was re-recorded. David Mingay as insisted, however, that at least half of the live performances in the film were not overdubbed at all.”
(White Man) In Hammersmith Palais is heard in an excellent performance that largely resembles the album version. No applause is heard before the band goes into a lively performance of I’m So Bored With The USA, which is marred by Joe Strummer’s inability to remember the lyrics. He utters the first word of the song (“Yankee”) and then stops, then briefly sings something entirely incoherent and then sings the third verse. A storming Janie Jones features Paul Simonon singing at the end, Strummer having gone into the audience to intervene in some violent incident (he can be heard saying, “knock it off” immediately before this). Mick Jones is heard virtually screaming for the violence to stop (“Let them Go! They’re dancing, not fighting”). Strummer’s response is calmer, and we hear him say, “cool it, simmer down, control your temper.” Immediately thereafter, due either to utter thoughtlessness or astonishing recklessness, he introduces the next song by saying, “I wanna riot, a riot of my own.” White Riot is then played in a barnstorming version. Violence was apparently endemic at the Glasgow Apollo and was, by all accounts, largely perpetrated by the bouncers upon members of the audience. The Clash gig was the venue’s last show before becoming a bingo hall, and it has been suggested that the bouncers were making the most of their last opportunity to beat up the punters. The sound quality of these tracks is excellent, and suggests that there was indeed extensive overdubbing; however, it is noteworthy that the excitement of the performances is not lost.
The Glasgow songs are followed by a splendid performance of Complete Control, the first of two Rude Boy songs from Camden’s Music Machine (the other being What’s My Name.) These performances are almost universally stated to come from the show of 27 July, the final gig of a four-night stand at this venue which ended the brief The Clash On Parole Tour. Despite contending in his Sounds review that this show, together with the first show, was one of the two “weaker nights,” Barry Myers (just beginning his career as the DJ at Clash gigs) argues that, “the Clash gave out everything they could. No band plays with such drive and conviction.” The invaluable Black Market Clash website simply calls the show “thrilling.” Topping, however, contends that the songs featured here are not from the last night: “Strummer begins to introduce ‘What’s My Name,’ realises he’s on the wrong song, apologises to Jones and then says, ‘Aberdeen, Manchester, Perthshire, Newcastle,’ before ‘Safe European Home.’ This does not appear on audience recordings of this particular show. It’s probable, therefore, that the Rude Boy performances came one of the other nights at the Music Machine, probably the 26th.”
Next up is an alternative version of (White Man) In Hammersmith Palais, which is not radically different from the band-produced single version. As Topping writes, “a marginally different recording of ‘White Man,’ produced by Sandy Pearlman during the Give ‘Em Enough Rope sessions at Basing Street, was included on the various artists compilation LP Rock Against Racism’s Greatest Hits (Virgin RAR1) in 1980.”
The band recorded five demo songs at Polydor’s Marble Arch studios under the auspices of maverick producer Guy Stevens, who had previously fired Mick Jones from his early band Little Queenie and would go on to produce, in his own inimitable style, the London Calling album. Also overseeing the session were Polydor A&R man Chris Parry and engineer Vic Smith, who would later work with The Jam. All five songs are present and correct here, despite the fact that two of them, Career Opportunities and Janie Jones, appear on the boxed set The Clash On Broadway. According to Mick Jones, these songs were chosen because they were, “the ones which were the first in our live set.” Despite this, everyone seems to have been disappointed at the results. Joe Strummer stated that, “the results were kind of disappointing. We had a very energetic unit but somehow it sounded flat and dull.” The band’s sound man, Mickey Foote comments that, “the whole vibe was ‘it doesn’t sound like this up at Rehearsals, does it?'” “Everyone was disappointed with the demos,” states Roadent (roadie Steve Connelly), because they were, “two bland, too straight.” Much of the blame was heaped on Stevens. Although he mentioned no names, Joe Strummer’s comment a couple of months later to New Musical Express journalist Tony Parsons about “famous producers” who were, “all too pissed to work,” was clearly aimed at Stevens. Mick Jones recalls: “I think Guy went to the pub or something, and didn’t come back, so I don’t know how [the demos] got finished.” Drummer Terry Chimes, though also aware of Stevens’ tendency towards inebriation, ultimately lays the blame elsewhere: “We all had a lot of respect for Guy Stevens. It was evident that the A&R man…and the engineer didn’t have the same regard for him…and that weren’t working in the most positive way with him, we felt…So the fact that that he got drunk towards the end of it, and blew it, we felt was a direct result of the lack of co-operation he was getting from those guys.”
Career Opportunities is similar to the eventual album version but comes across as a little staid by comparison. White Riot seems very slow, and, amazingly for this song, the performance is almost entirely lacking in excitement. Janie Jones is better, but it still lacks a little spark. As with White Riot, we expect a high degree of excitement from London’s Burning, and it is again absent here. The demos conclude with 1977, which is a little punchier and is, in my opinion, the best performance here.
Overall, despite Stevens, in Jones’ words, “really inciting” the band to play well, the results do sound rather disappointing. The guitars sound rather under-powered, but the big problem is the nature of Strummer’s vocals. As Paul Simonon remembers, Smith, “was going on at Joe about having to ‘Mind your p’s and q’s’ which was ridiculous.” According to Marcus Gray, in The Clash: Return Of The Last Gang In Town, Vic Smith’s instruction to Strummer to enunciate clearly directly contradicted the effect Stevens wanted. However, Strummer complied, and it is his attempt to make the lyrics intelligible which causes the songs drag somewhat and deprives them of the explosive quality which they should display. Gray calls Strummer’s phrasing “hammy and precise” and Strummer himself later told Parsons that he sounded like Matt Monroe. Despite Jones’ uncertainty regarding the completion of the recordings, is is logical to assume, as Gray contends, that these demos were finished and mixed by Smith. It would be simplistic, however, to see him as the villain of the piece. Smith, together with Chris Parry, was, as Gray points out, quite sensibly attempting to create, “a simple, serviceable tape to sell the band to the higher-ups at Polydor,” which conflicted with Steven’s less realistic desire to create “an incendiary masterpiece.” Gray also suggests that Smith’s disastrous insistence that Strummer sing clearly was due to his sympathetic belief that, “the lyrics were the most important part of the Clash’s message.”
After the Polydor demos come three futher songs which feature in the Rude Boy film. The first of these is What’s My Name from the Music Machine, which begins rather suddenly, and features the modified opening lines, “What the hell is wrong with you/You’re just doing what you’re supposed to do.” The sprightly Birmingham performance of Police & Thieves contains some ad-libbing by Strummer about “guns” and “triggers.” It is credited to Barbarella’s on 1 May, one of several one-off gigs during the early part of 1978. However, this has been disputed; for example, in The Clash (the large pink coffee-table book), the song is stated to be from the Birmingham Top Rank on 12 July 1978, during the The Clash Sort It Out Tour. However, Black Market Clash notes the existence of a poor-quality audience tape, “which confirms that the Police & Thieves from Rude Boy was from this gig.” (On the film track listing the site still has “7/12/78?, Birmingham Top Rank?” – presumably an oversight.) The second additional Rude Boy song is Garageland, performed at the Black Hole in South London. Topping calls it, “a very effective slower-than-usual version,” though I found it unconvincingly lethargic.
Next is a version of White Riot from the Dunstable video shoot, where the Clash performed White Riot, 1977 and London’s Burning in front of an “audience of one” in the shape of Tony Parsons, who also conducted an informal interview. There is some dispute as to the date of this event. Black Market Clash gives the date as 26 April 1977, though the site states there is “some doubt over this date.” The site acknowledges the performance of two shows in France, in Rouen and Paris on 26 and 27 April (and tentatively dates two others, in Le Mans and Le Havre, to the 24th and 25th). It therefore seems unlikely that the band was performing for the video shoot in Dunstable on the 26th. The track listing on this release gives the date as 28 April, which would seem almost as unlikely, and mistakenly gives the location as Beaconsfield. Gray gives the date as “mid April” and Topping more specifically states 17 April, which date I have followed in the track listing above. The version of White Riot here is the one that was later remixed to exclude the backing vocals.
The dozen songs from Leicester’s De Montfort Hall, taken from a concert also featuring Subway Sect, The Slits and The Buzzcocks and derived from a BBC radio broadcast, have often been misattributed to a show in Cardiff four days before. Indeed, both a previous release on bootleg LP and a successor on CD were entitled Cardiff 77. Badger, writing on the Black Market Clash website, recalls that a friend of his had been given a tape of the performance by Johnny Green, who claimed it was from the Cardiff show. The friend later sold the tape to, “a guy in Camden who was in the vinyl pressing business,” and Badger surmises that this is the source of the misattribution.
The incomplete performance has garnered much acclaim. Black Market Clash maintains that, “this recording provides the best live versions of the rarer 1st album songs, particularly Cheat, 48 Hours, Protex Blue, Deny and Remote Control.” Chris Knowles, author of The Essential Clash Bootleg Bible section of the site, writes: “Taken from a BBC radio broadcast, this set is a wonderful example of the Clash in full first bloom. The sound is more or less the sound of the first LP, only faster, crisper and more agressive…This is a great white-knuckle run-through the early material. Put away your UK version of the first LP and play this instead.” Nigel, who attended the show, writes on the site that that it was, “amazing – everything I hoped and expected.” The Sharoma website contends that, “this is a great performance…definitely a show to get your hands on.”
If Sharoma is correct, the first song we hear, I’m So Bored with The USA, is the third song of the set. According to the site, “I believe London’s Burning and 1977 are missing from the start of the set, though 1977 is played last again.” After I’m So Bored With The USA comes an exciting Hate And War, though Jones’ vocals are rather strained. The momentum is maintained with 48 Hours and Deny, the latter of which the Sharoma website calls “a superb performance.” It is prefaced by a piece of high irony from Strummer, who says “let’s kiss with the latest Clash love song.” Things slow down a little with a splendid rendition of Police & Thieves, before which Strummer tells the audience, “now you can rest your sweaty armpits and move your knees.” Strummer mentions Leicester during his ad-libbing (and the city is referred to again twice later), which clearly demonstrates that the show is not from Cardiff, and he also mentions that he is not Diana Ross, a comment presumably aimed at the Radio 1 listeners. A suitably abrasive rendition of Cheat is followed by what Sharoma calls a “great” version of Capital Radio and the excitement continues with the next song, What’s My Name. Sharoma is impressed with several of the performances from this show, but Protex Blue comes in for particular praise: “What’s My Name, Protex Blue and Remote Control all superb. Especially Protex Blue, and the site also states that, “it’s good to have a great live version of Remote Control.” A fine Garageland and a storming 1977 conclude the broadcast.
With regards to sound, referring to the earlier Cardiff 77 CD release, Black Market Clash writes: “Cardiff 77 CD is probably the best sounding recording of the early Clash and is the best sounding boot as well. It was broadcast by BBC Radio though BBC Radio 1 did not have an FM stereo frequency back then [though they had AM mono broadcasts though until the mid eighties] This is probably then from the master source given its quality. It’s a hifi professional quality recording but with limited stereo separation. The sound is very clear with excellent range and clarity and no distortion. Any rough edges are more likely to be poor Clash equipment than BBC equipment. The vocals are up a bit in the mix.” Commenting on the same version, the Sharoma website states, “excellent faultless sound quality throughout.” However, the jack.mauveweb.co.uk website states that, “the versions here sound superior to those on the Cardiff ’77 boot,” probably due to “good equalizing by the Snotty Snail label.”
Disc two opens with the three Dunstable video shoot songs, 1977, White Riot (this time with the backing vocals intact) and London’s Burning. It seems that the shoot, which was directed by Lindsay Clinnel, was done to promote the band’s debut single, White Riot (Topping refers to it as the “White Riot Promo”) and the fact that the shoot included the single’s b-side, 1977, would seem to back up that claim. Gray notes that, “at the time of its making…the film was a promotional vehicle with no real outlet. Part of it was shown in the Virgin record shop near Marble Arch, but the few dozen record purchases this possibly inspired hardly justified the expense of its making.” Tony Parsons contends that, “they were fucking blistering,” and it is hard to disagree with this assessment. Indeed, it is difficult to imagine more exciting performances and these three songs collectively form a highlight of this set. The opener, 1977, is a fiery, playing out punk’s rejection of the musical past, is fiery and energetic. White Riot is played in a thrilling version taken at a frenetic pace and London’s Burning receives the sort of powerful performance which Strummer’s opening feral snarl so clearly presages. This version of London’s Burning will be familiar to many as the b-side of the band’s second single Remote Control, where it appeared simply as “London’s Burning (Live)” with no further details of its provenance. Performances of all three songs, together with brief excerpts from the interview can now be seen on the official DVD release The Essential Clash (where they are dated 1976). The full, clear sound adds to the enjoyment of these excellent performances.
The demo version of The Prisoner is substantially similar to the official release, which appeared on the b-side of the band’s fifth single (White Man) In Hammersmith Palais in June 1978, though there is a clearly heard difference in the instrumental section at the end.
The four songs which the track listing attributes only to the So It Goes television programme were filmed at the show at Elizabethan Ballroom in Manchester on 15 November 1977. Topping gives the broadcast dates as 27 November 1977 for Capital Radio and Janie Jones and 11 December 1977 (the very final show) for What’s My Name and Garageland and he also states that all four songs appeared on two Channel 4 programmes, The Way We Were and Punk in the late 1980s. Black Market Clash maintains that, “other than the So It Goes source, no other source exists.” The whole of the band’s set was filmed, as was the performance of support act Siouxsie & The Banshees. We are unlikely to see it, however, as the footage appears to have been lost. So It Goes, fronted by Tony Wilson (who was soon to found Factory Records), was,at this time the only place where punk bands had regular and serious coverage on British TV (the Sex Pistols had performed Anarchy In The UK on the show around six weeks before signing for EMI), but because the UK independent television network was regionalized the programme was not broadcast throughout the whole of the UK.
The, as Gray puts it, “ragged but stirring versions” of the four songs are another veritable highlight of this release. A storming Capital Radio features a lengthy coda with features some semi-spoken, and not entirely coherent, ad-libbing from Strummer. Janie Jones is exhilarating, taken as it is at breakneck pace. What’s My Name is almost as exciting, and we hear Strummer inserting the lines, “here we are, on TV/What does it mean to me?What does it mean to you?/Fuck All!” Finally, there is a rendition of Garageland which is significantly faster than the album version. Clearly, as Johnny Green says, “they played a dynamic set, fed from the audience’s energy” The sound is again generally impressive, albeit with a somewhat harsh edge.
For the demos recorded in Beaconsfield in January 1977, it was decided to use Mickey Foote as producer, in an attempt to capture the ban’s live sound. Rob Harper, who had played during the Anarchy Tour in December 1976 and also at two shows at The Roxy in London on 1 January 1977, was replaced for these recordings by original drummer Terry Chimes. Gray maintains that, “the Beaconsfield demos were far more aggressive and impressive than the Guy Stevens efforts,” and listening to the songs certainly bears out this contention. We first hear six-and-a-half minutes of studio chatter, and then comes I’m So Bored With The USA, the only one of the six songs not already recorded for the Polydor demos. It is largely similar to the later album version, though there are some lyrical differences. London’s Burning has a minor false start, though otherwise is very similar to the version from The Clash. White Riot breaks down before the first verse, and is begun again. The full version, remixed, appeared on the debut album (the single version was recorded later, on 28 January). The partial and full versions are tracked separately, which is why the song appears twice on the track listing. An energetic Career Opportunities is followed, after a gap, by 1977 which, unfortunately is missing the very beginning. At one point in the song the mention of the year 1977 is followed by a hasty cry of, “sod the jubilee!” (1977 was the year of Queen Elizabeth II’s Silver Jubilee.) The Beaconsfield demos then conclude with an instrumental version of Janie Jones. Generally, the sound is very good rather than outstanding, but it is afflicted by a horrendous buzzing sound at the start and end of songs which is particularly unpleasant between Career Opportunities and 1977.
This collection ends with the Roundhouse show of 5 September 1976. This was only the band’s fifth gig and the fourth in public, the performance of 13 August at the band’s Rehearsal Rehearsals HQ being a private show for invited booking agents and journalists only. It is significant as the last gig to feature guitarist Keith Levene. The Clash supported The Kursaal Flyers and Crazy Cavan & The Rhythm Rockers. The Black Market Clash website, which considers the show “historic” and “essential,” comments: “Despite being only their 5th gig it stands as an exciting performance in its own right and confirms that The Clash were a great band right from the start.” Knowles’ opinion is more measured: “This is an invaluable snapshot of the early five-man Clash…The band is remarkably tight…But the guitars sound cheap and nasty and an observer could be forgiven for not recognizing the embryonic Clash as future world beaters.” Gray, too, is only partially convinced by the performance, writing, “The Clash played a varied and mostly proficient 15-song set.” Sounds journalist Chas de Whalley was largely unimpressed, noting that the band, “bristle[d] with fire and energy,” before concluding that, “unfortunately, at the Roundhouse the Clash had little more on offer,” and going on to lament the demise of Stummer’s old band The 101’ers, whose attributes of “warmth and love” were preferable to The Clash’s “agression and belligerence.”
The opening song, Deny, written by Mick Jones just prior to Joe Strummer joining the band, is similar to the later recorded version. Topping detects a Who influence, stating that, “the rhythm guitar riff [is] a distant cousin to ‘The Kids Are Alright.'” Black Market Clash describes this performance as, “a very good version with the twin guitar interplay coming across well at the ending coda.” Unfortunately, the beginning is missing and the song fades in. 1-2 Crush On You, one of Jones’ early songs, later emerged as the b-side of the single Tommy Gun, thereby surviving manager Bernie Rhodes’ injunction against love songs. It is played here in a fast, exciting version with lead vocals from Joe Strummer, though Jones assumed vocal duties on later live performances and on the recorded version, which features a saxophone part unsurprisingly absent here. Next up is the unrecorded Jones song called, according to Topping, I Know What To Think Of You (though referred to as I Know What To Think About You in the track listing and these are the words Strummer sings). Topping calls it, “a rather slow and moody R&B song with a staccato riff obviously modelled on The Who’s ‘I Can’t Explain’ and a double-time middle section that owes much to Van Morrison’s ‘Gloria’…Speeded up, the song’s chord sequence would subsequently become the basis for Clash City Rockers.”
The next song is another unrecorded number, I Never Did It, a pacy, Ramones-influenced number. “Fast and enjoyable” is the verdict of Black Market Clash, a view with which I would acquiesce. Joe Strummer’s How Can I Understand The Flies? also demonstrates a Ramones influence. It concerns the squalid conditions of the Orsett Terrace squat where Strummer lived. Knowles points out that the song, “has some interesting drumming from Chimes,” who features prominently. Black Market Clash rightly calls it a “slight song but enjoyable.” Joe Strummer was unequivocal regarding the importance of the Ramones’ “seminal” debut LP, stating, “it can’t be stressed how great the first Ramones album was to the scene…We all used to practise along with it…It was the first word of Punk. A fantastic record.” (De Whalley, seeming ignorant of the band’s West London roots, uses the American band’s clear influence to dismiss The Clash as, “the Ramones out of an East End squat?”)
A frantic Protex Blue is followed by a version of Janie Jones sung entirely by Strummer, whereas at Islington’s Screen On The Green on 29 August Jones sang the choruses. Jones’ Mark Me Absent is described by Topping as, “warm, chugging R&B,” whereas Black Market Clash calls it, “a fast, furious but catchy song.” Knowles calls it, “a great Garage rocker,” and it is, in my opinion the most enjoyable of the unreleased songs. Another unrecorded Jones song, Deadly Serious is described by Black Market Clash as, “a slight song, one of the weakest.” An enjoyable 48 Hours gives way to I’m So Bored With You, a Jones song which Strummer would later develop into I’m So Bored With The USA. Black Market Clash states that the “guitar work is not very exciting from Levene.” The last of the unrecorded songs is Sitting At My Party, a song about an unwanted female party guest dating from Jones’ time in his previous band the London SS. Of the unrecorded songs heard here, Black Market Clash calls it “probably the weakest,” and Topping refers to it as “slight.” It is difficult to disagree. The final three numbers collectively constitute the highlight of the show. A strident and powerful London’s Burning has some different lyrics (such as “Everyone’s drowning in a sea of television”). Despite an impressive overall performance it has a sudden, rather weak ending. What’s My Name has different and more menacing lyrics – here the song’s protagonist lurks behind the house with a carving knife. “Great performance, already sounding a classic,” is the view of Black Market Clash, and the site similarly states that the final song, 1977, which has fared well on this compilation, “sounds great, nearly the finished classic.”
Knowles’ verdict on the unrecorded songs is that, “most of them are pretty feeble variations on old Kinks and Who tracks, lacking the fury of the later material.” Interestingly, Paul Simonon remembers, “We only had a few records [at Rehearsal Rehearsals], a couple of Kinks, The Who Sell Out. Sixties things.” It is noteworthy that the Roundhouse show has an overwhelming preponderance of songs (some later recorded; some unrecorded) originating from Mick Jones’ earlier musical career, though some, with further development became Strummer/Jones compositions. This is perhaps unsurprising, given Joe Strummer’s disowning of his earlier band, the 101’ers. As he said, “the day I joined The Clash was very much back to square one, year zero. Part of Punk was that you had to shed all of what you knew before.”
Indeed, it could be argued that Strummer’s main contribution to the gig was not musical at all. After commenting on the strength of the musical performance, Black Market Clash states that, “more significantly however, it records Joe Strummer’s efforts at engaging the audience, and therefore is an early example of why The Clash now command their own place in rock’n’roll history. This was no ordinary good time rock band content to entertain its audience, its aim was nothing less than to change people’s lives, ‘we don’t want to just sell records.’” De Whalley explains that, “at 6 o’clock on a Sunday evening, long before the bar opened, the Roundhouse audience wasn’t in the most receptive of moods. The more they sat down, the more Strummer screamed at them to stand up. It was a brave, if bitter attempt to instil some kind of occasion into the weekly Roundhouse rock and roll binge, but it was not appreciated.” Knowles also refers to this aspect of the show, writing, “while the band struggles to tune up, a pre-Cockney Joe berates the audience for being lame.”
Some writers have contended that Strummer’s interaction with the audience was an embarrassment. Gilbert writes that the show, “proved to be a disaster, not least because Joe’s attempts to educate/rile/convert the audience between songs resulted in a barrage of guffaws and heckles.” Gray refers to “a painful four or five minutes of desultory heckling” after Janie Jones and a “frankly excruciating…sermon against boredom” after Mark Me Absent. After Janie Jones someone in the audience clearly recognizes Strummer from the 101’ers, but the only riposte he can come up with is, “never heard of ’em.” At one point, responding to a shout of, “get on with it,” Strummer lamely replies, “get on with what, you big twit!” and when the allegedly brainless heckler mentions his educational qualifications, Strummer says, “you might have got five A-levels. What do I care? That’s just a dirty trick.” A female voice from the audience immediately shouts, “your drummer’s got ’em!” Terry Chimes recalls that, “Joe confessed afterwards that he’d been lost for words at that point.” Gray concludes that, “[the set’s] pacing was ruined by these lengthy interruptions, which failed to generate any compensatory dramatic tension”
As to the sound quality, commenting on a previous release, 5 Go Mad At The Roundhouse, Black Market Clash writes: “It’s the best quality recording circulating from 1976…Although an audience recording suffering from the usual problems of distance and bass capture, it’s a very enjoyable listen with a wideish dynamic range and fair degree of clarity. Recorded using decent equipment probably by the same person who taped the Midnight Special and Barbarellas’ gig.” Referring to the same release, the Sharoma website states, “the sound quality is pretty good. It’s a tiny bit muffled throughout, the first two tracks more than most, but after those it improves significantly.” More succinctly, Knowles comments that, “the sound is a remarkably OK audience recording.” The jack.mauveweb.co.uk site states that the Roundhouse tracks on this release, “sound very similar [to 5 Go Mad At The Roundhouse] – it’s clearly the same source, and if it’s a lower generation it’s not that significant.” A peculiar whistling sound at times affects the last few songs, though, as a member of the audience is clearly heard to say “what’s that noise?” it is clearly not a problem with the tape.
The two discs are housed in a slimline double jewel case, with packaging based on the band’s initial single and LP releases. The outer sides of the front and back inserts reproduce the artwork of the eponymous debut album; the inner sides have the artwork from the picture sleeve of the band’s first single, White Riot. The rear insert’s picture of police at the 1976 Notting Hill riot is also reproduced on the discs themselves, in the manner of the CD issue of The Clash. The front insert is not a booklet, but folds out, poster-style, revealing numerous photos and an extensive article with interview extracts. No label is clearly displayed, though I have always assumed that this is a Snotty Snail release. Certainly internet sellers have credited this release and others with similar packaging to the Snotty Snail label and, as quoted above the jack.mauveweb.co.uk site also attributes this release to the label. Checking through the other presumed Snotty Snail releases in my collection, I was surprised to find that name mostly conspicuous by its absence, though some releases show Nicaragua and Redline (hence the catalogue number beginning RL.)
Overall, this is a quite splendid compendium of early Clash material, and an essential supplement to the band’s first album and early singles, which, despite the acclaim given to London’s Calling, represent my own favourite Clash material. At least one band member concurs, Mick Jones having stated, “I like the first album best, actually.” To paraphrase Knowles, get out your UK version of the first LP but be sure to play this as well.If you liked this review, buy me a cup of joe. (Suggested: $3 a shot or $7.5 for a double)