LOOKING BACK AT…THE CLASH by THE CLASH

By Brogan McKeown 

Punk legends The Clash released their iconic self-titled debut album 40 years ago on the 8th of April, 1977. Many fans of The Clash will agree, it’s hard to believe that this album was released 40 years ago, especially as we are still talking about it today.

Iconic is the right word for their self-titled debut album as it has done so much for music since it’s release, and is ranked as one of the greatest punk albums of all time for this very reason. 40 years on, people are still being influenced by this album. The famous indie band The Libertines have spoken of their admiration for The Clash and how influential they have been for their career. Therefore, the impact The Clash’s self-titled album has had is huge.

The Clash contributed to the growing punk scene, or ‘American New Wave’ which was making its way over from America in the 70s to become a new British wave of the genre. The punk revolution was a crazy time and The Clash seemed to fit in well due to their noisy tracks and their rebellious attitude. Like other punk bands, The Clash spoke for a generation of people who were sick and tired of the way things were and wanted change. Punk was a way for people to come together and voice their opinions and also have a bloody great time doing it. The Clash also had other influences in their music such as ska and reggae which showed them as musicians who had a lot of potential to stay relevant. The Clash broke down the walls between the genres and presented another way for them to break the rules.

5 young boys, Joe Strummer, Mick Jones, Paul Simonon, Topper Headon and Terry Chimes, created the majority of their first album in an 18-story block of flats. This album is inspirational, due to the massive influence this album has on young people who dream of being musicians. This album tells young people, or anyone wanting to make music, that you can do it no matter where you’re from. The Clash are an example of a band who came from nothing but managed to chase that dream- admirable.

Now, onto the songs! Let’s highlight the most important songs from this album that are still popular today. The whole album is so promising that many are not surprised The Clash ended up as popular as they were. They gave the public an album that they could sing along to, they gave people a platform to sing about what was wrong in the world and let out their frustrations through music. The songs on this album are very short- which is fine as it is effective. The Clash didn’t need to make their songs any longer to be able to get their point across. The album is one quick jumpy song to another which makes it a very interesting listen.

Let’s start with the opening song, Janie Jones, which is written about the owner of a brothel…

 

The song immediately goes into short, aggressive bursts of guitar that tell you, straight away, that this band has a big punk influence. Lead singer Joe Strummer hits out with the first lyric “he’s in love with rock’n’roll woah” which is an immediate crowd pleaser as the line is repeated throughout the song promising a chant for fans at their gigs. This song is what The Clash are all about. Short snappy lines complimented by powerful guitar strums to give off a jumpy rhythm.

The next song is White Riot.Counting us in with 1,2,3,4 then shoving crazy guitar at us is, again, great for a gig environment.In this song, you can hear the similarities between the aforementioned Libertines and The Clash and exactly where they would have got their influence from. This song is the classic punk and indie song that is due to make you want to jump up and down, going crazy, not caring who is watching. You can imagine many punks jumping around with their leather jackets on. However, this song would have had an indie influence- you can almost hear a ska influence there too.

 

Another song to mention is Career Opportunites. This song is a message to the young people who find themselves unemployed and going nowhere. The Clash were very in tune with the times they were living in throughout their whole career- a very punk thing to do. Songs such as I’m So Bored with the USA from this album also show how in tune and fed up they were with the world at this time. Career Opportunities would have been one for people to dance to and relate to giving people that platform to let out their frustrations.

Last but not least, there’s Police & Thieves which makes for a great listen due to its catchy guitar rhythm and many different stages of the song. The beginning immediately goes into a nice drum beat with short bursts of a guitar to start revving people up. Strummer’s singing compliments a very reggae sounding song and the repetitiveness of “oh yeah” makes it a catchy listen, making it easy to sing along to and get a feel for.

The song highlights all of the genres that I’ve mentioned above which influence The Clash. This song is so important as it fits so much into it. The Clash amaze fans due to their many different influences making them whole and able to appeal to many different people.Being the longest song, there was a lot of room for experimentation and the song is a success. Good on ’em.

That’s only some of the songs as well! This album is iconic as it paved the way for the band’s success and classic songs such as Rock the Casbah and London Calling. The music world is grateful that these young lads, with a dream, recorded their first album. Thank you for influencing even more musicians after you to create brilliant music.

There has been a lot of debate around whether the band can be called a ‘punk’ band due to their ska and reggae influences in a lot of their songs. The mainstream understanding of being punk is going against the system and doing whatever the hell you want. The Clash did just that with their different sounds and they weren’t going to stay tied down to just one. They didn’t care what anyone thought of that, they were going to do whatever they wanted whenever they wanted- that is punk.


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