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The Clash
Epic 36060
Released: August 1979
Chart Peak: #126
Weeks Charted: 6

Topper HeadonPaul SimononMick JonesJoe StrummerIt's too bad so few people got to see the Clash on their over-in-the-wink-of-an-eye American tour, because the press hype on them was so adulatory that the average rock fan was, with good reason, pretty skeptical. Nobody could be as good as the critics were saying these guys were (at least that's what I thought), and "Give 'Em Enough Rope," the album released concurrently with the tour, while exciting at times, was thin-sounding enough to make you wonder what the fuss was all about.

I caught the band's New York show, and I walked out slack-jawed, an instant (if belated) fan. It was the kind of sound that inspires dreams and sends you out into the night feeling two feet off the ground. Had they followed Bruce Springsteen as the final segment of ABC's documentary Heroes of Rock 'n' Roll, American would finally have been able to place the punk phenomenon in the perspective it deserves.

Anyway, here at last is the Clash album for people who still don't get it. Epic has cannily taken nine cuts from their English debut album and fleshed it out with singles the group has graced up with so far in their brief, brilliant career. The result is that you hear what Lester Bangs has called "that rarest of rare birds -- a band growing before you." By the end of side one, which closes with a revelatory new version of the venerable "I Fought the Law" (it transforms the original's rueful braggadocio into something almost heroic), you realize you're listening to an outfit that that has long since transcended the narrow confines of mere punk and evolved into what is simply the last great hard-rock band in the world. The only applicable parallels are with the finest work of the Stones, the Who, or the MC5.

Simon Frith has observed that most English audiences come away from Clash gigs feeling like better people, and while we Yanks can't pretend to understand the social ferment that brought these guys to the fore at home, on purely musical levels The Clash is the kind of record that gives you an inkling of what he meant. At the risk of sounding maudlin: I find listening to it somehow cleansing. With most of mainstream rock (and virtually all disco) mired on the level of "screw the world, let's party," the Clash provides a ringing affirmation that there's more to life after all and proves that music can still matter in ways undreamed of in the philosophies of the minions of Robert Stigwood. All that and a backbeat too. If the rock-and-roll idealist in you has been out to lunch for the last couple of years, you simply have to hear this album.

- Steve Simels, Stereo Review, 10/79.

Bonus Reviews!

Cut for cut, this may be the greatest rock and roll album (plus limited-edition bonus single) ever manufactured in the U.S. It offers ten of the fourteen titles of the band's British debut as well as seven of the thirteen available only on forty-five. And the sequencing is anything but haphazard; the eight songs on side one divide into self-contained pairs that function as excented oxymorons on careerism, corporate power, race, and anomie. Yet the package feels misbegotten. The U.K. version of The Clash is the greatest rock and roll album ever manufactured anywhere partly because of its innocence is of a piece -- it never stops snarling, it's always threatening to blow up in your face. I'm still mad the real thing wasn't released two years ago, and I know for certain (I made a tape) that the singles would have made a dandy album by themselves. Nevertheless, a great introduction and a hell of a bargain. A

- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.

The quartet's first album, The Clash, was released in America in drastically altered form as the second LP. Already leading artists at home, they were still an underground act across the Atlantic.

Simon Frith rates the British verson his top album. "Punk changed the way pop music worked and the Clash made the only great punk LP (everyone else did it on singles) -- passionate, seedy, and the real art of noise."

US readers should note that "Police and Thieves" was a cover of a reggae favourite of the period and that "I Fought the Law" was the Sonny Curtis composition the Bobby Fuller Four immortalized (and vice versa). Hammersmith Palais was a West London dance hall that became a leading New Wave venue.

UK track listing: "Janie Jones," "Remote Control," "I'm So Bored With The U.S.A.," "White Riot," "Hate And War," "What's My Name," "Deny," "London's Burning/Career Opportunities," "Cheat," "Protex Blues," "Police And Thieves," "48 Hours," "Garageland."

US track listing: "Clash City Rockers," "I'm So Bored With The U.S.A.," "Remote Control," "White Riot," "White Man In Hammersmith Palais," "London's Burning," "I Fought The Law/Janie Jones," "Career Opportunities," "What's My Name," "Hate & War," "Police & Thieves," "Jail Guitar Doors," "Garageland." Plus bonus single "Gates Of The West"/"Groovy Times."

In 1987, The Clash was chosen by a panel of rock critics and music broadcasters as the #31 rock album of all time.

- Paul Gambaccini, The Top 100 Rock 'n' Roll Albums of All Time, Harmony Books, 1987.

This was music to make your heart beat once again -- it was an assault, a violation -- it was rock & roll the way God meant it to sound. You loved it/you hated it; at least you felt something about it. The fifteen politically inspired cuts that make up this forty-four-minute attack on the "revised" edition of this, the band's debut recording, present as concise and complete a summary of the punk purview available. Not necessarily pleasant listening, but, in sad fact, one of the last real rock & roll albums to be issued. The CD sound has a bit more spaciousness than the LP, but this music wasn't made with great regard for its audio-technical aspects (the album was recorded over three weekends), so don't expect any miracles. Still superior to the LP. A

- Bill Shapiro, Rock & Roll Review: A Guide to Good Rock on CD, 1991.

The revised U.S. version of The Clash's first album, containing most of the vital punk anthems of that record, plus such later tunes as "White Man in Hammersmith Palais" and "I Fought the Law." This and the sole Sex Pistols album, Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols, tell the story of English '70s punk rock. * * * * *

- William Ruhlmann , The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.

The Clash is pure punk heaven -- overdriven fury, tuneful reggae, snarled vocals, great guitar riffs. * * * *

- Alan Paul, Musichound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, 1996.

Loud, angry, intelligent and witty, this frighteningly good debut represented a new statement of music at the time of its release, taking what the Ramones and the Sex Pistols started, but adding better lyrics and tunes. Though relegated to the punk ghetto, this mighty powerhouse of conviction, street smarts and real social justice delves into a wide variety of influences such as rockabilly and reggae -- it's raw, unbuttoned, slightly sloppy but relentlessly brilliant. * * * * *

- Zagat Survey Music Guide - 1,000 Top Albums of All Time, 2003.

"I haven't got any illusions about anything," Joe Strummer said. "Having said that, I still want to try to change things." That youthful ambition bursts through the Clash's debut, a machine-gun blast of songs about unemployment ("Career Opportunities"), race ("White Riot") and the Clash themselves ("Clash City Rockers"). Most of the guitar was played by Mick Jones, because Strummer considered studio technique insufficiently punk. The American release was delayed two years and replaced some of the U.K. tracks with recent singles, including "Complete Control" -- a complaint about exactly that sort of record-company shenanigans.

The Clash was chosen as the 77th greatest album of all time by the editors of Rolling Stone magazine in Dec. 2003.

- Rolling Stone, 12/11/03.

Often taking second place -- undeservedly so -- to the Sex Pistols, The Clash eschewed the self-destructive ethos and instead opted for edgy political songs, catchy slogans, and clothes from a decorator's van.

The green-black-and-white cover shot of Joe Strummer, Mick Jones, and Paul Simonon was taken in their rehearsal studios in north London and is in keeping with the unadorned music on their 14-track debut, recorded over the course of three weekends in 1977. Bordering on the incoherent, Strummer's sing/shout style fits perfectly with start/stop guitars in songs such as "I'm So Bored With The USA."

Their output was often derided as sloganeering but the lyrics of "Career Opportunities" brilliantly capture the prospect facing the nation's youth: menial work or life on the dole. The Clash's appeal also lay in their ability to absorb other musical genres within their sound. Their cover of Junior Murvin and Lee Perry's "Police And Thieves" sees Simonon's bass stride above the guitars as the drums of Terry Chimes (a.k.a. Tory Crimes) provide a snapping rhythm. It is an arrangement that reoccurs to great effect elsewhere on the album.

Coming from west London, they were right in the middle of a multicultural melting pot. Surrounded by reggae, ska, and rock steady influences, the band had a political and musical vision that reached a good way beyond the myopic outlook of their punk contemporaries.

The Clash's incendiary style and exhortations to action can still be heard today in groups such as The Libertines, whose second (and final) album was produced by Mick Jones. What goes around...

- Ali MacQueen, 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, 2005.

Rage, passion, and world-changing ambition burst through on the Clash's debut, a machine-gun blast of songs about unemployment ("Career Opportunities"), race ("White Riot"), and the Clash themselves ("Clash City Rockers"). Most of the guitar was played by Mick Jones because Joe Strummer considered studio technique insufficiently punk.

The Clash was chosen as the 102nd greatest album of all time in a Rolling Stone magazine poll of artists, producers, critics and music industry figures in Oct. 2020.

- Rolling Stone, 10/20.

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