Originally Posted by Johnny Footstool
I always thought The Clash sounded like rockabilly. And I never understood what people thought was so impressive about them.
Man, I love The Clash. Primarily because of their range. Yeah, they are universally hailed as a seminal punk band, and rightly so. But they are so much more. On their debut album, for example, you can hear an unmistakably raw, punk-inspired sound in "Career Opportunities," for example, and "Complete Control," which sounds like a Sex Pistols cover, along with a much more refined, almost radio-friendly sound in "Police and Thieves," or "White Man in Hammersmith Palais."
How many bands--much less punk bands (not generally renowned for their musical virtuosity)--have shown either the desire or the acumen to pull off anything more than the same three chord changes, assuming they even know any chords? Especially on their first album, which often show little range, regardless of genre. The punk darlings of the modern era, Green Day, needed three albums before they could accomplish "Good Riddance,” and five before their opus.
But The Clash, who embraced an outlaw image, showed both the bold daring of pirates, and a long string of successful raids. As their music became more refined, they helped create a new British sound that inspired people like The Smiths as they grabbed hold of college radio stations and held firmly onto them for the decade of the eighties, holding off the likes of hugely popular radio acts like REO Speedwagon and Duran Duran (sorry Kitty) and paving the way for bands like R.E.M.
Ironically, during this very same time period, The Clash proved they could also appeal to the masses, with their only hit, "Rock the Casbah," seen hourly on MTV. Through it all the range was there. The same album that gave us their only pop hit also provides the powerfully introspective "Straight to Hell," the nuevo-punk "Know Your Rights," and the sing-songy "Should I Stay or Should I Go."
Every album rises and falls like a voice on a long phone conversation. You can't say that about Prodigy. Or James Taylor.
When The Clash broke up, they kept growing musically. Mick Jones started Big Audio Dynamite, and became one of the first musicians to sample movie clips and sound effects into songs. Two members of B.A.D. were reggae musicians, and Mick became one of the first to mix pop music harmonies with reggae rhythms. Through his sampling of movie clips (primarily westerns) and reggae fusion, he helped inspire both "break beat" and "dub" music, which enjoyed varying levels of popularity in clubs during the late '90s.
So anyway, I like The Clash. Mostly because they were very good, and very adventurous.