Monday, September 21, 2009

The Clash (#1): Stay Free.


It was thirty years ago today…

The Clash -- without whom I wouldn’t be who I am today (for better or worse) -- playing at the Palladium in New York City on September 21, 1979. My third rock concert. (And the first time I ever availed myself of a certain herbal substance, using the ticket stub as a “roach clip.”)

A little ragged at first, the band heated up and then provided a pressure-cooker performance. It’s the concert which imprinted “revolution rock” onto my neurons. (It also probably damaged some of my hearing early on, as I stood on the arm-rests of a seat near the front of the stage in front of a massive bank of speakers, howling at the music and snapping photographs.)

From left to right: the late Joe Strummer, Mick Jones, and Paul Simonon (whose image from that very same night, photographed in black-and-white by Pennie Smith, appears on the cover of the band’s London Calling album).

Although I eventually saw The Clash again with the same lineup – at Red Rocks here in Colorado in the summer of ‘82 on their Combat Rock tour – this night still remains the ultimate performance by the band for me. It’s not only the concert by which I judge the second and third times I saw the group, it’s probably the concert by which I judge all other concerts that I’ve seen since.

Not only were The Clash on that night, opening act The Undertones had a decent set, and then Sam & Dave (of "Soul Man" fame) unleashed a zestful performance.

My best to surviving members of The Clash: Jones, Simonon, and drummer Topper Headon. To paraphrase the lyrics of the twelfth song the band played that night (thanks to the outtasight site Black Market Clash for jogging my memory with background info on the concert): “If you read this blog tonight, have a drink on me. But go easy…Step lightly…Stay free.”

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