Saturday, November 8, 2014

The Clash (#2): Stand By Your (Corrected) Man.

  A smashing show—if not smashed bass.

It's a Clash mea culpa, on my part. In a previous blog posting, I repeated an oft-cited slice of "historical" trivia: namely, that photographer Pennie Smith took the iconic cover photo of London Calling on September 21, 1979, the same night that I saw The Clash at The Palladium in New York. Hey—on the London Calling album itself, that's the date it says the photo was taken; and that was the date cited on a web site dedicated to The Clash that I referenced when I wrote that blog text. To my mind, the problem is (and has been) this: I never saw a bass guitar smashed by musician Paul Simonon on the night in question. Was I in the bathroom when it happened? No, I don't think relieving myself ever entered into my mind while frenziedly transfixed by the band's performance. Maybe I just didn't have a good sight line? Actually, I was quite close to Simonon during the latter half of the band's set, getting what decent photographs I could while standing up on the arm rests of the seats about four rows back from the stage. Was I too stoned? No, I would claim I didn't feel a thing after partaking of my very first doobie that same night. But who am I to question official history? And who would even question it, if I was wrong?

No "Pressure": Paul Simonon with his bass on 
9/21/79 at The Palladium in New York.

Enter super Clash fan—quite possibly fanatic—Dave Marin, who wrote me to say that he witnessed Simonon smash his bass (which had the word "Pressure" on the top of the guitar body, near the strap button, and which is on display at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum) the night before, on 9/20/79; Marin asserted, within his email and during our enjoyable phone conversation, that 9/21/79 is the wrong London Calling cover date. Marin's mission: to correct the historical inaccuracy wherever he finds it repeated on the web—and hopefully to see that it's corrected on any official, future reissue of London Calling. After reviewing his accumulation of evidence, I have to admit his historical take is more solid than Simonon's bass. Because if Simonon had actually smashed the bass he was playing on 9/21/79, when I photographed the band, he wouldn't have been playing the same bass the next night in Philadelphia.

Even if a bass wasn't smashed, I do know The Clash rocked my world like a sonic earthquake on September 21, 1979. In fact, I still feel the tremors.


[Update: 1/9/15. Dave Marin posted the following video yesterday, which includes my "fan photos" shown above:]


Dave Marin said...

Would like to point out that Gregory's photos, reprinted above, provided a "missing link" that proves the London Calling album credits (along with almost every book, blog, article, story, etc) has had the wrong date of the bass SMASH all these 35 years. There are two VIDEOS on YouTube of the Clash playing the Palladium on 9/21/79, but I had, until Gregory's photos, been unable to locate any photographs taken on 9/21/79 which clearly shows the bass Paul was playing that night in NYC. What Gregory's photos show, along with the ABC "20/20" clip filmed that same night, is Paul playing a bass WITHOUT the word "Pressure" - because he smashed that bass the night before on the 20th (I saw it). The other key bit of evidence that proves the date of the smash was 9/20 and not 9/21 is related to Joe Strummer's shirt. What Gregory's photos and the 2 videos clearly show is Joe wearing a solid BLUE shirt. Yet photos found online from photographers Eileen Colton and Ebet Roberts, who both confirmed to me that they took their shots on the 20th, show Joe wearing a purple shirt with abstract white lines and BLACK BREAST POCKET. This shirt and that black pocket is visible in Pennie Smith's own contact sheet of the before and after bass guitar smash photos. A reprint of the contact sheet was included with the 25th anniversary "legacy edition" reissue of London Calling.

Don Whistance said...

Don Whistance said... - see "LONDON CALLING" page for reference to this message.