This Saturday, April 8th, marks the 40th anniversary of the release of The Clash’s legendary debut album and I am proud as punch to have been asked to perform at a special celebration in London.
The Clash have been at the heart of not only my music, but my entire life; making me question things, think them through, find solutions and constantly push myself beyond where my body and mind want to go. As Joe Strummer used to say:
“No input, no output.”
Just how influential they have been is hard to measure. I learned to play guitar by picking up ‘The Clash Songbook’ volumes one and two…..that’s all the songs and related b-sides from the first two albums. I wasn’t good enough to play Mick Jones’s parts, so it was all about learning Strummer’s chaotic downstrokes, so important in driving the sound forward…..and let’s face it…..I still play like that today.
Would my ‘No Pasaran’ album have happened without ‘Spanish Bombs’? I doubt it. The poetry of those lyrics made me read Orwell and Paul Preston and Lorca and Richard Baxell. Without that, I doubt I would have been able to even START that album, let alone finish it.
But influence is one thing, it’s always heralded as a thing to strive for as an artist, to be influential. Yet to ‘influence’ can also just create a generation of clones and copyists and that would be so out of step with the ethos of The Clash as to make them failures. Being influential is NOTHING next to being inspirational, and the thousands of ways the band have inspired me over the years- to get off my arse and do something, to pick myself up when the world has knocked me down, to pick things apart until I reach their inherent truth, to look the world in the eye and not give a good God damn about the consequences- these are all legacies of The Clash which play out in me to this day. They are a part of who I am, so who would I have been without them? I simply don’t know, but I was inspired and I continue to be so.
And I’m not alone. I have met hundreds of people over the years, union leaders, film makers, fanzine writers, teachers, activists and campaigners, all out there doing what they do because the band set them thinking and they took to their lives with the same fire I did and fought their own battles as a result.
So Saturday is less a gig and more a pilgrimage. To celebrate what can be achieved when music is made with commitment and is played like lives depend on it.
Because sometimes, they do.