Bankrobbers: The Clash Family Tree
Rocks Off cried the night he heard Joe Strummer died. It was December 2002, and we sat on our family couch and let it all out. That fabled Clash reunion that seemed just months away would never happen. Strummer died of a heart attack at 50, just three days before Christmas, leaving behind a wife and two children.
A month before, Strummer and Mick Jones had just played together in public for the first time in nearly two decades for a benefit show, and everyone was in high spirits. The media was going ape over the prospect of a reunion. We even started putting money aside in case we had to fly out to see them somewhere. (Anywhere.) The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame had already announced the Clash would be inducted the next spring.
This band, the only one that mattered, had helped us through junior high and high school on. Songs like "I'm Not Down" and especially "Lost In the Supermarket" were gauze that covered up the scars of growing up literate and punk in a land that didn't champion Strummer and Jones' system of thought. Do you realize what it's like hearing Sandinista when you are 16 years old? It's better than drugs.
The Clash was there in the beginning of punk rock, and through the members' various projects away from the band, would end up shaping the next 30 years of all music. After the band splintered, for real, in 1986 after Strummer gave up the ghost of trying to continue without Jones, Strummer began scoring films (Walker, Permanent Record).
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By then Jones and Don Letts had already been tinkering with Big Audio Dynamite for a couple of years. Alongside ex-English Beaters Dave Wakeling and Ranking Roger, Jones also did a few months in General Public. He left in the middle of recording that band's debut album All the Rage, but not before playing guitar on the group's best-known song in the U.S., 1984's "Tenderness."
Everything that the band members touched, no matter how long their tour of duty, had an indelible Clash stamp. Sometimes band members would end up hooking up with other musicians who were making Clash-style music, bolstering that sound all the more with that original bloodline.
Strummer spent time with the Pogues, playing on and producing 1990's Hell's Ditch. Lead singer Shane MacGowan still pays tribute to Strummer during live shows, toasting the fallen icon.
One of the Clash's first drummers, Keith Levene, ended up starting Public Image Limited with John Lydon and Jah Wobble in 1978 and was with the band for five years for their most momentous work. Another skinsman, Terry Chimes, held time for Johnny Thunders and Hanoi Rocks as well.
Strummer's Mescaleros were perhaps the best document we have of what a new version of the Clash would have sounded like. Gritty, rocky, and weathered, it showcased Strummer's voice which in it's older age had grown deeper and more eloquent. The band made three albums for Tim Armstrong's Hellcat Records, Rock Art & The X-Ray Style, Global A Go-Go, and Streetcore. Fun fact: we got into minor car accidents just hours after we bought the last two Mescaleros albums in 2001 and 2003 respectively.
The Good, the Bad, and The Queen was a project from Blur's Damon Albarn in between Gorillaz albums. Bassist Paul Simonon, Simon Tong, Danger Mouse and Tony Allen rounded out the band, who only made one grim, noirish album in 2006. It was very much in the spirit of Simonon's "Guns Of Brixton" in places. We saw them once at SXSW that year, and it was spooky stuff.
Simonon was also a part of Havana 3am, a cult-revered band that had a distinct rockabilly feel. Their self-titled album is worth taking a spin.
Jones' Carbon/Silicon was very much a heavier version of BAD and featured punk luminary Tony James. We accosted Jones on the street in Austin at SXSW in 2008 while they were touring behind their 2007 debut album. We seem to remember hyperventilating and telling Jones that he was in the Clash, as if he forgot. Sorry, Mick.
Tonight, Gorillaz pull into Toyota Center for their first Houston show since their inception in 2001. The Albarn cartoon project took on Clash members Jones and Simonon this past summer after the release of Plastic Beach, and the duo has been touring with the group since. It's the closest us Clash fanatics will get to seeing the band in full action, and it will be a pleasure seeing the pair onstage together again.
We made a list of some of post-Clash bands that had members of the seminal group in their lineups. Remember kids, know your rights. All three of them.
General Public, "Tenderness":
Big Audio Dynamite, "E=MC2":
Pogues, "Sunny Side of the Street":
Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros, "Johnny Appleseed":
The Good, the Bad, and The Queen, "The Kingdom Of Doom":
Carbon/Silicon, "The News":
Havana 3am, "Reach the Rock":
Gorillaz, "Plastic Beach":
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