Seeing The Clash for the first time and for my first gig was a fantastic experience; the most exciting event I have ever been to.
I had been into glam-rock at primary school in the early seventies. I was a massive Slade fan but also loved the singles from other groups like Mud, T Rex, The Sweet and Mott The Hoople. I then got into Queen but had started to lose a bit of interest in music in that ‘dead’ time in the mid-seventies, where not much seemed to be happening.
Some lads at school started getting into punk, spiking their hair and wearing drainpipe trousers. This interested me, but I didn’t get a punk awakening until I heard ‘All Around The World’ by The Jam on a cross-channel ferry and from then on, I was hooked. A friend made me a tape of The Clash’s blistering first album ‘The Clash’ which I played over and over again. It is still my favourite album.
By the time The Clash arrived in Derby, they had released their second album ‘Give ‘Em Enough Rope’ produced by Sandy Pearlman who had worked previously with Blue Oyster Cult. I liked it a lot and again played it on repeat, even if it had been criticised for being too like stadium rock.
I went to the gig with my mate Julian and possibly a couple of others. The King’s Hall was a strange venue, being a swimming pool in the day and somehow having a floor put in over the pool to make it suitable for a gig. Outside, I self-consciously felt an absolute prat standing there amongst the mohicans and leather in my bright red M&S anorak and quite possibly flared jeans. Once inside, the support group The Slits were lacklustre and I remember thinking that this gig thing wasn’t up to much.
It’s hard to overstate what a shock it was to witness the blast when The Clash played the first song. They came on in the dark, their backdrop made of many flags unfurled and they hit the ground running in a blaze of light with ‘Safe European Home’, I think. The crowd went berserk, pogoing in a frenzy, and we all joined in. I have never known energy like it.
The Clash, wearing green army fatigues and showing extraordinary stamina, kept the energy up for about an hour. A shaking, twitching and raging Joe Strummer was the focus, flanked by Mick Jones on guitar to his right and Paul Simonon on bass to his left. Behind them on a raised stage was the brilliant drummer Topper Headon who has said how much he loved playing on tour. I remember them playing ‘White Man In Hammersmith’ and also ‘Complete Control’, which I did not know at the time but got the single later. I am almost certain that a rampaging ‘White Riot’ was an encore.
Sweaty but elated, I got a not-very-rock-and-roll lift home from my Dad. Whenever I see a documentary now on punk I get a memory of those feelings and the blood seems to course through my veins and my pulses quicken. The music made it a great time to be a teenager.
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