Granny Anarchy's Guide to the Clash


An essay introducing the musical group The Clash and how best to become acquainted with their history and music, by Granny Anarchy for UMAmi Zine November 2023.


I wasn't much of a Clash fan when I Started Being Punk. Of course, I am a Gen-X Granny Anarchy and came of age a short span of years after punk seared through the UK and US. I bought my own copy of The Sex Pistols' "Never Mind the Bollocks" in the early to mid 1980s (when I could wander into Hastings unsupervised) and never looked back.


I certainly appreciated The Clash, particularly their later work, which I was more familiar with (as were most in the US; I learned why upon reading books like the following.) I was just more of a Pistols person. It took me until adulthood to really get, get into more of The Clash. I have my son to thank for that!


So, I'm listening to "The Clash Essential Plus" while reading "The Clash on the Clash."


"The Clash on the Clash" is a collection of interviews and articles on the band over the course of their career and is worth picking up for the albeit now dated views from Lester Bangs, who wrote about six days on the road with the group in the grandiose, passionate voice for which he was so known.

My son, The Clash Fan, asked me if the book contained any content from after 1980 and was surprised it did -- as, he informed me, the members of the band seemed sensitive about how they and their work were perceived after logistics and shifts in musical direction*.


(* The release of 3rd album "London Calling" in '79 prompted many fans to believe The Clash had sold out. Fans were further alienated by the lengthy, experimental 3-disc "Sandinista!" in '80 and -- while doing an extended run at Bonds Casino in New York City promoting that album in '81 [there are history lessons within history lessons I could get into here] -- the band which had sung about "White Riot" and "The Guns of Brixton" was not in England during The Brixton Riots, further estranging those in the UK. I'll let the book expand on that.)


Therefore, this tome -- containing content from the birth of the band, continuing through the 80s, and concluding in the 2000s incorporating conversations with and observations of Joe Strummer, Mick Jones, Paul Simonon, both drummers Topper Headon and Terry Chimes, as well as brief member Keith Levene -- is a comprehensive career overview via vetted music journalists including Caroline Coon, Lenny Kaye, and Nick Kent. My only complaint is that there were no photos for reference, not that they were entirely necessary. Recommended for new and more fluent fans.


"Essential Plus" contains many of the songs and certainly most of the singles/hits from their six studio albums and additional song/EP releases, from their initial "White Riot" to "Should I Stay or Should I Go?"

However, it is missing a few of my favorites and some I'd argue are better or more well-known. (This is where reviewing gets tricky - if you aren't familiar with the music, I'm just throwing around a bunch of gibberish.) I realize The Clash recorded about 140 songs, so they aren't all going to be on a 2-disc set, but I feel that this compilation includes a few that are unfamiliar to most and could be substituted for better known or executed titles. For instance, I'd take out something like "Jimmy Jazz" and put in the EGREGIOUSLY missing "Armagideon Time," the B-Side to "London Calling."


Also missing: "Death or Glory," a solid, well-received tune, and "Spanish Bombs," which sounds so much like The Pixies I think Frank Black and Joey Santiago must have listened to the "London Calling" album a lot. Also out are "1977," "Brand New Cadillac," "Charlie Don't Surf," "Know Your Rights"... and my favorites but more obscure so forgivably withheld "Inoculated City" (from "Combat Rock") and "Up in Heaven" (from "Sandinista!")


However, "Essential Plus" does contain a favorite "Complete Control," (which I have not listened to 94671462408 times in a row. If you are only familiar with one or two Clash songs, listen to "Complete Control" next. It is searing, scathing outrage at its beautiful best) and other highlights such as the lovely cover of "Police & Thieves," the sizzling "Janie Jones," universally hailed "(White Man) in Hammersmith Palais," broody "London Calling," the melancholy yet still dazzling "Lost in the Supermarket," spritely "Train in Vain," the incredible wailing power cover of "Police on My Back," "This is Radio Clash," "Rock the Casbah," and the haunting "Straight to Hell."


When I started my Clash journey, I was a casual listener of Disc 2. Now I can't seem to pry Disc 1 out of the player (I am old school; I do not have one of those new-fangled streaming devices in my car and I don't use my phone while driving. PS: It was very hard not to include all of the songs from their first album in the above paragraph. PPS: On an amusing side note, I have discovered that I seem to have a Clash Coif, as for a time The Fellas had a bit of The Rockabilly going on up top and look what I did with my head without realizing it. - Granny)


Granny Anarchy, a white femme with great eyeliner skills, holding up a copy of one of the books recommended in this essay.


If you are interested in listening to The Clash and don't know where to begin, "Essential Plus" is a decent first step. It spans all the eras (minus "Cut the Crap," released in '85, but we don't speak of Cut the Crap. I'm serious. Go to the official Clash site - it's not even on there.) and hits most of the highlights. However, I'd argue that it offers up some songs that could be better swapped for others to turn the ear of a casual fan into a more in-depth listener, especially for those who don't have access to the complete discography. Still, I'd say that listening to it right now has moved me from being a Pistols Person into being a bona fide Clash fan. 


Unfortunately, the library doesn't have a DVD documentary to make a trifecta, but I have just checked out "London Town," in which Johnathan Rhys-Meyers plays Joe Strummer. Crossing my fingers I will enjoy it. Pretty sure it has a killer soundtrack.


Items at the library:


The Clash : the only band that mattered / Sean Egan.

The Clash on The Clash : interviews and encounters / edited by Sean Egan

We are the Clash : Reagan, Thatcher, and the last stand of a band that mattered / Mark Andersen and Ralph Heibutzk



The Clash

Give 'em enough rope


Combat rock

The Clash essential plus



London town

The materials in this collection are for study and research purposes only. To use these digital files in any form, please use the credit "Courtesy of Metropolitan Library System of Oklahoma County" to accompany the image.