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The Clash Biography

Home > Music > C > Clash, The > Biography

Birth Place: London, England
Years Active: 1976–1986
Genres: Punk Rock

The Clash was an English punk rock band that formed in 1976 as part of the original wave of British punk. Along with punk, their music incorporated elements of reggae, ska, dub, funk, rap, dance, and rockabilly. For most of their recording career, The Clash consisted of Joe Strummer (lead vocals, rhythm guitar), Mick Jones (lead guitar, vocals), Paul Simonon (bass guitar, backing vocals, occasional lead vocals) and Nicky "Topper" Headon (drums, percussion). Headon left the group in 1982, and internal friction led to Jones's departure the following year. The group continued with new members, but finally disbanded in early 1986.

The Clash's first official recording was the single for "White Riot," released by CBS Records in March 1977. In April, CBS released their self-titled debut album, “The Clash,” in the United Kingdom, but refused to release it in the United States, saying that the sound was not “radio friendly”. A US version of the album with a modified track listing – four songs from the original version were replaced with five non-album singles and B-sides – was released by Epic Records in 1979, after the UK original became the best-selling import album of all time in the United States. The album reached #12 in the UK Albums Chart and #126 in the Billboard Pop albums chart.

In February 1978, the band came out with the single "Clash City Rockers." June saw the release of "(White Man) In Hammersmith Palais." The Clash second album, “Give 'Em Enough Rope,” was released by CBS in November 1978. It hit #2 in the UK, and #128 on the Billboard chart. The album's first UK single, "Tommy Gun," rose to #19.

In August and September 1979, the Clash recorded their third studio album, “London Calling.” The double album was a mix of different styles, with greater maturity and production polish. “London Calling,” released on December 1979 by CBS and regarded as one of the greatest rock albums ever recorded, reached #9 on the British chart and #27 on the US chart. In the UK, “London Calling's” title track, rose to #11—the highest position any Clash single reached in the UK before the band's breakup. The album's final track, "Train in Vain," turned out to be the band's biggest U.S. hit to date, reaching #23 on the Billboard chart.

In December 1980, CBS released the 3-LP, 36-song “Sandinista!.” The album again reflected a broad range of musical styles, including extended dubs and the first forays into rap by a major rock band. “Sandinista!” fared well in America, charting at #24.

They set to work on their fifth studio album “Combat Rock” in the fall of 1982. It contains two "radio friendly" singles, "Should I Stay or Should I Go" and "Rock the Casbah." "Should I Stay or Should I Go" reached #17 in the UK and #45 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart, "Rock the Casbah" peaked at #17 in the UK and #8 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. The album itself was the band's most successful, hitting #2 in the UK and #7 in the U.S.

After “Combat Rock,” Topper Headon was asked to leave the band, and in September, Mick Jones was fired. The first single from “Cut the Crap,” "This Is England," was released by CBS in September 1985. It reached #24 in the UK. “Cut the Crap,” the last studio album of the band, was released by CBS in November 1985. It reached #16 in the UK and #88 in the U.S.. The Clash effectively disbanded in early 1986.

In March 1991, a reissue of "Should I Stay or Should I Go" gave the band its first and only #1 UK single.

“The Clash: Westway to the World,” a documentary film about the band, was released by Sony Music Entertainment in 2000, and, in 2003, it won the Grammy Awards for the best long form music video. In January 2003, the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.