THE ESSENTIAL CLASH BOOTLEG BIBLE
copyright Chris Knowles
You can go on the web and find any number of complete Clash bootleg discographies. That is not my intention here. What I set out to do here was to provide the curious with what I think is a meaningful representation of the evolution of the live Clash, ie., the real Clash. The emphasis here is on recording quality or historically significance. There are any number of excellent shows available in the tape traders network, and if you get bitten by the boot-boy bug, you can waste a great deal of time hunting them down. My emphasis, as always, in on the 80s shows. Part of what fueled my bootleg obsession back in my youth was my need to hear material from Sandinista and Combat Rock played by the Clash, not by Mick, Topper and a bunch of studio hacks. Ive also listed a number of Clash II shows, since the actual bands entire recorded output consists of two hastily recorded B-sides.
However, as long as you can stomach the recording quality, I also recommend any show the Clash did. Particularly recommended are any 1977 gigs, when the Clashs firepower was in its first full bloom. The intensity of those shows is unparalleled. But the shows Ive listed are the ones that either are the most widely circulated or those I feel are most musically powerful or historically important.
09/05/76 - Chalk Farm Roundhouse London, England
Available on: 5 Go Mad In the Roundhouse (CD), Going to the Disco (LP), traders copies
This is an invaluable snapshot of the early five-man Clash: Strummer, Jones, Simonon, Chimes and the soon-to-be-departing Keith Levene. Havent heard the non-LP tracks listed above? Dont worry about it. Most of them are pretty feeble variations on old Kinks and Who tracks, lacking the fury of the later material. However, Flies has some interesting drumming from Chimes - a drummer who was rarely accused of as being interesting - and Mark Me Absent is a great Garage rocker that you should get your band to cover. The band is remarkably tight, especially when you consider just how sloppy the Clash could be, especially in their drug days. But the guitars sound cheap and nasty and an observer could be forgiven for not recognizing the embryonic Clash as future world beaters. While the band struggles to tune up, a pre-Cockney Joe berates the audience for being lame. The sound is a remarkably OK audience recording.
05/13/77 - De Montfort Hall Leicester, England
Available on: Cardiff 77 (LP), Live in Cardiff 77(CD) , Super Golden Radio Shows (CD) , traders copies
Taken from a BBC radio broadcast, this set is a wonderful example of the Clash in full first bloom. The sound is more or less the sound of the first LP, only faster, crisper and more aggressive. Topper Headon is on the kit, and his snappy playing gives the songs greater dimension than the Chimes sessions displayed. This is a great white-knuckle run-through the early material, punctuated by snaggle-toothed Strummer-isms like Lets Kiss! To the latest Clash love song at the beginning of Deny. Put away your UK version of the first LP and spin this instead.
12/28/78 The Lyceum London, England
Available on: Sony Promotional cassettes, traders copies
The source for this was CBS pro recordings, a couple of which have been released on the live album and boxset. Pretty amazing show, particularly if you are a Give Em Enough Rope fan like me. The band is really at a peak here. However, the sound is not the steely rush of some of the earlier shows. Mick had begun to experiment with effects pedals at this point and theres a lot watery Phaser all over the place here. Probably the single best example of 78 Clash, particularly if you get your mitts on a low-generation copy of the Sony promo cassettes containing this show.
02/14/79 -The Agora Cleveland, Ohio
Available on: Police and Firemen on My Back (LP), Agora (LP), traders copies
If the Lyceum shows are the Clash playing it relatively safe for posterity, this show is the Clash at their most frenetic and confrontational. Their usual Pearl Harbor tour opener, Bored with the USA, sets the tone: a hopelessly out-of-tune, gnarly, infuriated Clash playing at Hardcore speed and intensity. Again, Micks phased guitar makes the guitars sound worse than they should, but niceties like guitar sounds and properly tuned instruments are completely beside the point here. Four of the tracks from this set were broadcast on the old King Biscuit Flower Hour. One can only imagine the reaction of Americas drug-addled youth, innocently waiting to hear the latest jams from Kansas or REO Speedwagon, to this volley of sonic hatred.
09/21/79 - Palladium New York, New York
Available on: Klashing with the Klash, Clampdown USA , Pearl Harbor 79, Bronx City Rockers (CD), Guns Of Brixton (CD), Money Made Us Flexible (CD), New York City Rockers (CD), Live USA (CD), traders copies
Unfortunately, this is the most widely circulated Clash bootleg. Why unfortunately? Well, its not a particularly good show to listen to. I am sure it was fabulous to be there, but Micks monster guitar blows Joes voice away on many of the tracks, and the playing seems to be hurried and unfocused. That being said, there is plenty to love here. The sound is hot (at least on the LP version I have) and the opening salvo of Safe, USA and Control is astonishing. The version of Capitol Radio is absolutely tooth-gnashing, despite Micks fuckups on the breaks. Beware: many of the CD transfers I have heard are markedly inferior sound-wise.
12/27/79 - Hammersmith Odeon London, England
Available on: 16 Tracks (LP), Dispatches from Clash Zone (LP), traders copies
Probably one of the best performances the classic lineup ever gave. This was part of a series of benefits for the People of Kampuchea (Cambodia) were just liberated from the horror of Pol Pots genocidal Khmer Rouge. The Clash were playing with the cream of British Rock and were inspired to show their stuff. Although Im not particularly a huge fan of the Clashs conservative Classic Rock era of 79-80, I cant recommend this show highly enough. Most of the highlights from London Calling get a run-through here and Joes early version of Bankrobber, featuring Mick on slide guitar, also gets an airing. Look for 16 Tracks on Ebay. Like most of the shows in this section, it is best experienced on vinyl.
03/08/80 - Capitol Theatre Passaic, New Jersey
Available on: bootleg video, Capital Crisis (LP, CD), For F*CKS Sake! (CD), Capital Radio 1980 (CD), traders copies
The best way to experience the Classic Rock Clash is on the widely-bootlegged video of this show. This is a superlative example of the Clashs 16 Tons tour. The band is at a peak here, even with a hobbled Topper Headon. Mickey Gallaghers organ playing added a lot of dimension to the bands sound, especially on the London Calling numbers, and the band is tight and together. Micks guitar sound is particularly impressive here.
03/09/80 - Orpheum Theatre Boston, Massachusetts
Available on: traders copies
This show is not very widely circulated, but I was at this concert, so I have to put in the word for it. Hearing recordings of the Clash will never impart just how loud they were: it was a level of volume that seemed to have an overwhelming physical mass. This show is essential to me, although maybe not to you. But there is a nice drums and voice version of Hit the Road, Jack that is eerie and goofy all at once. So it has that to recommend it, as well as the fantastic overall performance.
6/17/80 Hammersmith Palais London, England
Available on: Clash Songbooks, traders copies
The Clash late into their 16 Tons tour and already showing a transition to their Sandinista phase. Early versions of Somebody Got Murdered and Charlie Dont Surf show up, but Charlie is nothing like the album version. This version is a hypnotic, dubbed-out chant with no chord changes. Very much a radical departure from the Clashs usual modus operandi. Theres a great run-through of the rarely played Revolution Rock and a healthy dose of other London Calling material as well as several Rope cuts. However, my favorite cut from this show is a lethal new version of Rockers Galore with Mikey Dread on vocals. This is true Punk Reggae; sharp, stabbing and anchored on a fantastic riff. Unfortunately, Toppers playing is already starting to stiffen up on the faster material, a problem that would worsen over time.
In my musings, I often think of the Clash in 1981 as the band at their Clash-iest. With the return of Bernie Rhodes, the band got their conceptual and visual acts back together, and the Sandinista! material played live is a lot edgier than the safe, Stones-y London Calling tracks. Although the 81 performances are generally not as tight as the 80 ones, they are more interesting and atmospheric. 81 is definitely my favorite year for Clash bootlegs.
05/10/81 Jaap Ede Hal Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Available on: Londonderry (LP), traders copies
This is an eight-song sampler from Dutch radio, and the sound quality is top-notch and sos the playing. Theres apparently a soundboard floating around out there of this gig, but the mint sound is a real treat. The Clash were such a great fucking Rock and Roll band in 1981 and this is a great example of the band at a peak. Three tunes off of Sandinista get the full electrical shockers treatment, leaving you to wonder why it all would go so wrong by the end of the year.
05/21/81 Velodromo Vigorelli Milan, Italy
Available on: traders copies
This show is a good snapshot of the Clash in a transitional phase from their conservative 1980 gigs to the looser, more hippified late 81 shows. There are 11 Sandinista!-era songs here, and the combination of funky rhythms and red-hot Rock guitar would later be incalculably influential. I could get on my hobby horse about what a shame it is the Clash didnt never got that sound on record, but I neednt bother. There are enough great shows available from this period. Look for the LP on Ebay.
06/09/81 Bonds International Casino New York, New York
Available on: S.O.S. (LP), Trick Or Treat (CD), Pier Pressure (CD), traders copies
Another well circulated but underwhelming show from New York. There are many versions of this: some taken from a radio broadcast, others taken from cleaned-up CBS tapes. And when I say underwhelming I mean the performances are inferior to many of the other gigs from the same period. But thats relative: it is still a crucial part of any fans collection. This is high-octane Rock and Roll from start to finish. And what the band lacks in finesse, they more than make up for in spirit. Micks guitar is red-hot, and Joe and Pauls fuck-ups and tuning problems are cleaned up in the CBS versions. Its also fascinating to hear the Clash, rather than the Electric Lady band, play tracks off of Sandinista! Find out what version is available before you pick this up. The CBS/Sony one is the best and the most complete.
09/24/81 Theatre Mogador - Paris, France
Available on: traders copies
The Clash reached a superlative level before it all went kerblooey. At the time of their seven night residency in Paris, they had synthesized a new Rock and Roll - spacious but aggressive, diverse but unified, traditional yet forward looking. But of course since we are talking about the Clash here, it goes without saying they never put this music on record. No matter: check out any of the shows from Autumn 81. I pick this one more or less at random there are plenty of others just like it, mostly available on cassette. There was a 3 LP bootleg from this era called Hits, but good luck trying to find it (or afford it if you do find it, for that matter).
Reggae and Funk were the backbone of the Clashs new Rock, and they informed every other song the band played. Micks guitar sound was like a Tyrannosaurus trapped in a vast cavern and the rest of the band was equally impressive. These shows were long and jammed out by Clash standards, with the band often settling into a groove while Mick went wild with his effects. The Sandinista tracks benefit greatly from the road testing, and those numbers are far stronger in the Fall 81 shows than the Spring.
Trippy, Dubby, and Punky all at the same time, these boots capture the Clash at their conceptual peak. It would all come crashing down very soon.
10-22-81 London Lyceum London, England
Available on: traders copies
The best Clash concert ever. Theres a paradoxically laid-back urgency in the playing. Its as if the Clash understood the power they were capable of wielding and didnt feel the need to play quite so frenetically. Theres a seductive, atmospheric charge to this show as well. The Clash sounded huge and mysterious in late 81. I picked this show as their best for a several reasons. First of all, the playing is razor sharp and hard as nails. Second, the set list is incredible. They open with One More Time, one of my top five Clash tracks (and one that has been inexplicably left of the posthumous comps) A bizarre prototype of Know Your Rights gets an airing. Its not as cathartic as the Hits version, but certainly as strange. It reminds me of the prototype for Charlie Dont Surf heard during a Swedish show from June of the previous year. Both songs are strange chants with repetitive riffs, unlike anything the band ever record. Theres a nice version of the early Ghetto Defendant, but the real surprise is a vicious, minor key revamp of Revolution Rock. Topper is at the top of his form on this track and works the topkit like a demon. This is also a nice long set with a whopping 29 cuts and an emphasis on the Sandinista material. Not a great recording, but their greatest show.
01/24/82 - Shibuya Kohkaido Tokyo, Japan
Available on: traders copies
Another one of the greatest shows the Clash ever played. Considering the turmoil in the camp at the time as well as the poor quality of some of the subsequent shows, thats a pretty remarkable statement. This show has everything: great set list, incredible performances, anarchic energy, fantastic lead guitar and classic Joe-babble. For some bizarre reason, its only available on tape or MP3. There are fuckups galore on this, but you wont care. The last stand from the original lineup.
02/01/82 - Sun Plaza Hall Tokyo, Japan
Available on: White Riot (LP), White Riot in Tokyo (CD), Yellow Riot (CD), Rockin the Red Point (CD), This is Live Clash (CD), traders copies
And then theres Sun Plaza. The recording on this show (from a Japanese TV concert ) is pristine, so in true, idiot-bootlegger logic, its one of the three most bootlegged shows. However, pristine recording is all this show has to offer. Though not as bad as the Lochem Festival, this is still the Clash at their weakest. The playing is scattered and disunited, Pauls rubbery bass is inexplicably high in the mix and Joes voice is shredded. Topper makes a big show for the TV cameras, but cant seem to take his sticks off the snare. The bottom had somehow dropped out of the bands playing and in place of passion was desperation. Get it if you must, but dont blame me if you hate it too.
05/20/82 - The Lochem Festival Lochem, Holland
Available on: Summer of 82 (LP), Lochem Festival (LP), Garageland (LP), Live (LP), Into the 80s (CD), partial show with 2/1/82 as Che Guevara (CD), Police and Thieves (CD), traders copies
Toppers last show. That pretty much sums it up, but Ill elaborate. To the untrained ear, this show might be acceptable, but to those of us who have heard the Clash when they were on and when they were off and know the difference between the two, this show is painful. I sold my CD of this ages ago. Fuckups and general rustiness abound, but the heartbreak on this show is to hear the band play as if they were phoning in their performance from four separate locations. Toppers once impeccable meter is all over the map, and poor Pauls rudimentary skills are taxed to the limit as he struggles to keep up. There were hints of this from the beginning of the previous year, but this was truly the end. Toppers playing had been wildly inconsistent for nearly two years, but this show is the sound of him finally hitting the wall. And the conservatism that would mark much of the Combat Rock tour is sadly in evidence here, despite the airings of Rights and Ghetto.
07/11/82 - Brixton, London, England
Available on: Down At the Casbah Club (2LP, incomplete show), traders copies
Yet another one of my favorite Clash shows, even though Ive only heard a truncated version. And everyone complains about the recording quality here, but I think its fine. With steady Terry Chimes behind the kit and the band back on home turf, the Clash launched one of their fiercest salvos ever here . It was one of those nights when everything went right, and what Joe called the X factor kicked in. The playing was that much more intense, the singing just that much more passionate, and the songs seemed to take on a life of their own apart from any previous airings. The LP opens with a flame-throwing version of Guns of Brixton, highlighted by Terrys note-for-note cop of the intro to She Drives Funny Cars (by the Clashs spiritual forebears, the Jefferson Airplane). The stomp-you-to-death version of One More Time is a must hear as well. Ill tell you what, get a good pair of earphones and fuck the recording quality. This is one of the Clashs top 5 performances.
08/11/82 -Civic Center - St. Paul, Minnesota, USA
Available on: traders copies
Jeez- another insanely great show, and again from the generally middling Combat Rock tour. This show is the spiritual cousin of the Shibuya Kohkaido set from January. Both shows were tour openers, but both shows have the same intensity and scope in common as well. Micks guitar here is stultifyingly powerful and the six tracks from Combat Rock get the stoolie-in-the-showers treatment, rendering then nearly unrecognizable to those familiar with the spineless album versions. Ghetto Defendant is particularly impressive, but Car Jamming has to be heard to be believed. Imagine the Clash from 1977 getting in a time machine, kicking the fuck out of the 1982 Clash and you have a pretty good idea what this tooth-gnashing playing of Jamming sounds like. Another absolute must-have, particularly for those fans let down by Combat Rock.
11/27/82 Jamaican Music Festival - Kingston, Jamaica
Available on: Jamaican Affair (CD), Jamaica (CD), From London to Jamaica (CD)
This show sounds like what the Clash were threatening to become in 82. I cant quite put my finger on it, and I cant quite tell you what other shows (well, aside from the Who shows) were like it, so Jamaica will have to do for now. A lot was made of the fact that there were a lot Reggae songs in the set, but this is actually a pretty conservative 1982 show. Micks guitar is almost identical to his early BAD sound, and believe me when I tell you that that sound was all wrong for Joes voice. This isnt a bad show by any means, just not a particularly good one. The place to get this show is in the From London To Jamaica CD, which has almost painfully clear sound.
05/28/83 -The US Festival II San Bernadino County, California, USA
Available on: Clash Calling (CD), This Is TV Clash (LP)
The Clash did a number of warm-up gigs with Peter Howard in preparation for the US Fest, and most of them are better than the actual concert they were in anticipation of, but the US Fest remains the landmark from this era. Micks guitar seems stuck in sort of a no-mans land between his Clash and his later BAD sounds, but thats my only complaint about this show. Its a high-energy show, even if the Clash seem lost on the enormous stage. Joe has some sort of bug up his ass (and actually makes reference to just that), but that just makes his performance all the more entertaining. Pete Howards drumming is flawless and blends the power of Terry with the finesse of Tops at his best. And when you factor in that this is Micks last show with the band, I neednt remind you of its must-have
02/17/84 The Isastadion - Stockholm, Sweden
Available on: Five Alive (2LP), Out of Control (CD), Mutable Punks (2CD)
This is one of the two most widely bootlegged Clash II shows. When compared to sets from a few days before it took place, its astonishing how quickly this lineup came together. They cover the ground the original lineup trod quite nicely and add some nice touches of their own. This show is also invaluable for the seven Clash II originals that get aired, all of which are immeasurably superior to anything heard on Cut the Crap. Are You Ready for War is a pounding slab of Punk Funk, Sex Mad War is raving psychobilly, The Dictator is a lost Give Em Enough Rope outtake, and This is England is a cousin to White Man, which it follows in the set. Three Card Trick is played here as high impact Punk Rock, not Ska like the album version, and Glue Zombie and the original We Are the Clash make use of weird syncopations that 80s era drum machines were incapable of simulating. This is a great set for those curious about this ill-starred lineup and a nice rejoinder to those who say they were inept musicians. Ignore Grays silly comments on this show in Return of the Last Gang in Town.
03/01/84 - Espace Ballard, Paris, France
Available on: Live in Paris 1984 (LP), CD-R, traders copies
Pound for pound this is the crucial Clash II document. Give Em Enough Dope has better sound and performances, but this has a much broader setlist and more Clash II tracks. The recording is a nice fiery soundboard, unlike Stockholm, which is dry and compressed. You also get the added bonus of Joes stumbling attempts at French. The playing here is raunchy and thuggish the sound of black leather. Every song is played with the intensity of a runaway freight train barreling towards a tour bus filled with pensioners. There was an LP culled from this set, but go on the Internet and get someone to give you a CD of the same show. If for nothing else, this show is a must have for the soundboard recording of Ammunition, Clash IIs most frenetic tantrum.
04/14/84 - Hofstra University Long Island, New York, USA
Available on: traders copies
This show is on cassette only, but youll never hear a more
intense Clash concert in your life. The show was delayed because of the usual Fire marshal hassles but Joe and his boys came out swinging and didnt let up until they had barreled through the entire set like a rocket-fueled Sherman tank. Pete Howards drumming can be heard literally shaking the rafters of the gymnasium this show was played in, and Joes shamanic frenzy almost takes on a life of its own. The show is so short (70-something mins.) because every song was played at nearly double speed. This is the sound of pure adrenaline. Career has to be heard to be believed.
Give Em Enough Dope CD
Sun Plaza Hall, Tokyo, Japan, 1 February 1982
Train In Vain/Washington Bullets/ Ivan Meets G.l. Joe/ Career Opportunities/Janie Jones/ Clash City Rockers/ Londons Burning
Seattle, Washington, USA, 30 May 1984
Are You Ready For War?/ Complete Control/ In The Pouring, Pouring Rain/Clampdown
Eugene, Oregon, USA, 29 May 1984
Sex Mad War/ Janie Jones/ Straight To Hell/ Brand New Cadillac
Chicago, Illinois, USA, 17 May 1984
Clash City Rockers/ Three Card Trick/ Safe European Home/White Riot
There is a curious story behind this CD. Sometime in 1988, three EPs showed up that contained what sound very much like professionally recorded versions of Clash I and II songs, cut from the 1984 tour. The cover art was a melange of candid shots of the band, from both lineups. Included was a pristine run-through of the last great Clash song, the unreleased In the Pouring, Pouring Rain. And Clash-fan heads have been scratched ever since. Rumors circulated that the tracks were released by castoff guitarist Nick Sheppard, but no proof of that has ever been offered. Other speculation abounded that they were the work of one Kosmo Vinyl, who was preparing to move to the US from England at the time. However, no one has come forth and claimed responsibility .
What is remarkable about these tracks is not only do they sound professionally recorded, they sound professionally mixed. There seems to be stereo separation, the drums are soaked in reverb ( something you wouldnt hear on a soundboard recording) and the levels were high and clean. And the CD gives you a nice contrast between Clash II and the dismal Sun Plaza gig, effectively making the case for the second lineups existence. If anyone reading this has access to the full recordings, please email me.
12/06/84 - Brixton Academy London, England
Available on: traders copies, One More Time (LP)
The Clash existed in name only by the time this show was played. Joe was tending to his terminally ill mom, Paul was off doing God-knows-what and the three hirelings were sitting in a rehearsal room, numbly staring at each other as they tried to puzzle out Joes new songs (actually random chords backed by a drum machine). But this is a pretty great show. The band is rusty from all the time off, but the playing is lively and spirited. The radically different versions of the Crap material are the obvious highlights, but the radical reworkings of One More Time and Spanish Bombs are the hidden treasures. Avoid the vastly inferior 12/7 show. If you cant tell the setlists apart, just remember that the good show is the one with Fingerpoppin. The first half of this show was culled for the One More Time LP and that will do you just fine.
05/11/85 - Gateshead Subway Station Sunderland, England
Available on: Back to Basics (LP) , Acoustic Daze (CD), traders copies
(Update York is a better tape) Their spirits broken by the miserable Cut the Crap sessions, the Clash made one last stab to come together as a real band. Joe , Nick and Kosmo set up the now-infamous Busking tour and the Clash took off for Northern Britain in a flatbed truck, with a handful of beat up accoustic guitars and some drumkits as their only gear. Interestingly enough, they had a fabulous time, despite being deprived of the company of one Bernard Rhodes. This show is the essential document. Two more tracks sacrificed at the altar of the Cut the Crap get played for those making their own alternate CTC comp and the rest is pure silliness and high camp. It sounds like they were having a ball. Too bad it all fell apart immediately after.
06/29/85 -Roskilde Festival Denmark
Available on: traders copies
The band was broke and on its very last legs, but the spirit of the Clash came through for what was the last great Clash concert. Just as the original band seemed on the cusp of a startling new kind of Rock and Roll before it all went south, here too the second lineup was in danger of creating a new and unique sound. The dub and funk elements were back in full force, and were played with as much, if not more, finesse as the original band. All those solitary hours of practice had paid off for the three hirelings, and they obviously spent a good deal of that time just jamming. Joes hatred for Bernie is reflected in the Mick-penned opener and Micks shadow seems to hang heavy over the proceedings. But the sound is tough, tight and bouncy and even Pauls savage annihilation of Whats My Name cant damper the proceedings. The jamdowns on the Arma/Mag 7/Casbah triptych are spacy , funky and tasty- easily the equal of anything the 81 band pulled off. The Clash did a couple more gigs after this one, but this is the capper to an amazing stage career for the Only Band that Mattered.
THE ESSENTIAL CLASH
copyright Chris Knowles
Chalk Farm Roundhouse London, England
De Montfort Hall Leicester, England
The Lyceum London, England
The Agora Cleveland, Ohio
Palladium New York, New York
Hammersmith Odeon London, England
Orpheum Theatre Boston, Massachusetts
Hammersmith Palais London, England
Jaap Ede Hal Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Velodromo Vigorelli Milan, Italy
Bonds International Casino New York, New York
Theatre Mogador - Paris, France
London Lyceum London, England
Shibuya Kohkaido Tokyo, Japan
Sun Plaza Hall Tokyo, Japan
The Lochem Festival Lochem, Holland
Brixton, London, England
Civic Center - St. Paul, Minnesota, USA
Jamaican Music Festival - Kingston, Jamaica
The US Festival II San Bernadino County, California, USA
The Isastadion - Stockholm, Sweden
Espace Ballard, Paris, France
(I would suggest Glasgow or Manchester)
Civic Center - St. Paul, Minnesota, USA
Give Em Enough Dope CD
USA May 84
Brixton Academy London, England
Gateshead Subway Station Sunderland, England (I would suggest York instead)
Roskilde Festival Denmark
(I would suggest Guenho France)