16 Tons Tour
Supported by Lee Dorsey & Mikey Dread
updated 17 July 2003
updated 1 Jan 2009! - added new master source
(copyright) photo courtesy of Larry Hulst.
If you are interested in buying this photo or other Clash photos Larry has contact him here email
cdr (v1.0) - unknown gen - some slight distortion sound 3+ 84mins 24 tracks
cdr (v2.0 master?) - unknown gen - muffled sound 3 69mins 19 tracks - misses last 5
cdr (v2.1 master?) - unknown gen - muffled to P&T sound 3+ 91mins 24 tracks
Less than 5 months after the last US tour The Clash were back in the USA for a short tour, a blitz of 9 gigs in 10 days in key cities. This reflects acceptance by the band that if they were to be able to break free of the CBS debt shackles they must break the huge American market. Indeed there was no complaint when the unrepresentative but commercial Train In Vain was released as a single in the US on February 12th.
America of course too retained its great fascination to Joe and Mick in particular, and the momentum from the two previous tours was really building by fans through word of mouth, in record sales, and not significantly in media coverage. As even Epic would have to concede the product was moving.
The tour had to end on the 10th to allow Paul to get to Vancouver where he was acting in the film All Washed Up with Steve Jones amongst others.
The band would fly everywhere, hiring stage gear locally, bringing only their instruments. Full support was provided by Mikey Dread, Lee Dorsey and all girl New Wave US band, The B-Girls. Mikey Dread would suffer outright hostility from audiences on the tour, and the inclusion of Lee Dorsey, another RnB legend out of fashion and favour was further evidence of The Clash wanting to pay their dues as they saw it.
It was to be the last tour under Jenner & Kings management, the last with Scratchy Barry Myers as DJ and most significantly the last with Johnny Green. The end of a Clash era.
Out of favour with the UK press the NME still sent Pennie Smith to produce a double page photo only spread. The US press articles in contrast were full of superlatives with Rolling Stone and Creem amongst others championing the band.
Of the 9 concerts played 6 recordings circulate, most of high quality. There is a video from the Passaic show and a short documentary of the New York show. The Clash said at the time that their aim was to be the greatest rocknroll band in the world. There is ample evidence from this tour that they achieved just that. The spontaneity and unpredictability of the all out chaotic charge of the punk years had been replaced with set pacing, greater musicianship and variety of musical styles. The killer punch was still there but as Joe described it they now chose to use short bursts of the hammer over the constant bang,bang,bang previously.
Background to the gig
Despite having not long come off a lengthy UK tour The Clash rehearsed in SIR Studios, San Francisco before the two nights at the citys Fox Warfield Theatre. Ben Sherman who wrote the excellent article in Idol Worship was at the rehearsals, sound check and both gigs. The rehearsals included instrumentals of The Prisoner and Listen but the soundcheck included The Clashs take on The Slickers classic Johnny Too Bad. Shame he didnt record this item in particular.
James Henke was there too to write The Clashs first Rolling Stone cover story. He described how Joe pleaded successfully with the Warfields manager to remove the front row of seating. Joes concern as always was for the fans, he had witnessed too many times fans getting crushed up against the stage and seating.
Henke gives a good description of the live Clash experience including the original and brilliant description of Joe! He spits out lyrics with the defiance of a man trying to convince the authorities of his innocence as he's being led off to the electric chair
They teamed up again with Mo Armstrong. He provided more info on the Sandinistas overthrow of US backed dictator Somoza, which served to further politicise them and influence future song writing.
The Warfield on Market Street is an old Vaudeville theatre with burgundy velvet walls and, curtained theatre boxes. It had a capacity of 2,200 and is still owned by the infamous Bill Graham. On the Pearl Harbour Tour The Clashs antipathy against Bill Graham and his stranglehold on San Francisco live music was open and caused waves. But in 1980 The Clash either compromised their earlier principles or bowed to the inevitable reality depending on your point of view. Joe argued in Creem If you dont go with Bill Graham in Frisco, hes gonna ban cars from the street the gigs on and turn it into a car park before you get out of the airport
The Clash played 2 nights at the theatre, 1st and 2nd March. Gray has the tour starting on the 2nd but Bob Gruens shot of the theatre confirms the dates. Ironically Apocalypse Now was showing at the cinema next door; a film that had already had a big impact on Joe and Mick in particular and would inspire a number of future songs.
Several generations of this recording circulate, all sources are the same.
The best a recent lower generation upgrade is good quality audience recording which suffers until midway in Police & Thieves from a distorted bass and loss of treble in the right channel.
For the remaining half of the recording the sound is very enjoyable capturing all the instrumentation well. It may have been recorded from the balcony, as there are some echo and distance problems.
Range of sound could be better and there is no stereo separation. The improvement in sound midway does not appear to be a tape fault but results from problems with the master recording itself.
The east coast shows have better sound but the sound here is enjoyable particular from Police & Thieves onwards and The Clash put on a great performance.
v2.0 New Master
A new source has emerged with just the first 19 tracks. It claims to be from a master source but is more muffled throughout and certainly less quality. Far less clear than v1.0.
v2.1 New Master
This is now circulating as a full 91mins, 7 mins longer than v1.0. This is the same source as v2.0 and whilst slightly muffled like v2.0, it becomes a lot clearer after Police and Thieves (as all sources cept v2.0). There is not much difference between v1.0 and v2.1. The former having the sound more at the iupper end, the latter more toward the lower middel
Other circulating tapes suffer more from distortion, sound fluctuations and echo/distance.
Clash ticket courtesy Dave Ridley
Johnny Green said the first night at the Warfield took his breath away and Ben Sherman thought the second night here even better than the first. Certainly the quality of the performance comes through on this recording with the band super tight, their tour muscles well and truly developed from their long tour of the UK.
The recording begins with the 16 Tons intro then Joe says like to thank Mikey Dread and Mr Lee Dorsey for making music before the opening chords of Clash City Rockers rings out. The songs run into each other with little or no intros, indeed Joe tries to speak before Safe European Home but his bandmates crash in cutting him off.
Gluggo Gallagher comes on as usual on Jimmy Jazz, and the band stretch out with Joe improvising new end lyrics. The rareish Rudie Cant Fail is played most nights on this tour and tonight its certainly one of the highlights. The sound though is still predominantly left channel with the distorted bass but mid way through a fine Police & Thieves the right channel comes in, levels fluctuate the settle and the bass becomes good, making this second half of the recording very enjoyable.
The Idol Worship articles details how revolutionaries in the audience had unfurled a banner, distributed papers and leaflets outside the theatre. Joe was not impressed by this new development of left wing groups associating themselves with the band. Indeed many were disillusioned seeing The Clash as a sell out. Before Stay Free Joe says, Will the person throwing $100 bills please refrain presumably referring to political leaflets not cash! Mick steps out and says This ones for Freddie, hes in the Army now (anyone need a Light? Joe says taking the piss and deliberately confusing with the cigarette brand!) Hes a marine and hes on his way, a real drag that this draft thing (shouts of yeah!), This is called Stay Free.
The Rolling Stone article picked up on Mick and Kosmo agreeing to match Freddies (an English fan since the 100 Club days) $500 a month Marines pay to stop him going off and risk getting shot. You made me cry said Freddie, Mick replies How do you think were gonna feel when they bring you back with a hole in your chest?" An admirable example of Mick putting into practice his views on war or a futile gesture depending on your viewpoint. Joes comment suggests he thought the latter. Certainly the futility of war and concern for a re-introduction of the draft (a real possibility in the States at the time) would figure strongly in later songwriting.
The energy and excitement of the show really picks up from a brilliant Complete Control onwards. Toppers bass drum beats out, Mick hangs feedback around the Theatre then the power chords hammer out. Its a really intense performance with Joe ad-libbing over the ending. Straight in to a charged Janie Jones with a great teased out start.
Mickeys switched to electric piano now and his tinkling of the ivories Jerry Lee Lewis style is heard well to the fore on these songs. The audience roar their approval and Mick says, Resume your positions to the band in front before Clampdown crashes in, unusually ending the set. Its another great performance with Joe improvising references to 3 Mile Island, then as the drumming builds shouts Topper Headon, Topper Headon, Nuclear Headon! The song gets extended still further than usual at the usual end point, the song drops down to drum and bass with Mick repeating over again I wont work as Joe rants adlibs over the top.
The encores begin with Joe introducing Mikey on Armagideon Time like to bring on the Dread at the Control Tower, Mr Dread Campbell, Mikey Mis-control Mikey! The song gets an extended treatment with Mikey as usual toasting over any gaps left by Joes vocals. It leaves little left though to build the mood of the song but the band are clearly enjoying the night. The songs segues into a great English Civil War and then Mick picks out the intro to Capital Radio but Topper has other ideas and beats out the intro to Garageland.
Mikey returns on a fine Bankrobber/Rockers Galore. Our new single says Mick (not so or not yet says Mr Oberstein!). The recording cuts off abruptly halfway through Tommy Gun maybe losing Londons Burning but not White Riot as the Idol Worship article says this was not played.