16 Tons Tour - Supported by Mikey Dread, Lee Dorsey & B-Girls

updated 10 Mar 2002
updated 28 Dec 2008 - corrected venue details
updated 28 Dec 2008 - added punters comments (skank)
updated 5 jan 2010 - added punters comments
updated 13 Feb 2012 - added punters comments
updated 3 Aug 2014 - added video

audio cdr - 'On Eight Mile High' - Sound 4 – 85.42mins – unknown gen - tracks 25

Video - SEH now circulating

A brief Super 8 colour film and sound from both the Detroit 79 and 80 shows does exist.

1) Almost ALL of Safe European Home, camera mainly on Joe, Joe PLAYS to the camera near the end when he dos that spoken word thing. This is from the Jackie Wilson Benefit march 10/80 at Motor City Roller Rink.

2) Mick sings a song I've never really cared for. He sings Bang Bang something. Over 2 minutes of that.

Last Night of the Tour

The last night of the tour, a benefit gig, a seat less venue and a determination to make amends for their first gig in Detroit, all contribute to an exceptional performance, certainly one of the best of the tour.

In the audience tonight once again is Ted Nugent. After some Clash critisism previously at Detroit in September when Ted wanted to Jam and Johnney Green was despatched with a pair of scissors, Joe gave an on stage spat in Teds direction on the second night of their NY Palladium gig the week following. "We are going to do away with the Ted Nugent aspect for a minute [as Mick pulled out an acoustic guitar]. Don't worry Ted will be on in a minute" said Joe sarcastically.

Ted Nugent turns up again in Detroit at the Motor City Roller Rink this time. Ted vs Clash round 2

Benefit for Jackie Wilson

The gig a benefit for Jackie Wilson was an added date to the tour and the band hired equipment just for the night, causing problems which Joe acknowledges before the first encore. They played an impromptu concert for early arriving fans as a soundcheck, some of whom had driven 700 miles from Kansas to see them.

One view

One fan, Nestor Rychtycyj was at the gig and the Take The Fifth show in the Masonic Auditorium the previous September. He has kindly provided these recollections;

"I was thrilled when the Clash finally made their way to Detroit and I even drove down to the old WWWW studios on Jefferson to catch a glimpse of the band as they came in for a radio interview. They seemed to be just as confused with the city of Detroit as we were in seeing those legendary punk rockers from the UK.

I saw the Clash play at Masonic Auditorium, Detroit on September 17th, 1979 where they were already exhibiting that streak of independence and defiance that would so infuriate many American punk crowds. In 1978 or so, American punk audiences were not particularly receptive to reggae and the Clash were already expanding their horizons beyond the standard punk fare. They were supported by David Johansson and the Undertones and were upstaged by Johannson (or maybe there were too many NY Dolls fans in the crowd). [The Clash themselves certainly didn’t rate this first Detroit gig, typified by MC5’s Rob Tyner sitting arms folded throughout] I've argued about this show with many of my friends for years.

I always felt that the Clash came back next March to the Motor City Roller Rink determined to make amends for the first show and put on the most intense show that I ever saw. My main recollection of the show was that it was the greatest show/band that I have ever seen in my life & I saw pretty much everybody that came through Detroit.

They seemingly played for hours, they played some songs more than once and they did not leave that stage until everybody in the crowd was convinced that they had seen the best band in the world – and they were right’.


Susan Whitall for Creem (June 80) was also at the gig and her article included both a review and interviews. (see link). There were more protests about The Clash selling out; the argument being that if they had a hit album they must have sold out. They would not have been too unhappy either to have upset Ted Nugent who wanted to jam with them; when you get your hair cut was the response. He didn’t get the joke and huffed out. Whitall wrote “ The clash didn’t insult anyone else in Detroit though, in fact they played a long set, covering each album generously, re-emerging manfully for encores, and surprising the crowd with one last turn onstage when everybody’d given up on them, already having had several hours of music. Whether by playing long, or by playing well the clash were determined to give Jackie Wilson’s benefactors their tickets worth”

Jackie Wilson Benefit

In the previous year’s Creem interview Joe had complained about the plight of one of the great soul men, Jackie Wilson who had been in a coma since suffering a heart attack in 1975 and profits from the Clash gig went to Jackie Wilson’s wife for medical expenses. Joe and the band saw the benefit as paying their dues and their response to white bands ripping off black music and leaving the black originators penny less. Jackie Wilson’s story is a tragic example of this fact;

By 1975, he was nothing more than an oldies act. Despite one of the most powerful voices and hyperactive physiques in the business, he was no longer able to put his name on a hit record. The man's career had to be put on life support by the ubiquitous Dick Clark, who featured him in a package tour called the Good Ol' Rock 'n' Roll Revue. In September 1975, Jackie slid out onstage at Camden, New Jersey and kept his audience burning with high-energy versions of hits like "I'll Be Satisfied", "Whispers", and "(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher".

Towards the end of his climactic signature tune, "Lonely Teardrops", Jackie leapt high into the air, and fell abruptly backwards. "My heart is cryin', cryin'" -- those were his last words. His head hit the stage with a loud crack. Dick Clark rushed to his side, yelled "Is there a doctor in here?" to the stunned audience, then began sobbing over the unconscious singer's motionless body. Jackie Wilson blinked twice, and rolled his eyes up in his head. He remained in a coma for eight years until, in January 1984, he stopped taking nourishment and passed away.

Yet another indignity awaited Jackie. After a well publicized funeral attended by around 1,500 relatives, friends and fans he was buried in an unmarked grave in his home city of Detroit. Effectively his burial was that of a pauper.

The day after the gig Paul would leave to act in “All Washed Up” and Mick and Joe would pay homage at “Hitsville USA” Motown studios in Detroit. Then minus Paul it was straight to New York and Electric Ladyland to begin the recordings that would become Sandinista.

A semi-commercially released bootleg of the show is called “On Eight Mile”.


Thanks again to Nestor Rychtyckyj for this information about the venue and Detroit;

"The Motor City Roller Rink was, as its name implies, a large indoor venue for people to roller skate on. There were no seats - just a floor and a stage. In its hey day the Roller Rink was the site of some of the best cutting-edge music in Detroit.  This is the place where the Ramones, Pretenders, Devo, Iggy Pop, Public Image Limited and the Clash put on some memorable performances.   Roller Skating had declined in popularity and the Motor City Roller Rink, on Nine Mile and Van Dyke in Warren, has also been torn down to facilitate the construction of the most precious commodity in Macomb County - strip malls. 

Detroit was built on the banks of the Detroit River, which connects the Great Lakes together.  The mile roads run east-west and they measure the distance from the city centre/river.  They go from 5 mile rd to 30-something mile road.  8 Mile Road divides the city of Detroit proper from the surrounding suburbs and it has become a flash point for politics in the area.  The city of Detroit (south of 8 mile) is predominantly black and is poorer than the suburbs (north of 8 mile), which are predominantly white and richer.  8 Mile itself is full of strip bars, cheesy liquor stores and it has become the symbol for the racial divisions here.  (That's why Eminem & everybody else here) uses that term." 

Thanks to james thompson for adding the following info about the venue.

Regarding the 1980 Clash concert at the Motor City Roller Rink was in Warren MI. I saw the Ramones at the same place within weeks of this gig, and it was ultracool in a way that only funky old US venues can (or used to) be. Even the bootleg is in error. It refers to "Eight Mile" (a local road) when in fact the place was near 9 Mile Rd.

9 mile (where the Roller Rink was located) has no such hidden meanings.  It is one mile north of 8 mile & the Roller Rink was located in the city of Warren (where I live), which is a big suburban community bordering Detroit.  Many people here don't even know where the Roller Rink was located & that's why the bootleg probably got the 8 mile name.  The other venue that the Clash played at was Masonic Temple. It's a beautiful building in a very run-down part of Detroit, but it still hosts shows there.  The White Stripes will be headlining at Masonic next month.’

“On Eight Mile”

The “On Eight Mile” bootleg, is the only circulating recording of the gig, and is sourced from a mono probably soundboard recording but is several generations off the master. It thus suffers from a resultant loss of clarity, dullness and hiss. But being sourced from the soundboard all the instrumentation comes through well, the bass being unusually good. There is little distortion and a good mix.

The clarity and range of sound improves from Police and Thieves through to Armagideon Time, coinciding conveniently with the strongest section of a consistently powerful performance. An upgrade nearer to the master would of course be a tremendous find but if you ignore the imperfections, crank up the volume and concentrate on the performance then ‘On Eight Mile’ is a hugely enjoyable bootleg.

Most track listings for this show end at London’s Burning but the bootleg ends with Janie Jones and I’m So Bored With The USA (the latter not played since the Take The Fifth Tour). These two songs are of lesser sound quality but sound like they are from the same source, certainly Mickey is playing organ on them. Susan Whitall mentions the band came out for an unexpected final encore so it’s probably safe to assume these two songs are from this final encore.


A brief Super 8 colour film and sound from both the Detroit 79 and 80 shows does exist.

Ted Nugent

The recording begins appropriately with the end of Jackie Wilson’s ‘(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher & Higher’. Joe says,“Just had to hear that one through to the end there” before the start of a tight and committed Clash City Rockers. The set in keeping with all the 16 Tons shows then builds further with Brand New Cadillac and Safe European Home, creating an explosive start to the gig before the pace drops for Jimmy Jazz, allowing the band and audience to catch their collective breath.igheHigher

”Please give a welcome to Mr Mickey Gallagher, the man maybe a Blockhead” or maybe not in the future is Joe suggesting? Joe concerned at crushing near the stage interrupts Mick, “Yeah, you guys, just here, move 6 inches back, we ain’t going anywhere!” Jimmy Jazz is superb with Joe becoming a human jukebox over Mick’s intro “put the coin in here & select!” Joe adds as usual his stream of consciousness adlibs to the song “Police come walking in say hey you, hey you Scarface! Calling you long distance on the telephone, hello over there, anybody at home, no answer… open a can of Budweiser, listen to that boys, that siren sound (Mick adds a siren guitar lick) must be one thing gotta get ready to ride…” Music drops down to drum and bass; “I went up to a Policeman just down that boulevard, I said how do you get to General Motors, he said buy yourself a map buddy, so I said how do you get to? (unclear)_, He said “You a funny guy talking in a funny voice you must be one of those poofta guys! what you got there boy in that back pocket, in that brown paper packet”, “I’ll tell you officer J.. A ..Z....Z!”

Before a powerful London Calling Joe attempts to break the ice but meets a clash of hairstyles; “Anyone gotta comb,.. don’t you comb your hair here in Detroit? Anyone here comb their hair?” He is handed a brush! “It’s a brush, it’s for doggies and little children! This is for you at the back, I must apologise for this being such a low stage.”

Someone annoys Paul who shouts “shut your fuckin’ face!” before delivering a committed vocal on Guns of Brixton. Mick’s turn at the lead vocals next on Train In Vain and then a frantic Protex Blue.

The consistently excellent White Man in Hammersmith Palais follows with an ending adlib centred on walking down the Hammersmith Broadway. Koka Kola segues as usual into I Fought the Law with some adlibs from Joe. Before Spanish Bombs Joe presumably refers to the singer rather than the place; “Pearl Harbour, yeah has anybody noticed that I ain’t looking at ya, Spanish Bombs te quiro y finito”. Mick’s lead guitar playing a delight.

A fine performance next of the increasingly rare Julie’s Working For The Drug Squad, preceded by shouts for White Riot to which Joe responds “I give up now, we’ll do it, they don’t stinkin’ like it anyhow” (Mick’s aversion is well known to White Riot, but who else, Paul, Topper?).

Ted Nugent

The sound and the performances improve further with Police and Thieves whose intro mixes parts of Hit The Road Jack with Hey Bo Diddley. Before it an angry Joe shouts, “Give me a bag you four eyed…” Surely not at poor Johnny Green who announced his departure on the plane to Detroit. Topper then beats out a repeated drum pattern over which Joe intones “Well we’re The Clash, we came to Detroit, nobody knows what its like in Detroit, Oh Bo Diddley, Howard Johnson is our name, Hey Jack hit that road, Hey Jack hit that road. Howard Johnson is my real name, go to jail, go straight to jail, do not pass go, don’t forget your heroin, cocaine..” Joe’s adlibs are unclear but their combination with Mick’s heavy guitar fills and Mickey’s organ produce an aural impact as the song builds and builds which is both powerful and mesmerising.

“Your turn” Joe says to Mick before Stay Free, “Everybody got their change ready!” Mick responds, “Yeah get your Kleenex out! Mick’s playing over the ending coda is a delight. Wrong `Em Boyo next is simply excellent then Joe announces “Mr Topper Headon’s right foot” Tops beats out the bass drum intro to Complete Control, Mick’s lead comes in then the band stops, almost immediately Joe’s rhythm kicks in playing the lead chords and Topper drums, start up presumably as Mick changes guitars. It’s an intense performance with the on paper defeatist lyrics “This is Joe Public speaking, controlled in the body, controlled in the mind” spat out by a fired-up Joe, turning it into an angry, statement of defiance. The quintessential Clash moment?

“Gotta dance,” shouts Joe, announcing Janie Jones but Tops starts Garageland then they go instead into Clampdown! The intensity levels continue at maximum with Joe’s voice straight out of 1977 shouting an angry “left right, left right”. Joe’s stream of consciousness adlibs could go anyway but tonight’s one takes in Three Mile Island; “Yeah, a foul gust of wind came off the coast from Philadelphia in fact Pennsylvania” and ends amazingly with “My boy lollipop you make my heart go giddy up” a reference to Millie’s novelty reggae hit!

Disagreement with the set list continue with Joe saying “I guess, gotta dance (Janie) but Tops beats out Garageland, Joe emphatic “GOT TO DANCE, gotta dance” but Tops keeps up and then Mick comes in adding vocals to a passionate, excellent Garageland.

The band return for the first encore, the audience audibly very enthusiastic. Joe announces, “Yeah, listen to this, if there’s anybody out there who thinks it sounds like shit right, well it don’t sound too good up here, all this gear we haven’t seen it before we walked in tonight, so we’re slightly unfamiliar with it”. Mikey Dread comes on to share vocals with Joe on Armagideon Time. The sound quality dipping slightly. A powerful English Civil War segues in and then with no let up its straight into an intense Tommy Gun and then straight into an even better London’s Burning. Joe acknowledges the part the audience played in the intensity of their performance as they leave the stage “Thank you very much, I’d like to thank you and all”.

The band must have thought that was it but with the audience shouting for more, after a lengthy break they return for 2 final songs. Janie Jones finally gets played and its well worth the wait and then a burning I’m So Bored With The USA appropriately returns to end the US tour. “Adios Amigos“ shouts Joe.

"My main recollection of the show was that it was the greatest show/band that I have ever seen in my life & I saw pretty much everybody that came through Detroit.

As I recall, this was the second time the Clash played here - they were in Detroit in September 17, 1979 at Masonic Auditorium with David Johanssen and the Undertones (I think) and were upstaged by Johannsen. (or maybe there were too many NY Dolls fans in the crowd). I've argued about this show with many of my friends for years. I even snuck out of school and went down to the radio station where the Clash were being interviewed to get a glimpse of the band.

I always felt that the Clash came back next March determined to make amends for the first show and put on the most intense show that I ever saw.

The Motor City Roller Rink was, as its name implies, a large indoor venue for people to roller skate on. There were no seats - just a floor and a stage. It was a pretty popular concert venue and bands like the Pretenders, PIL, Devo, Ramones played there. Roller Skating had declined in popularity and the place was torn down a long time ago to make way our favorite American architectural icon - the strip mall with a Burger King."

I've got superb super 8/color/sound footage of the Clash's first gig in Detroit Sept 17/79, then on the jackie Wilson Benefit tour march 10/80. I worked at Creem as Mark J. Norton, my birth name was too much for this country. Read the article in the June '80 issue on the Clash, that's me trading Marlon Brando imitations with Strummer. I'm making a short documentary with this footage, should run about 20 minutes.

June 1980 Clash Conquer America. In it, there I am doing Brando/Pink Flamingo impressions while drinking and smoking wit Joe. It was quite an eventful day/night, and these little stories would be included in my doc of the Clash. At the gig Ted Nugent tried to get backstage to meet the Clash, but Kosmo came running out to greet him, saying "The band will meet you if you cut your fuckign hair off!" We got them seriously drunk after the show at Lili's Bar in Hamtramck, it was fucking great! Then the next morning we took them to Hitsville USA. And I can find stills of this, too.

Was reading your Detroit review. March 10, 1980. Drove up for that one, too (from St. Louis). Mikey Dread was mentioned at the end, but nowhere was it said that he was on the bill along with Lee Dorsey. What a line-up. Is that weird-angled pic of Joe in the red shirt from me? I know I took that pic.
We partied at Lili's with them afterwards, then at their hotel all night. Was their final night of the tour. It was crazy. Also met them at the airport when they came in. Unbelievable. Skank

I attended the Clash concerts in Detroit in September, 1979 and March, 1980 (as well as a forgettable show in 1982).  nestor's recollections of the Motor city Roller Rink show was spot on.  i've been to many concerts over the years before and after this show, and I still believe that this was the best concert I've ever seen.

  The contrast in the two shows (from masonic to MCRR) was an amazing transformation. However, the transformation was not so much in the band, but in the audience's reaction to the band.  One commentator was correct, in the masonic Auditorium show it seemed the audience was there mostly to see David Johansen, who had only recently left the New york Dolls, and had a small but dedicated following in Detroit.  It's also true that the Clash had equipment problems and became very frustrated, kicking the amps, spitting, etc.

    The MCRR show was a complete contrast.  the band came on late (after the sound check which one of your readers spoke of). But somehow it was perfect.  it was just late enough where the anticipation was growing to a fever pitch, but no so late that the crowd was frustrated.  The second they came on the electricity was intense.  Perhaps it was the release of London Calling, or just the fact that this was a crowd of hard core fans who came to see The Clash and the Clash only (although the back up bands performed admirably).

I remember that they opened with Clash city Rockers.  As your other commentators mentioned, there were no seats in the Roller rink, and I had fought my way all the way towards the front (probably the equivalent of the 10th row or so).  After that first number i remember Joe Strummer was filled with sweat.  There was no question that the band was preforming with all they had, and the crowd loved them.  I've never seen, before or since, this complete connection between a  band and it's fans, they just fed off of each other.  It was just one of those nights that I will remember for as long as i live.

Thank you, David Epstein - mdepstein[a]me.com

The Clash show on March 10, 1980 was the best concert/show/musical event I have ever attended.

Everything that the Masonic Auditorium lacked -- that show had a less than ideal lineup of acts that were incompatible with the Clash's style, a venue that was a little too large, high-brow and ornate for a Clash show, audience rudeness, etc. -- was totally the opposite at the Motor City Roller Rink show.

The Motor City Roller Rink in a northern suburb of Detroit, at 9 Mile Road and Van Dyke Avenue, had been a fixture of roller skating parties, open skating, etc., for many years. Some time during the late 1970's, rink management decided to diversify into musical events -- fortuitous because bands like the Clash had difficulty booking seated arena and auditoriums because raucous fans were damaging the seats.

The week after the Clash show, this location hosted The Jam, for example. Not wanting to repeat my mistake of the Masonic show, I arrived early with a college friend who was similarly a big fan of the Clash.

The doors were not open when we arrived, so we queued up outside with the sun setting and the cooler temperatures settling in. Shortly after darkness fell, a tour bus drove up to a door near a side entrance, and some shadowy figures jumped off the bus and made a short run into the back of the rink.

Many of us standing in line, tracked the movements of the figures -- members of the Clash, making a perfect entrance -- mysterious, shadowy, cool.

Soon after, the doors opened, and as we all walked in to stake our claim to a good spot on the standing-only roller rink floor, we could hear music playing on stage...it was the Clash, and they were either doing a sound check, teasing us with a few songs as a reward for our early arrival, or both. It was like a short, private concert that only the early birds caught, and something that I NEVER saw another band do.

As I recall, there were 2 warm-up groups, both playing music that the Clash appreciated, and that obviously inspired them.

Lee Dorsey and his band, with a soul, R&B sound was one of the groups, and Mikey Dread with a reggae rap style was the other. While these groups played, the audience was treated to several things -- first, an education of musical styles that no doubt influenced the Clash's music, and second, being able to watch the Clash and their entourage sitting and moving about in the "crows nest", an upper observation deck area directly above the stage, where roller rink management usually kept an eye on skaters.

The audience was polite and gave nice applause for the first 2 groups, but when the Clash came out, naturally the audience erupted. The small stage, the close proximity that we all were to the band, the fabulous songs played and sung fabulously loud and fast...were everything that the Clash advertised.

I do not recall and did not write down the set list, but this was a tour for London Calling, and I think they played most of the songs from their pinnacle album. At one point, Joe Strummer's hair was looking disheveled from his aggressive strumming -- and he knew it -- so he asked if anyone had a comb he could borrow. Someone handed one to him from the audience, so he combed with it and gave it back...a far cry from spit and cups of ice being flung!†

At another point, Joe announced that some fans were getting pushed into the stage by other enthusiastic fans further back, and were in danger of getting injured. He asked us to take a step or two back away from the stage. He also invited those who were getting uncomfortable being "pressed" to come up on stage and be ushered further back, where there was less risk of injury...and a few fans took him up on the offer.

These incidents made me feel that Joe Strummer was not your average star concerned for himself and money -- he, and the group, wanted to make sure fans were treated to a great show with no blemishes on the experience...and the last comment I will make proves that even more --

After the short sound check "teaser" I mentioned earlier, 2 warm-up bands, and then a truly exciting set by the Clash, they departed the stage but with the lights still showing on the stage -- of course, that meant there was a chance for an encore if we were loud enough.

We were loud, so they played a few more songs, and repeated their departure...most of us in the audience felt that THAT HAD to be it, that there could not possibly be any more to this phenomenal show.

As if we were all leaving to rush and tell our friends how great the show was...many of us, myself included were approaching the exit doors when the Clash came out on stage to play some more...fans who had left and were on the sidewalk outside or were in the process of leaving, raced back into the venue and stood as the Clash played a few more songs....then, the concert of a lifetime was truly over.

The Motor City Roller Rink fell on hard times as rollerblades replaced the older style skates, and the rink was demolished in the mid to late 1980's I think... it is now an empty grass-covered lot. I sometimes pass the location on the way to work thinking about this great memory that occurred on that spot...

I invite others who were there to share your views, and fill in the holes of my posting!

Thanks! Kevin Zielinski <kevinz4444[a]yahoo.com>


Clash City Rockers
Brand New Cadilac
Safe European home + VIDEO
Jimmy Jazz
London Calling
Guns of Brixton
Train In Vain
Protex Blue
White Man in Ham Palais
Koka Kola
I Fought the Law
Spanish Bombs
Julies in the Drug Squad
Police and Thieves
Stay Free
Wrong `Em Boyo
Complete Control
Armagideon Time
English Civil War
Tommy Gun
Londons Burning
Janie Jones
I’m So Bored With The USA

A Riot of Our Own pg 238

Jenny Lens

Creem June 1980

27 April 1980 Observer
Joe Interv on 16 Tons Tour

Any further info / reviews appreciated

Mar 1 The Fox, Warfield, San Francisco CA, USA
A Riot of Our Own 235
Mar 2 The Fox, Warfield, San Francisco CA, USA
Mar 3 Santa Monica Civic, Los Angeles CA, USA
Mar 4 Santa Monica Civic, Los Angeles CA, USA
I was looking at your list of gigs and I wanted to add one. The Clash played two gigs at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium in 1980,
March 3 and March 4. I attended both concerts. (My high school was across the street.) For the first concert a barricade was placed ten feet in front of the stage. Naturally, once the concert began people went over it. The next night the barricade was gone. These were the two best concerts I have ever attended. --David
Mar 6 Tower Theatre, Philadelphia PA, USA
Mar 7 Palladium, New York NY, USA
Mar 8 Capitol Theater, Passaic NJ, USA
Mar 9 Orpheum Theater, Boston MA, USA
Mar 10 Motor City Roller Rink, Detroit MI, USA
Apr 25 “Fridays” ABC-TV appearance, Los Angeles CA, USA
Apr 25 Los Angeles
According to the 16 Tons gig poster there was a gig in LA. Could Fridays have been pre-recorded and broadcast on the 25th?
Apr 27 Roxy Theatre, Hollywood CA, USA
“(The Roxy Theatre was) the smallest venue the Clash ever played in the States. And it was a very cool gig, they opened with “Time Is Tight”. The Roxy for years had a red velvet curtain. When it came time for the encore, the audience tore it down, and it was never replaced.”