Impossible Mission Tour

Last updated 29 July 2004
updated Dec 2014 - Added poster

cdr - Spanish Bombs - low - Sound 4 - time 70min - tracks 19

cdr - full gig - lesser source - Sound 4 - time 99min - low gen? - tracks 25

Video - 35 minutes - black white/grainy - poor - tracks 17

Barcelona - 1st night of the Tour

When The Clash hit the stage in Barcelona on the first night of the ‘Impossible Mission’ Tour, they had not played live for over 10 months; the longest such gap in the band’s history.

Exhaustive period of recording

Not that they had been idle during this time far from it. They had been engaged in an exhaustive period of recording, producing and promoting. Marcus Gray’s book has a very good detailed account of this time. Whilst other rock stars would have enjoyed a rest in their tax-free Caribbean hideaways The Clash after 5 years together, 4 albums, critical acclaim and world wide renown were £500,000 in debt to CBS and Joe had been turned down for a mortgage on a modest flat!

Their decision to release Sandinista at a single album price effectively ruled them out of any royalties on the album (or at least for years to come). This had been the final straw for Blackhill’s association with the band but importantly Kosmo stayed on as ‘PR’. The album had been slated by the music press with the exception of Sounds in the UK and significantly Rolling Stone in the USA.

No Sandinista Album Tours

Not touring to promote the album release seemed further commercial suicide, however this was not their original intention as they announced an exhaustive UK tour in December. By January though this was amended to selected dates and by February the tour was cancelled altogether. The chief reason being the refusal of CBS to provide tour support. Epic’s same response to a later proposed 60 date US jaunt meant that this tour too did not materialise.

Return of Bernie Rhodes

There had been a slide in popularity of The Clash in this period (in the UK at least) with record sales falling and the band began to believe the largely negative music press. Joe was depressed about the reaction to Sandinista and their dire financial situation. He instigated the most significant development in this period, the return as manager of one, Bernard Rhodes. Joe reportedly gave his band members a Bernie in or I’m out ultimatum. The move either provided a much-needed injection of ideas and direction or it precipitated the beginning of the end for The Clash. Either argument can be made and in reality probably both are right.

Bernie’s first major idea was the abandonment of the UK, seen (not unreasonably) as having returned to its pre-punk jaded self. There would be a massive 16-month gap between their last and next concert in the UK.

In the end, therefore, the tour that did go ahead was one of major European cities, playing large 7-15,000 venues with the definite intention (necessity) of making a profit.

It was to be a tour, not surprisingly heavy on Sandinista material. At Barcelona 12 of the 25 songs played were from the album plus the unreleased Radio Clash, recorded only a few weeks earlier. Lets Go Crazy here is the only live recording in circulation.

Topper

Topper’s drug problem had been steadily worsening, now an intravenous drug user on a £100 a day habit ‘just to feel normal’. In March when the band returned to Vanilla studios in Pimlico to rehearse for the tour Topper was reportedly unable at times to remain upright on his drum stool.

During the daily football matches at Vanilla, Mickey Gallagher broke his arm. It had been the intention clearly then for him to continue live as the 5th band member but the injury ruled him out of the tour and he would never again play for The Clash.

Alex Michon’s sleeveless shirts were the usual stage gear in 1981, the year also of Joe’s dodgy Bill Haley type kiss curl! The backdrop for the tour was a corrugated iron sheet with posters onto which were projected slides of various causes for example Right To Work marchers in Detroit, devastation in Cambodia, and dole queues in the UK.

Mike Nicholls Record Mirror article

The music press provided scant coverage of the tour, but Mike Nicholls was at the Barcelona and Madrid concerts. A friend and fan of the band he produced an informative but objective article. The Barcelona performance was rated a poor one by both Mike and the band themselves. He wrote, “The Clash hadn’t played for 10 months and it shows. Apart from the fact that you can barely hear him Mick looks well slovenly and its left to the rampant Strummer to single handedly fly the flag”

The excellent audience recording of the concert largely bears this out although midway through the concert the band do get it together and there are some very enjoyable performances.

Nicholls describes the start of tour lunacy in the dressing room and that Topper collapsed at the end of the concert. The band thought it an inauspicious tour opener and sought to drown their sorrows. Joe in an interview provides an exclusive insight into Spanish Bombs - “it’s a love song dedicated to myself and my father” one night after a few drinks his Dad admitted to him that he had half a mind to fight in the Spanish Civil War for the Republicans.

The following night’s concert in Madrid (Real Madrid’s basketball stadium) was a great performance evidently with Mick on form and The Clash playing to a 7000 strong audience. Junco Partner and Jimmy Jazz were played.

Venue

Nicholls article confirms this as Pavillion Juventual although other listings have it as the Palau de Sport (or variations of this spelling).


Spanish Bombs cdr

A very high quality audience recording was made of this concert, and a very low generation copy (probably direct from the master) is known as Spanish Bombs CD. This though excludes the last 6 songs.

A full concert copy

A full concert copy from the same source recording is of slightly higher generation and has poorer sound. The sound though at the beginning of the full concert copy is on a par with Spanish bombs but for example by the actual Spanish Bombs song there are edits and noticeably poorer sound.

Importantly the encores are not as good as the main set and they are the ones missing on Spanish Bombs. It does though have the only circulating live performance of Lets Go Crazy.

Slight full upgrade

A touch better ‘upgrade’ of the full concert has recently been circulated. Watch out though for much poorer copies some of which exclude Lets Go Crazy.

The recording has particularly clear vocals for an audience source and excellent drums. Bass is good but too high in the mix, dominating the sound but nothing that tone controls cannot fix. A good range and level of detail too make for a very enjoyable sound.

Its main problem was beyond its control; lead guitar is almost completely inaudible or at best too far back in the mix. Whether this was down to the mix or Mick is not clear but appears to have been a combination of both!

Joe’s guitar as a result though comes through crystal clear and it is a pleasure to hear his playing in the spotlight as it were.

Video

More recently a video has surfaced. It is poor quality and SECAM (which is a French broadcast standard only]. It is very poor and probably many generations down. Grainy and black and white. The sound is ok and sourced via the video, suggesting it was not a pro, nor someone who could add a soundboard.

It is shot from three locations and is obviously a hand held home video camera. Given it is shot from the balcony on the right of the stage, then from behind the band on the balcony might suggest it originated from someone connected with the band.

The first section is shot for the balcony to the right of stage looking down. It begins with London Calling, the last 45 seconds with blacked out video which appears with the last few chords. There is then full versions of Safe European Home and Train In Vain.

Theres a cut into Washington Bullets, the last 50 seconds, followed by a cut into the beginning of a full The Leader. Joe speaks before a cut into a full Ivan Meets GI Joe. It then cuts into White Man in Hamersmith Palais early and there is 3 minutes of footage. An abrupt cut goes into the first bars of a full Clampdown.

The next cut is into the opening bars of a full Lightning Strikes which flows into the opening chords of Corner Soul. There's a loss of picture through the 30 seconds of Corner Soul.

Theres an abrubt change without picture into the ending of Bankrobber, about 20 seconds when the picture comes back.

The camera then changes to back stage with a complete Somebody Got Murdered from behind the band on the same balcony.

An abrubt cut and the camera person has moved the sound desk at the back and it cuts into 2 minutes of The Magnificent 7. Another cut into the opening chords and 1 minute of One More Time.

There's another cut and the camera is right in the mosh pit for the last 40 seconds of Street Parade. This is followed by Charlie Don't Surf which has a couple of abrupt cuts early on but is essentially complete.

From the mosh pit it finished with the first 30 seconds of Janie Jones.

”OK!” announces the start of the Impossible Mission Tour and the new and from now on permanent set opener of London Calling. It’s a decent if not stirring performance, as is Safe European Home that follows, both suffering from an almost inaudible lead guitar. A poor sound mix presumably the culprit as Mick does provide committed vocals. Joe says “Sorry about Pearl Harbour” so presumably Kosmo’s girlfriend at the time (later to be Paul’s wife) did not provide support tonight.

This Is Radio Clash” repeats Joe before the only recently recorded song’s live debut. Joe’s vocals are clear and involved, Toppers drumming inventive and Paul’s bass line clear. It is the performances tonight of the songs getting their live debuts that are of most interest and enjoyment. They are raw and under rehearsed but it is fascinating to see their live development during the tour.

Train In Vain next is unexceptional, Mick’s guitar can now be heard but by the ending coda his playing is largely inaudible again. A total contrast to the end of 80 performances in particular where his guitar dominated the sound.

Washington Bullets another debut, is driven along by Topper percussion, Mick’s solo at the end just about audible, but it’s ragged and sparse with Joe’s vocals out of key. “Do you want your money back?” says Joe, before The Leader.

Joe gets his lyrics jumbled as he does often tonight. Ivan Meets GI Joe next, not in anybody’s Top 10 Clash songs but it allowed all the band members a chance to sing one lead vocal. Unfortunately his voice cannot be heard to begin with and fades out again later on. A rough performance, sounding more like a rehearsal, arguably the worst tonight.

White Man In Hammersmith Palais, needed no rehearsing of course and is much better. Joe’s playing is in effect the lead again, with Mick’s guitar AWOL and it’s particularly enjoyable on the final bars.

Clampdown, is uninspired, lack lustre stuff compared to the high standards of most past performances although Topper does his best to stir up a suitably apocalyptic ending. Before it began Joe gives a clue as to why “I haven’t had a drink yet man”.

In a previous interview Joe had said that Mick hates touring and has to be drunk to go on stage. It’s a strong probability therefore that Mick is half out of it tonight and revealingly at the end of the concert Joe says to Mick “Ground control to Major Tom, say goodnight!” and Mick manages to mumble “Goodnight”

Guns Of Brixton gets a new treatment, Mick’s guitar is heard better; it’s pretty ragged but more enjoyable. Things start to pick up through to the encores now, with an obviously under rehearsed debut for Lightning Strikes but the band are getting tighter and more focussed. The band kick into the start of Bankrobber before it breaks down as Joe says, “I was going to do Corner Soul”. A short pause before Joe gets his way and it’s the most together performance so far tonight. Very enjoyable as is

Bankrobber, Mick’s playing now up front, involved and inventive, maybe he’s sobered up!

Sections of the audience presumably remain unimpressed as Joe says “If you want your money come and get it later”. On Somebody Got Murdered next, the audience are far from short changed. It’s superb, everything coming together now, a better more powerful arrangement than its 1980 performances. “Ring Ring” announces the live debut of the Magnificent Seven.

A powerful, enjoyable if under rehearsed performance, which comes to an abrupt end without yet the extended final workout, which came later. One More Time next, another song in transition live but now played with commitment and verve. Joe adlibs in English and Spanish, a definite highlight of the set.

Curiously in terms of set pacing the main set ends here (as it would again on this tour) with this strong but new and less well-known song. An edit restarts with Joe & Topper singing acapella the chorus to Spanish Bombs. It must have been very special for the band and especially Joe to play the song for the first time in Spain. Mick doesn’t sound so sure though “alright, alright” says Mick. “We got to get the rhythm right now” says Joe.

A strong if not exceptional performance follows with Mick’s guitar remaining clear in the mix. Brand New Cadillac follows driving along powerfully, The Clash approaching top gear. “Start that Puerto Rican rhythm!” shouts Joe before the live debut of Street Parade. A little ragged but very enjoyable with Mick singing a chorus. The band leave the stage again and the Spanish Bombs CD ends.

On the full concert source the second encore begins with Charlie Don’t Surf, with Mick’s gentle guitar intro, followed by bass then drums. The sound quality is noticeably poorer with a tape defect affecting the left channel.

Topper then beats out the intro to Janie Jones, bass and Joe’s guitar comes in but Mick for a while appears to be playing Complete Control! The band work hard but it does not really deliver. The band then leave the stage again after a 2-song encore!

The audience cheer for more though. The sound fades out then back in with Topper beating out a strange drum pattern only to be interrupted by Joe’s shout of Barcelona’s Burning. A better performance and then Mick shouts out “Go on then you fuckers” and White Riot kicks in, not exactly his favourite song by now!

Ironically on a night where The Clash deliver such a patchy performance they return for an unprecedented 4th encore. Joe says “Thank you, thank you”, to the audience before the band play a tired and uninspiring rendition of Armagideon Time, during which even Joe says “Lets start again”.

The rhythm changes as the band segue into the only known live performance of Lets Go Crazy. Fascinating to hear but another untogether performance, with little spark or inspiration.

“Ground control to Major Tom, say goodnight” repeats a weary sounding Joe as the band finally leave the stage to which the urban spaceman just about manages a “Goodnight” Still the audience shout for more as the recording ends.

1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25

London Calling
Safe European Home
This Is Radio Clash
Train In Vain
Washington Bullets
The Leader
Ivan Meets GI Joe
White Man In Ham Palais
Clampdown
The Guns Of Brixton
Lightning Strikes
Corner Soul
Bankrobber
Somebody Got Murdered
The Magnificent Seven
One More Time
Spanish Bombs
Brand New Cadillac
The Street Parade
Charlie Don’t Surf *
Janie Jones *
London’s Burning *
White Riot *
Armagideon Time *
Lets Go Crazy *

bold tracks on video

Record Mirror 9 May 1981
Mike Nicholls in Spain with the Clash
front 1 2

GIG Magazine [Spanish]
May80 n°5 5.81
...cover ...page1 ...page2 ...page3

Any further info / reviews appreciated

Apr 27 Barcelona, Spain
Apr 28 Madrid, Real Madrid basketball stadium
Gig reviewed in Record Mirror 9 May 81. Gig played in front of 7,000
Apr 30 Cascais, Portugal
May 1 Lisbon?
May 2 Velodromo de Anoeta, San Sebastian, Spain
May 4 Bordeaux, France
Joe IDs this date and gig the following night in Lyon before the first track
May 5 Palais des Sports, Lyon, France
May 6 Palais de Beaulieu, Lausanne, Switzerland
May 7 Zurich [venue unknown]
May 8 Hippodrome de Pantin, Paris, France
May 9 Palais St. Sauveur, Lille, France
In 1981 the gigs at Lille and Amsterdam were supported by the Belle Stars (they were travelling on the tour coach which we bummed a ride on!), I think they did most of those European dates. J Heath
May 10 Japp Edenhall, Amsterdam, Holland
In 1981 the gigs at Lille and Amsterdam were supported by the Belle Stars (they were travelling on the tour coach which we bummed a ride on!), I think they did most of those European dates. J Heath
May 11 Forest National, Brussels.
May 12 Musikhalle, Hamburg, West Germany
May 14 Idrottshuset, Copenhagen, Denmark
May 15 The Scandinavium, Gothenburgh, Sweden
May 16 Isstadion, Stockholm, Sweden
May 18 Eissporthalle, (West) Berlin
May 19 Circus Krone, Munich, West Germany
May 21 Velodromo Vigorelli, Milan, Italy
May 22 San Remo
May 23 Stadio Comunale, Florence, Italy
May Rome - cancelled
the proposed Rome concert never came together- problems with Bernie
May 26 The Bullring, Milan?? or Arena Civica
Usually named from Londonderry boot LP which was the 23rd. Probably did not take place.