Updated 7 Mar 2007
Dr Pepper Music Festival
Wednesday 1 Sept 1982 Joe/Clash on stage
This is the second of the three memorable nights playing to 8,000 audiences in the open air in sweltering heat at Pier 84 on the Hudson River in New York City. It’s specifically memorable for Allen Ginsberg joining the band on stage to reprise live their studio collaboration on Ghetto Defendant (for the only known time) and for Gregory Isaacs no show as support (after the first night’s reportedly more than cool reception to the Cool Ruler).The band and Ginsberg post gig toured the city’s bars and clubs with Mick and Terry guesting along with Steve Jones with Johnny Thunder’s band at the Peppermint Lounge (a recording of which circulates).
Two very good quality audience recordings document another memorable performance too but perhaps this gig is also significant as the night where relations between Joe and Mick hit a new low. Terry Chimes in his engaging 2013 book The Strange Case of Dr Terry and Mr Chimes wrote that towards the end of his time with the band “Mick was making lots of peculiar sounds using magic boxes, irritating the hell out of Joe, who thought that such activity was the domain of the Pink Floyd’s of this world and had no place on stage with The Clash. This was at the time when the tension between them had reached its peak, for all sorts of reasons.” At an unspecified gig he continued “At one point he looked up at the ceiling and screamed a very long and loud expletive. Just after that Joe ran over to Mick and put his hand on the string of Mick’s guitar to stop the sound. This was a line he had never crossed before and was a surprise to everyone. Nothing was said afterwards it was all as though we all pretended it had never happened”
The recordings of this gig capture Joe screaming “Play the fucking part!” during Clampdown after which in keeping with Terry’s account guitar and the song fizzles out before Terry picks it up with the intro to I Fought The Law. Whether or not this is the gig Terry remembers (and it would appear to be) it raises the question as to whether Joe was right to be angry at Mick for his “improvisations”. The Clash’s live performances are well documented by bootlegs and so it is possible to judge for ourselves whether Joe was right. To these ears he was very wrong; Mick’s ability and will to alter arrangements, change his solos and intros, experiment with effects etc., contributes significantly to making listening to The Clash over his 7 years with the band such a compelling and enjoyable experience. So many bands then and now play their songs “straight” with little variation to the recorded originals. The Jam for example were an exciting live band but a recording or two from each period of the band is all you need, the songs were played the same with little variation from gig to gig.
Moreover many musicians over the years have stated how touring can be so dull and repetitive playing the same songs night after night, that they “phoned in performances”; there being no challenge to their musicianship. Jazz musicians have expressed their disbelief and veiled disgust at rock musicians who can play the same piece of music the same way night after night, with only the prospect of the variation in their post gig substance or groupie abuse to occupy their minds!
The Clash largely due to Mick Jones (but big credit due also to Topper) varied the arrangements and instrumental fills on their songs live from as early as 1977, particularly in 1981 and continued to do so after Topper was fired. Mick like a jazz musician for example was inventive enough to come up with a variation to his intro to Somebody Got Murdered almost every night. Joe of course contributed too not least with his vocal adlibs and stream of consciousness rants on songs like Police & Thieves, Clampdown and Magnificent Seven. But it was Mick largely who should be credited with keeping The Clash live musically fresh and continually evolving.
The counter argument, supporting Joe’s outburst at this gig, of course is that Mick’s changing reinvention of his lead guitar and use of his battery of effects was both a blessing but could also be a curse! Inevitably Mick’s experimentation with the effects in particular but also changes to his lead guitar parts could be less effective than previously begging the question no doubt to Joe if it sounds great why fiddle about and lesson the song’s impact. The variations and improvisations kept it interesting for the band but Joe’s view no doubt was the greatest impact on the audience was the priority; he wanted to blow away their fans with the most powerfully effective performance they could deliver and if songs had been honed to perfection why change them. The extended finale to Clampdown was surely one of the most thrilling highlights of a Clash gig, when the band are firing on all cylinders and Joe was often inspired by it to launch into one of his stream of consciousness rants. How frustrating for him that just as wanted the band to shred their audience at the end of the main set of these high profile gigs, Mick decides to change the arrangement “Play the fuckin’ part” indeed!
Bob Gruen was at the gig and a photo of the band with Allen Ginsberg was used in his book.
Peter Carbonara in the Columbia Spectator 8th September 1982
wrote a negative piece not supported by the recordings; “a ragged, wandering set” and “Looking tired and pissed-off, Strummer stopped playing during a few songs, and sang with his hands on the microphone, eyes closed, as if he were trying to pretend he was somewhere else.” The journalist not aware eyes closed grasping the mic was Strummer in common fully focused mode!
The author’s lengthy piece about The Clash comparing them unfavourably with Elvis Costello’s recent shows in NYC basically boils down though to the commonplace argument of keeping politics out of music. “What used to be called "new wave" seems to have taken two paths. The first is the one the Clash have tried to follow through most of their careerangry, alienated youth speaking out against the system. The Clash cultivated an image of themselves as representative of the bored English kid, under-educated, unemployed, the little guy who had been screwed by them, the politicians, the bosses and factory owners, the rich and the powerful. The other school of new rock that emerged in the late 70s responded to hard times by ignoring them. The most talented practitioner is probably Elvis Costello”
Carbonara writes about the gig, “The Clash were listless on stage Wednesday night. Strummer seemed annoyed at the crowd, which had responded to a 10 minute-long set by rapper, Kurtis Blow with boos and shouting. The gesture of having a black act open for the band was lost on the white audience. The Clash should have expected no less. When Grandmaster Flash opened for them last summer at Bond's his reception was something less than warm. The way the audience abused Blow created a sour atmosphere that the Clash seemed unable or unwilling to dispel. The group played their old songs without passion and went into extended jams on some of their newer material. The crowd stood up and cheered (especially for the horrific hit single, "Should I Stay or Should I Go?"another love song) but, the Clash could have cared less. They hurried through the obligatory encores and left.”
The paper printed a response to the article in their 13th September edition from a Bill Deresrewicz headed Rock can be political, and the Clash prove it. He wrote..”His conclusions are unfounded and naive. Rock and roll can change the world because it affects us both emotionally and intellectually. The music grips, transfixes, and so conveys the meaning of the words with more power than a hundred essays or a thousand polemics. A lyricist with the genius of a Strummer can thus inform, anger and very often activate.…And, how many American Clash fans who refused to register for the draft were influenced by "The Call Up?" Yes, the struggle of the Clash and other political bands is just beginning, but it is a fight which can be won. To deny the possibility of victory is politically cowardly and dangerously irresponsible. The fact that Elvis..put on a better show than the Clash is due to one fact and one fact alone. The Clash, normally one of the hottest stage bands in rock, were at the end of an exhausting 3 month tour of the U.S. that tour started with a blazing set at Convention Hall in Asbury Park, which I attended. The 4000 faithful there were angry and they knew at whom to direct their anger: not only the politicians and the bosses, but also the timid ones who deny the possibility that rock, and art in general, can change.”
Peppermint Lounge after show
As graciously provided by STEFAN SONIC, here is the set list:
The Dr. Pepper Central Park Music Festival ran at the Wollman Rink from 1977 to 1980. In 1981, the Dr. Pepper concerts moved to Pier 84 on the Hudson River until 1988. The whole site spectacularly dramatized by the brooding presence of the aircraft carrier ''Intrepid,'' This was a great time in NYC to see summer shows with promoter Delsener putting on the likes of Led Zeppelin, The Who, Bob Marley, and many others. NY Times June 25 1982 stated ‘The Dr Pepper Music Festival's present location, Pier 84 at 12th Avenue and 45th Street, is not exactly Central Park, the festival's former home, but it is on the water. And the feature that always made the festival one of the city's most popular pop-music events - low ticket prices - has been retained.
The days when a music fan could wander into the park and hear the Young Rascals and the Jimi Hendrix Experience for $2 are gone forever, but this summer it will be possible to hear Bonnie Raitt, Miles Davis, King Crimson and Rickie Lee Jones, among others, for $7. With top ticket prices for most pop concerts passing the $15 mark and heading for $20, the Dr Pepper Music Festival is still a bargain. The August shows also begin at 8 P.M. Tickets are on sale at Ticketron outlets’.
Two different quality audience recordings are in circulation of this memorable gig.
The first and most widely circulating is alternately said to be either a master or first generation recording. It is predominantly left channel and lacks the top end crispness you would expect from a master so maybe actually a copy off the master (which if so sadly does not circulate).A clearly “remastered” version circulates with the bass boosted significantly.
This recording has a few edits but apart from losing a few seconds at the start of Magnificent Seven and Armagideon Time is complete. Instrumentation is clear and vocals only a little distant. It captures the energy and dynamics of the performance well.
The second (lesser circulating) recording is clearly the master and has greater sound quality particularly at the top end, has a wider two mic’d channel sound, captures the atmosphere around the taper better, is also complete and is therefore the better recording overall. That said the differences are not very significant, the sound less raw and dynamic.
Both recordings therefore are well worth having though capturing as they do different facets of a memorable night with some exceptional highlights.
Curiously and frustratingly there is a third audience recording out there but is not in circulation by the same taper as responsible for the excellent 2nd September recording (which is widely circulating). The master recording of the 2nd September show available on Dime in 2008 included as a last track the Ghetto Defendant performance from the 1st September. Crowd noise around the taper and other characteristics confirms this as not coming from the two recordings reviewed above. The 2nd September has the best sound quality of any of the Pier 84 shows and the mystery is why the rest of the 1st September recording does not circulate.
Both recordings include the intro music (longer on second source) and capture the roar as the band come on stage. “Good evening and welcome and this is, um.. the umbrella song entitled London Calling“ It’s an urgent committed start with Joe in good voice and continues in that vein after Mick responds to Joe’s increasingly urgent hanging final “like, like, LIKE” with the intro to Clash City Rockers. Joe wants no pause between songs to maintain the energy and momentum. Mick and Joe share lead vocals on a passionate performance with Mick varying his solo effectively; sounds terrific.
Mick varies his guitar fills imaginatively again on Know Your Rights, which sounds rather muddy on the first source but captures the energy of the performance. Immediately it ends Joe orders White Man in Hammersmith Palais and with barely a pause the band launch into a fine performance. Mick again varying his fills no doubt annoying Joe bit by bit! Guns of Brixton is very strong with Mick adding effects and fills effectively; keeping this set constant fresh and interesting.
An excellent pumped up Police On My Back with Joe adding some great woops and wails is followed by Joe addressing the 8,000 sweltering audience; “Yeah welcome to the fridge! Hope you people at the back will notice we got the air conditioning turned on full just for your comfort! Hopefully there will be some nice soothing rain fall to cool down your sweaty brows, I sent a telegram to Mayor Koch to ask him for some rainfall about this time! This song is entitled Hey you honchos we had better Rock The Casbah!” The band deliver a fast, tight, intense performance.
Career Opportunities continues the intensity, the band fired up and delivering for these high profile open air gigs. Mick is improvising again on Magnificent Seven changing the intro and his lead guitar fills; the band sounds great, the instrumental breaks inspired. No Kurtis Blow though mid song tonight (due to the reported poor reaction to his short set earlier perhaps). Mick’s guitar playing is particularly enjoyable here and Joe’s inspired too launching into a Strummer adlib “…haven’t finished here yet ..first of all check your ID and you’re driving licence too, don’t you know you have to be over 25, hey Mickey Mouse’s a junkie (MM inspiration too at Bristol on the UK tour) Lets go to Walt Disney’s house , way down in Hollywood they never had it so good , way down in Hollywood. Mickey Mouse gets some beer…” Joe continues to free associate, the band drop it down to bass and drums only then the funk riffs continue in instrumental section before Joe’s repeated Magnificence ends the song.
Into Police & Thieves which has new (planned or improvised) intro variation keeping the older song fresh again. Joe is in great voice, the band stretching out particularly on the usual by now drum and bass only section then building into the crescendo finale with Mick’s lead guitar then Terry’s drum fill variations. Performance needs a classic Strummer rant to be truly special but very enjoyable indeed. With a barely a pause it’s into The Call Up with Mick’s electronic effects to the fore but Joe not to be out done adds his vocal effects! Another powerful performance. The song almost segues into Wrong Em Boyo, Paul’s bass lines clear on both recordings.
The band then tear into a fast Brand New Cadillac, which sounds great and then Mick picks out the intro to Somebody Got Murdered. Joe wails “Murder” but Mick angry at some people’s reaction (or lack of it) almost stops playing to say “some(one?) are so cool that they wish that the fuckin’ bomb would drop on their heads now! (Shout of “FU Jones!”) there’s loads of scenes? about drop the bomb, I dropped a bomb on you!” Mick picks it up and the band all play a terrific fantastic extended intro. Sounds excellent on the lesser circulating source especially. The intense performance ends with Joe’s echoed “Murder” interrupted by Mick’s ”1-2, 1-2-3-4” and the band launch into Clampdown. Mick varies his playing on the opening bars a little but no more than many times previously. Mick and Joe clearly both fired up, as are many in the audience with screams and shouts near the taper (source 2). After Joe’s “get a long get along” Mick and the band pick it up but with Mick changing the usual lead break by improvising a bar or two. Presumably the final straw for an exasperated Joe focussed on delivering a knockout blow by upping the intensity Joe shouts out “Oh play the fuckin part!” Terry keeps it going but then Mick’s guitar stops by Joe placing his hand on Mick’s guitar strings (if this is the night Terry remembered); the song stops surely prematurely before Terry picks up the pieces going into I Fought The Law. Both Mick and Joe sing intensely (as though nothing happened as Terry recounts) ending the main set with the audience shouting for more. What is clear from the recordings is The Clash’s intensity was still alive and kicking in September 1982 with Joe and Mick feeding off the friction to fire each other up for whatever reason it worked and the band delivered a great main set captured in great quality (particularly on source 2).
The first and only encore begins as usual with Armagideon Time (source 1 misses a little of the opening Terry intro, starting quietly then picks up, very clear recording but still predominantly left channel. Source 2 has greater clarity and starts earlier with requests from audience before Terry starts the intro. Mick’s fills not inspired but again a different variation. Joe adlibs “Wait a minute Harry, wait a minute Harry, let me speak to Jim yes a lot of groups like us, yeah we’re heading for the bottom of a river.. yeah lots of music is crap because the music is made by creepos, all the damn music going down is made by crap creeps all over the world in every 24 track you got a bunch of creepos filling up every track [high pitched} I? don’t wanna do that!”
“Mr Allen Ginsberg walk out, walk out” and gets a good reception from the audience around the taper and he and the band play Ghetto Defendant, largely straight like the album recording of their studio collaboration. This is the only known live recording of the controversial Beat poet on Ghetto Defendant. Mick here keeps it’s straight with no improvisations, Joe sings his lyrics with conviction and passion and encourages their guest with “go Ginsberger go!“ who recites his alternative history lesson “Lebanon, Poland …kick junk what else can a poor worker do” in a deadpan voice which nevertheless sounds impressive over the band’s backing. There’s none of the extra lyrics cut by Glyn Johns for the released version. A definite highlight.
Next after Mick’s screeching seagull sounding effects there’s a fine energetic Should I Stay with distortion now on the first source. Straight into English Civil War, with a different arrangement on this part of the tour, but it’s not particularly effective. There’s no usual break for the second encore the band continuing with Straight To Hell, sounding particularly impressive on the second source. “Calling in Toots Hibbert from Toots and the Maytals here” - Pressure Drop, the band not reaching the same intensity on the encore as the main set but still very enjoyable, (distortion on Mick’s guitar source 1). Garageland ends the memorable gig with the variations on the arrangement worked up for this leg of the tour.
31 August New York Post
5 Sep - New York Daily News Upbeat
Any further info / reviews