By MARC McDONALD
Welcome to another edition of Progressive Music Classics.
The punk sound that was causing a musical earthquake in Britain in the late 1970s seemed light years away from where I was living at the time: dreary, boring Corsicana, Texas.
After reading about The Sex Pistols in "Rolling Stone," I desperately wanted to check out the notorious new music---but it was difficult to find. Corsicana only had one record store. It was run by a hippy, who was more into Steely Dan and Yes.
One day, he gave me a free copy of The Clash's new album, Give 'Em Enough Rope, along with a copy of Liverpool New Wave band, The Yachts. Both had been sent to him as promo copies by the record company. He couldn't stand either of them---and indeed, he hated all punk (as did everyone else I talked to about music in Corsicana).
I didn't think much of The Yachts. But The Clash album blew me away. Unlike the band's first crude-sounding, low-budget (but classic) album, Give 'Em Enough Rope, was produced with a sizeable budget by top-flight producer Sandy Pearlman (who'd previously worked with major bands like Blue Oyster Cult). The big-budget, AOR-friendly sound really shouldn't have suited The Clash's music---but it did, and nowhere better than on the stunningly powerful track, "Guns On The Roof."
To this day, I can't help but hear this track and think of all horrors that Reagan's CIA unleashed upon the world in the 1980s, in the "Dirty Wars" in Central America and elsewhere.
Most Americans didn't really become familiar with The Clash until the band hit the U.S. charts in a big way in 1982, with singles like "Should I Stay Or Should I go?" But the fact is, the band's first two albums, The Clash (1977) and ...Rope (1978) were far more powerful than the later, commercial stuff. Having said that, all of the band's music is worth checking out, particularly the underrated, sprawling, 3-record masterpiece, "Sandinista!" from 1980.
People today who think that goddawful crap like Green Day is "punk" really need to check out the Pistols and The Clash. These bands were the real deal. By contrast, Green Day is about as threatening and dangerous as a cup of Starbucks coffee.