Thursday, February 17, 2005

DB Up in Your Ear: The Clash

Really cool tribute to The Clash's dearly departed Joe Strummer over on our sister station, Got me to thinking about one of my very favorite punk bands.

The Clash are the essential punk band. They proved what could be done with the form, how it could evolve and mix with a host of musical styles. They provided a real message and real emotion to go along with the music, not just a nihilistic screed that was sure to burn bright and subsequently burn out. They helped to spur on a generation in which it could be cool to take an intelligent stand during a rock song.

It's thus that The Clash is really such a large influence on so much of modern music: from Green Day to Rancid to Rage Against the Machine (and so many others). I think they are that kind of rare breed -- along with the likes of Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, the Velvet Underground, and a finite number of others -- that are both popular and massively influential on younger generations of musicians and music appreciators alike.


PJB said...


I have a soft spot for the Clash, myself, but I don't know if they would necessarily be called "the essential" punk band. I guess it's a matter of taste anyway.

I'd say there's nothing more punk rock than making such an un-punk record as London Calling (Jimmy Jazz, anyone?). But there are those who see them as fakers. The Mekons (a band that I might propose as an essential punk band) wrote their first single, "Never Been in a Riot," as a satirical response to what they saw as the b.s. posturing in the Clash's "White Riot." There's never been a better record about the death of the punk dream in England than Edge of the World.

By the way, there's no reason to denigrate the Clash's memory by associating them with Green Day, Rancid and Rage Against the Machine. ;)

While I agree that their shadow looms large, as do those of Sabbath & Zeppelin, the Velvet Underground were never that popular and were probably more of an influence on budding rock critics than budding musicians. They influenced a select group, but the fact that I love them aside, they don't even compare to the influence of Zep or Sabbath (or the Clash, for that matter).

Eric Berlin said...

Thanks for your comments, PJB.

I think The Clash can be considered essential simply for showing what can be done with the musical form of punk rock. Many others have tried to emulate and failed. Others -- such as Green Day and Rancid and RATM -- have successfully carried the torch that The Clash lit (and quite well, I might add).

I think artists / musicians were heavily influenced by the Underground, which is why I mentioned them. They were popular enough with a hipster elite to have made a major impact on later generations of musicians.