months after I wrote the following article came the crushing news
of Joe Strummer's untimely death. While I still defend the critique
made of the CLASH in my essay, I want to express my sadness at
Strummer's passing. Joe wrote some of the greatest Rock 'n Roll
songs of all time, and his politically militant stance helped
make the early punk rock movement the threat it was. I read that
his last 2002 concert was a benefit for the striking Firefighters
Union of London... a fitting last effort for one of the great
firebrands of our time. At the New Musical Express Awards held
during Feb. 2003 in West London, the three surviving members of
the band denounced the war against Iraq. So consider the following
to be like those arguments that take place in close knit families.
Strummer and The CLASH made a big difference in this world, which
is why the "big sellout" hurt that much more. Joe Strummer
has gone to a better place and all is forgiven. He left a big
void in this humdrum world... I know we'll all miss him.
L O N D O N
C A L L I N G
out the legacy of Punk - article by Mark Vallen, July 2002.
Densmore, former drummer for the legendary Doors, recently
went public with a horror story about a certain foreign car manufacturer.
Without the band's permission, the company used a Doors song in
an ad campaign promoting the auto maker's latest model. Densmore
wants fans of the Doors
to know that he opposes the selling off of the band's legacy to
the highest bidder, no matter how high the offer. Densmore understands
that his music was the soundtrack to millions of people's lives,
and that matters to him. Today we are witnessing the best of rock
music being transformed into
a tidal wave of advertising jingles. Now comes the latest outrage....
Jaguar Motors is using a CLASH song to promote their
new line of luxury cars. Unbelievable but true.
in using the CLASH song London
Calling as an advertising
jingle for their latest automotive line, obviously means to
appeal to the people who grew up in the 1980's. My girlfriend
asked me sarcastically, "does it give you a warm and fuzzy feeling
to know you are part of a target audience?"
I answered, "No, but I get a warm and fuzzy feeling knowing
I'm a target." When
the CLASH released "London Calling"in 1979, my L.A.
punk friends and I swooned over the menacing sound ("London
calling to the faraway towns, now that war is declared-and battle
come down"). The song was one of the band's most chilling
works. Ominous and dark, it foretold of the Western world collapsing
in a spasm of war and out of control technologies, it addressed
our fears of government repression ("London calling, see
we ain't got no swing, 'cept for the ring of that truncheon
Motor Company's Jaguar North America unit launched a July
2002 summer ad campaign called London Calling. The ad
firm handling the account would not disclose the cost of the
campaign targeting "a younger audience." But George Ayres, vice
president of marketing for Jaguar, said the 2002 budget "isn't
necessarily bigger" than the $66.7 million spent in 2001.
the "London Calling" television advertisement there are images
of a quaint London that reinforce a tourist's perception of
British heritage... Big Ben, the Parliament building, etc. The
latest model Jaguar moves slowly down cobblestone streets. A
pretty young woman is seen in an old style red phone booth as
the silver colored Jaguar glides by. The musical backdrop to
this facade is none other than the
CLASH song, with Joe Strummer's gravely panicked voice wailing
an interview posted on "stummersite.com", Joe Strummer
admitted the band sold the rights to their song to Jaguar...
here's how Strummer put it.
"Yeah, I agreed to that. We get hundreds of requests for
that and turn 'em all down. But I just thought Jaguar...yeah.
If you're in a group and you make it together, then everyone
deserves something. Especially twenty-odd years after the fact.
It just seems churlish for a writer to refuse to have their
music used on an advert and so I figured out, only advertise
the things you think are cool. That's why we dissed Coors and
Miller. We've turned down loads of money. Millions over the
years. But sometimes you have to earn a bit, so everybody gets
first heard the CLASH in 1977... their premiere U.K. single,
appropriately titled 1977, had a profound transformative
effect on me (No Elvis, Beatles, or the Rolling Stones, in
1977!). Back in those sleepy days for Rock 'n Roll, punk
was really shaking things up, and the CLASH headed the vanguard.
Their first album wasn't released in the U.S., since American
record companies thought their sound "too rough." Needless to
say the group received no airplay on U.S. radio stations, and
the band quickly became known to those in the underground punk
scene as "the only band that matters." The explosive delivery
and lyrical content of that first album infused punk with political
intensity. Songs like White Riot, Hate & War,
and London's Burning, blasted away our complacency.
incendiary antiwar lyrics of I'm so bored with the U.S.A.
(Yankee dollar talk to the dictators of the world, in
fact it's giving orders, and they can't afford to miss a word!),
were on the lips of a new generation yearning for change. When
the CLASH sang Remote Control, hundreds of thousands
took it to heart (big business it don't like you, it don't
like the things you do, you got no money, you got no power,
they think you're useless, and so you are, punks!). By
the time their second album, Give 'em enough rope, was
released in 1979 they were becoming big news in the U.S. They
made things difficult for themselves when in 1980 they released
Sandinista, a double album that extended a hand of support
to the Nicaraguan revolution while the Reagan White House was
busy trying to destroy it. Over the years the band cranked out
a steady stream of rock anthems that were like battle cries
against the status quo... Garageland, Career Opportunities,
Capital Radio, Washington Bullets, Clampdown,
Guns of Brixton, and The Call Up.
point really is, the music of the CLASH served as a backdrop
for the turmoil of the late 1970's and early 80's. They sang
their opposition to war, police violence, the arms race... and
we believed them. Their music provided the necessary strength
to keep resisting the madness all around us. In 1977, when the
band first stormed it's way into public consciousness with a
rough and tumble, jangly, take no prisoners approach to rock
music... thousands of young musicians and fans were inspired
to follow suit. We were going to change the world. The snotty,
brash, and anti-authoritarian punk movement was born. Was that
legacy blown to smithereens by the simple act of the CLASH allowing
one of their sharpest songs to become nothing more than a jingle
for luxury cars? Was punk just a charade orchestrated and manipulated
by unscrupulous businessmen? Was it all for nothing?
shouldn't condemn a movement based on the folly of its adherents
or detractors. People
have been selling out their beliefs ever
since Judas accepted 30 pieces of silver as payment for his
betrayal. Any movement should be critiqued based on the strength
of its principles... not its followers. CRASS, another
extremely influencial English punk band, hit the nail right
on the head with the lyrics to their self released 1978 song,
Punk is Dead. "CBS promote the CLASH, but it
ain't for revolution, it's just for cash. Punk became a fashion
just like Hippy used to be, and it ain't got a thing to do with
you or me!" The
CLASH notwithstanding, punk actually stood for something, and
many still embrace those original core ethics. A healthy distrust
of the rich and powerful, opposition to conformity and apathy,
a commitment to freedom of expression, and a belief that we
need to be more than a witness when it comes to life and history.
still have the button I wore on my leather jacket back in 1977.
It reads, "Can't buy my soul."
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