by Keith Lennox

It was 38 years ago that a band arrived on the scene and changed the trajectory of rock music forever. They were not the most talented musicians, nor were they a handsome lot but they could write a good song and they played with such fervor that it was hard not to get caught up in their latter-day punk sound. The Clash were about to become the biggest rock band on the planet.
Formed in London in 1976 the four band members, Joe Strummer, Mick Jones, Paul Simonon, and Nicky Headon, possessed that rare element in the music field: cohesion. They were one with the moment and you believed every word and chord you heard. They took you to a place along with them—they weren’t singing at you, they were inviting you on a journey to somewhere foreign but instantly pleasing and this self-titled album let that be known.
Although the 1979 effort, “London Calling,” would gather most of the kudos from the critics and listeners across the pond, it was The Clash. The Clash that truly defined the band and hence a generation of rock listeners. It was 14 songs squeezed into an album whose 35 minute brevity may seem like a rip off but trust me, it surely isn’t. It is a half an hour of escapism, pure and simple, and to this day stands up as one of the best debut albums ever pressed to vinyl. It literally takes you away…takes you to a time when no one liked to live in London, or the entire of Great Britain for that matter. A time when the poor’s heads were being held down like nothing in recent memory and it felt like a police state had taken over the country. It is no wonder that out of these repressive days was hatched the punk movement as a way to finally fight back—to primal scream for the first time in what seemed like forever.
The Clash is an album whose beauty lies in its simplicity and anger. It has no theme, little direction, but even at this early stage of the band’s existence you can hear a sense of something special and truly original. Few punk songs, let alone albums, portray a sense of anger as does The Clash. It is a yelp from Britain’s forgotten generation—a reminder that they would not go away easily or quietly—wouldn’t roll over and play nice. They would bite the hand that did little to feed them. Indeed, they would maul it for all of it’s worth.
Rough around the edges…yes most certainly. Not clean and polished, definitely. The naïve sound of a freshman album—of course. An album that defined an era and a generation in so doing—absolutely.
This was a band that would soon find its stride and conquer the world of rock and roll within a few short years with the release of “London Calling” but one would be extremely delinquent to brush off the album which started it all. The album managed to hit #42 on the UK charts in 1977, while a much deconstructed and rebuilt version was released two years later in the States and sputtered to #127 on Billboard. It seems that prior to that the band had been deemed, by the powers-that-be, as listener-unfriendly and the album was only available as an import. Boy, were they wrong.

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