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The Clash were an English punk rock band, active from 1976 to 1986, and part of the original wave of UK punk rock in the late 1970s. Although a punk rock band, the band experimented with reggae, funk, rap, dub, and rockabilly in their music[1][2]. The band's music was often charged by a leftist political ideology.[3]

The Clash were a major success in the UK from the release of their first album in 1977, and became popular in the U.S. in 1980. Their third album, the late 1979 release London Calling is an influential album in the history of rock music; it was released in the U.S. in January 1980, and a decade later Rolling Stone magazine declared it the best album of the 1980s. Rolling Stone also placed it at #8 on their list in 2003 of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.

Strummer had previously played in the pub rock act The 101'ers (his stage name at this point was Woody Mellor; soon he renamed himself "Joe Strummer", a reference to his rudimentary strumming skills on the ukulele as a busker in the London Underground); Jones, Simonon, and Tony James (later of Generation X) were (briefly) in legendary proto-punk band London SS. At the behest of their manager Bernie Rhodes, Jones, Levene, and Simonon recruited the slightly older Strummer from the 101'ers. "You're great," they told him, "but your group is shite".[8] Strummer agreed to join the group, which was named The Clash.

The new band had their first gig on July 4, 1976, supporting the Sex Pistols, and that autumn the band was signed to CBS Records. In early September, Levene left. On September 21, 1976 the band performed at the 100 Club Punk Festival, sharing the bill with the Sex Pistols, Siouxsie and the Banshees and Subway Sect. Chimes left in late November (briefly replaced by Rob Harper for the Anarchy Tour in December 1976) but was soon drafted back to record their debut album. The band released their first single ("White Riot/1977") and first album (The Clash) in 1977 to considerable success in the UK. However, CBS initially declined to release either in the United States, waiting until 1979 before releasing a modified version of the first album in the U.S., after the UK original had become the best-selling import album of all time in the United States.

Following the release of their first album, Chimes left amicably due to personal differences with the remaining members. In the documentary Westway to the World, Mick Jones referred to him as one of "the best drummers around". But Chimes, who had no great wish to make a career from music, said, "The point was that I wanted one kind of life - they wanted another, and why are we working together, if we want completely different things?" Chimes later joined the glam punk group Hanoi Rocks. The band experienced a period of changing drummers. Mick Jones recruited Nicholas Bowen Headon, who had solid timing and excellent musical skills.

With Topper Headon firmly in place on drums, the Clash recorded Give 'Em Enough Rope in 1978. Produced by Sandy Pearlman, whose previous credits included the American heavy metal band Blue Oyster Cult, the album had a straighter rock sound that many British fans found disappointing. However, the band's fan base in the US grew with the release of this album and the reconstituted The Clash in 1979.

The Clash then recorded London Calling. Produced by Guy Stevens, who had previously worked with Mott the Hoople and others, the album had a sound that was more in keeping with the band's personality, allowing for a mix of rock, punk, reggae, and ska elements that recalled the band's earlier days, but also had greater maturity and production polish. The album contained 2 LPs and ended with a hidden track not noted in the song list. Called "Train in Vain", it received the most airplay on album-oriented rock (AOR) FM stations in the U.S.

To follow up on this success, the Clash planned to record and release a single every month in 1980. Their record label, CBS, balked at this idea, however. Instead, these efforts resulted in the sprawling album Sandinista!. Containing elements of rock, punk, reggae (including extended dubs), ska, and (somewhat) tongue-in-check stabs at jazz and disco, unified by a heavily echoed sound, this 3-LP, 36-song album was their most controversial to date, both politically and musically. Some viewed it as their most complete statement, while many others found it indulgent and incoherent. The album had no catchy single and, in the increasingly conservative environment of AOR FM radio in the U.S., received minimal airplay.

The band retrenched and recorded Combat Rock, a single album produced by Glyn Johns, who had previously worked on Who's Next and many other albums. Simpler and more straightforward than Sandinista!, the album contained the single Should I Stay or Should I Go? which received heavy airplay in the U.S. on AOR FM stations. The following single, Rock the Casbah, a song about the Iranian clampdown on imports of Western music, was a bona fide Top 40 hit in the U.S., with heavy rotation on MTV.

After Combat Rock, the Clash began to disintegrate. Topper Headon was asked to leave the band just prior to the release of the album, due to his heroin addiction, which was hurting his health and drumming. The band's original drummer, Terry Chimes, was brought back for the next few months. The loss of Headon brought much friction, as he was an essential part of the band and well-liked by the others. Jones and Strummer began to feud. The band, although still touring arenas and opening up for The Who in stadiums on their tour in 1982 did not get along well; the original dates for the UK leg of the Combat Rock tour were cancelled when Strummer disappeared.

In 1983, drummer Pete Howard joined the band for the US Festival in San Bernardino, California, of which The Clash were, along with David Bowie and Van Halen, co-headliners. The crowd of roughly half a million was by far the biggest of the Clash's career. This was Jones' last appearance with The Clash. In September 1983, Jones was fired due to his problematic behaviour and divergent musical aspirations. Jones went on to found Big Audio Dynamite (BAD) with Don Letts, and both Strummer and Simonon collaborated with BAD at various times.

The band picked Nick Sheppard, formerly of the Bristol-based Cortinas, and Vince White as the band's new guitarists. Howard continued to be the drummer. The band played its first shows in January 1984 with a batch of new material and launched into a self-financed tour, dubbed the "Out of Control" tour, and they toured heavily over the winter and into early summer. At a striking miners' benefit show ("Scargill's Christmas Party") in December 1984, they announced that a new record would be released early in the new year.

The recording sessions for Cut the Crap were chaotic, with manager Bernie Rhodes and Strummer working in Munich, Germany. Most of the parts were played by studio musicians, with Sheppard and later White flying in to come up with guitar parts. Struggling with Rhodes for control of the band, Strummer returned home. The band went on a busking tour, playing in public spaces in cities throughout the UK where they played acoustic versions of their hits and popular cover tunes.

After a gig in Athens, Strummer went to Spain to clear his mind. While Strummer was gone, the first single from Cut the Crap, "This Is England" was released to mostly negative reviews. The song, much like the rest of the album that came out later that year, had been drastically re-engineered by Rhodes, with synths, drum machines, and football-style chants being added to Strummer's incomplete recordings. Other songs played on the tour remain unreleased to this day: "Jericho", "Glue Zombie", and "In the Pouring Rain". Although Howard was an adept drummer, virtually all of the percussion tracks were produced by drum machines. The Clash was effectively disbanded and the members went on to other projects.

In 1986, Strummer collaborated with ex-bandmate Jones on BAD's second album, No. 10 Upping St., co-producing the album and co-writing seven of its songs. Strummer acted in a few movies, notably Alex Cox's Walker, and Jim Jarmusch's Mystery Train (film), as well as a cameo in Aki Kaurismäki's I hired a Contract Killer, in which he sings "Burning Lights/Afro-Cuban Be-Bop". He did songs for movie soundtracks (notably "Love Kills" for the film Sid and Nancy), and he co-produced the Grosse Pointe Blank soundtracks with John Cusack. As well, he experimented with different backing bands with limited success.

In 1989, he released the first of his solo albums, Earthquake Weather, which was neither a commercial nor critical success. He toured with a new backing band, The Latino Rockabilly War, which contributed five songs to the soundtrack of the movie Permanent Record, including an instrumental and the song "Trash City", which was also released as a single. In 1991/92 Strummer joined The Pogues after their split with former frontman Shane MacGowan for a series of concerts across Europe.

In the late 1990s, Strummer formed backing band he called The Mescaleros. In 2002 Joe Strummer & the Mescaleros performed a benefit gig for the striking Firefighters of London (FBU) at the Acton Town Hall, London (later referred to as "The Last Night London Burned"). For the encores, Mick Jones joined the band. They were: "Bankrobber", "White Riot" and "London’s Burning".

His final gig was at Liverpool Academy on 22 November 2002. In December 2002, Strummer died suddenly of a congenital heart defect at the age of 50. The Mescaleros’ album he was working on at the time, Streetcore, was released posthumously to critical acclaim in 2003. Jones commented in the press that, after the brief reunion on Westway to the World in 1999, the foursome were considering reuniting for a tour. A film has been made about Strummer's life, called The Future Is Unwritten.

After his expulsion from The Clash, Jones formed Big Audio Dynamite (often shortened to B.A.D.) in 1984 with film director Don Letts who directed various Clash videos and Westway to the World. The band's debut album, This is Big Audio Dynamite, was released the following year with the song "E=MC²" receiving heavy rotation in dance clubs. The next album, No. 10 Upping St., reunited Jones with Strummer. Jones released three more albums with Big Audio Dynamite before reshuffling the line-up and renaming the band Big Audio Dynamite II. The band was later renamed Big Audio in the mid-1990s because they found that it was much more suitable for the type of genre they were influenced by at that particular time. Jones featured on the two studio albums by The Libertines as producer and also produced the debut Babyshambles album. Jones is currently touring and recording with his new band, Carbon/Silicon.

Following the break-up of The Clash, Simonon formed a group called Havana 3am, which recorded only one album in Japan and quickly folded. Then Simonon returned to his roots as a visual artist, mounting several art-gallery shows and contributing the cover for Jones' third BAD album, Tighten Up Vol. 88. Simonon's reluctance to play music again has largely been cited as the reason why The Clash were one of the few 1970s British punk bands that did not reform to cash in on the punk-nostalgia craze of the late 1990s.

Simonon was quoted in Westway to the World as saying that The Clash are over and that "suits him fine". He is currently collaborating with Damon Albarn, of Blur, Simon Tong of The Verve, and Tony Allen, main founder of the afrobeat and drummer of Fela Kuti to form The Good, the Bad and the Queen. Their first gig took place on the 26 October 2006 at the Roundhouse.

Like many early punk bands, The Clash protested against monarchy and aristocracy. However, unlike many early punk bands, The Clash rejected the overall sentiment of nihilism. Instead, they found solidarity with a number of contemporary liberation movements. Their politics were expressed explicitly in their lyrics, in early recordings such as "White Riot," which encouraged disaffected white youths to become politically active like their black counterparts, "Career Opportunities," which expressed discontent about the alienation of low-paid, production line style employment and the lack of alternatives, and "London's Burning," about political complacency.

In 1978 at a Rock Against Racism show organized by the Anti-Nazi League, Strummer wore a controversial t-shirt bearing the words "Brigate-Rosse" with the Red Army Faction (Baader-Meinhof) insignia in the middle. He later said in an interview that he wore the shirt not to support the left-wing terrorist factions in Germany and Italy, but to bring attention to their existence.Caroline Coon stood up for what The Clash were doing during this period: "Those tough, militaristic songs were what we needed as we went into Thatcherism". (Passion is a Fashion: The Real Story of The Clash, p. 190)

The title of London Calling evokes American radio newsman Edward R. Murrow's catchphrase during World War II, and the title song announces that "...war is declared and battle come down..." It warns against expecting them to be saviours — "... now don't look to us / Phoney Beatlemania has bitten the dust..." — draws a bleak picture of the times — "The ice age is coming, the sun's zooming in / Engines stop running, the wheat is growing thin" — but calls on their listeners to come out of their drugged stupor and take up the fight without constantly looking to London, or to The Clash themselves, for cues — "Forget it, brother, we can go it alone... Quit holding out and draw another breath... I don't want to shout / But while we were talking I saw you nodding out..." — finally asking, "After all this, won't you give me a smile?"

The Clash are generally credited with pioneering the advocacy of radical politics in punk rock, and were known as the "Thinking Man's Yobs" by many simply for voicing a political slant other than anarchism. They were never driven entirely by money; even at their peak, tickets to shows and souvenirs were reasonably priced. The group insisted that CBS sell their double and triple album sets London Calling and Sandinista! for the price of a single album each (then £5), succeeding with the former and compromising with the latter by agreeing to sell it for £5.99 and forfeit all their royalties on its first 200,000 sales. These "VFM" (Value For Money) principles meant that they were constantly in debt to CBS, and only started to break even around 1982.