London to Lubbock: Joe Ely meets the Clash

joe ely and joe strummer

Here’s a cool tidbit of Clash trivia. You know that part in “Should I Stay or Should I Go” where you hear Mick Jones yell “Split!”? It was actually an impromptu moment when Joe Strummer and Joe Ely snuck up behind Jones during the recording session, and basically scared the piss out of him. The moment made it on to the final recording.

Their relationship began in 1978, when Joe Ely was playing the Venue Club in London. The Clash were admirers of Ely’s most recent release, 1978’s ‘Honky Tonk Masquerade.’ Ely – a native of Lubbock, Texas – and the Clash met backstage and ended up spending the rest of the three night stand hanging around eachother, crawling the pubs, and gaining quite a mutual respect and admiration for eachother.

joe ely

Ely opened for the Clash on the 1979 Texas leg of their Pearl Harbor tour. He also headed over to London in 1980 to open for the Clash on their UK London Calling tour, and opened a couple of nights during the Clash’s residency at Bond’s in NYC in 1981.

Well, fast forward to 1983. It’s a week before the US Festival in San Bernardino, CA, and the Clash are in San Antonio to play a warm-up gig before the 150,000 person event. Joe Ely is in the house that night, and joins the band for a version of “Fingernails” (from ‘Honky Tonk Masquerade”). Here’s the last three from that San Antonio night. The US Festival gig a week later would be Mick Jones’ final performance as a member of the Clash. The festival also included a backstage shouting match between Strummer and Van Halen’s David Lee Roth. Strummer was pissed about Van Halen demanding (and receiving) a cool million for the gig. Oh how I would have loved to be a fly on the wall that day.

The Clash, Live at the Majestic Theater, San Antonio, TX
May 22, 1983

Fingernails (with Joe Ely) [mp3]
Should I Stay or Should I Go [mp3]
I Fought the Law [mp3]

Here’s a cool collaboration that never was to be:

For years, Ely, a hard-charging alt-country Texan who emerged during Jimmy Carter’s reign, and Strummer, founder and lead singer of the politically astute Clash, the greatest punk band that Margaret Thatcher’s Britain ever produced, had promised each other that some day they’d head to Mexico and record an album just for the hell of it…But Ely, who turns 59 today, never got to Mexico with Strummer.

“I went to the funeral and got together with the guys and stayed up all night playing guitar,” he said. “I never believed someone with the vital energy he had would die. That’s a lesson that if you say you’re going to do something, you just do it.”

How cool would that have been? A Strummer/Ely Tex-Mex-World-Punk record? Like an idiot, I just missed Joe Ely at the very intimate Rhythm Room in Phoenix. Next time I’ll go, buy him a beer, and talk about Joe Strummer.

Here’s a couple from Joe Ely’s great live LP, ‘Live at Antone’s‘….

The Road Goes on Forever [mp3]
All Just to Get to You [mp3]

Sex Pistols in the ATL

johnny rotten

In January 1978, the Sex Pistols embarked on an ill-fated first tour of the U.S. It would last less than two weeks. By the time they finished their Jan. 14 gig at San Francisco’s Winterland, Johnny Rotten uttered these words on stage: “Ever get the feeling you’re being cheated?”, and walked off. Three days later, Rotten announced the breakup of the Pistols. They would go on to record some material without him, but the Sex Pistols as they were – Rotten, Sid Vicious, Steve Jones, and Paul Cook – were done.

The Pistols’ first gig ever under that name took place November 5th, 1975 at Central St. Martins College of Art & Design in London. Earlier that year, Malcolm McLaren took the helm as the band’s manager. It’s been debated to what degree he influenced the band, but he was very much responsible for their style and image. As former manager of the New York Dolls (1974-1975), and a fan of Richard Hell’s Neon Boys and Television, he knew that image and appearance could be major factors in a band’s success (though the Dolls broke up while he was managing them). He was also co-owner of a clothing shop in London call Let It Rock, later renamed Sex. This would become the gathering spot for the alternative / soon to be called Punk set in the London area. Members of the Pistols, the Clash and the Damned hung out there, as well as a pre-Pretenders Chrissie Hynde.

So it wasn’t long before the Sex Pistols had taken Britain by storm. The years 1976 and 1977 saw the UK punk revolution take flight. The Sex Pistols, the Clash, the Damned, and the Buzzcocks were shaking up the establishment. In that same span, the Pistols zipped through three record labels (EMI to A&M to Virgin) before they finally released their debut, ‘Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols‘ in October 1977. Their relationship with A&M lasted a week. I guess it didn’t help that Sid Vicious trashed (and vomited all over) the Managing Director’s office after the signing ceremony.

album cover

So after the release of Bollocks, things were looking up, amd it was time to go stateside for their first tour. They were booked to appear on Saturday Night Live in December ’77, but because of passport issues, that gig fell through (Elvis Costello & the Attractions took their place). They finally made it over in early January.

Now, I want you to take a look at the cities they played….

Jan. 5: Great Southeast Music Hall, Atlanta, Ga.
Jan. 6: Taliesyn Ballroom, Memphis, Tenn.
Jan. 8: Randy’s Rodeo, San Antonio, Texas
Jan. 9: Kingfish Club, Baton Rouge, La.
Jan. 10: Longhorn Ballroom, Dallas, Texas
Jan. 12: Cain’s Ballroom, Tulsa, Okla.
Jan. 14: Winterland, San Francisco, Calif.

Is there something wrong with that picture? The Sex Pistols live at Randy’s Rodeo?? A swing through the South? Nothing against the “Deep South”, but were those cities really the best place to premier the Sex Pistols on American soil? Wikipedia claims that on this short tour, the Pistols were “plagued by bad sound and physically hostile audiences, mainly at unlikely venues in the South.” Whoever booked the Pistols at these “unlikely venues” must have been on some really potent stuff.

So let’s go straight to the source and hear for ourselves. Here’s the first gig of their US tour in Atlanta. To this listener, the sound is just fine (it is a soundboard recording), I mean it’s the Sex Pistols here. I don’t sense much hostility from the audience here. If anything, it’s the reverse. Johnny Rotten is vintage Johnny Rotten in his between-song stage banter: rude, vulgar, and unapologetic.

This is from the Pistols’ Press Release regarding the show, from a cool site I recently found:

The Pistols spend a quiet day-and-a-half prior to their debut, granting a few interviews (most notably to Time and Newsweek) while hordes of British journalists scurry around the hotel lobby starting, spreading and squelching various rumors…. Channel 2 in Atlanta (WSB) reports the group as 1) having green hair, 2) vomiting and committing sexual acts on one another as part of their show, and 3) heading for Houston after the Atlanta date… Alex Cooley’s Great Southeast Music Hall is packed to the gills minutes after the doors open at 7:00 p.m..Among those in attendance are 5 television crews, approximately 50 members of the press (including such notables as John Rockwell, Bob Christgau, Wayne Robins, Kit Rachlis, Tony Schwartz and Roger Wolmuth), several police officers and vice squads from both Atlanta and Memphis…. A local band called Cruisomatic opens, primarily doing cover versions of early rock and punk standards (to our ears, they are louder than the Pistols will be later, which is not very loud, contrary to what the Atlanta papers said the next day)..The rain is coming down pretty hard by the time the Pistols go on at about 10:15 p.m.; Rotten asks, “Where’s My Beer?”… “You can all stop staring at us now,” Rotten says after opening with “God Save the Queen,” “We’re ugly and we know it… See what kind of fine upstanding youth England is chucking out these days?”..About 60% of the audience is standing and doing an Americanized version of the Pogo throughout, 20% of the audience is nasty, yelling yelling and throwing things at the band, and 20% of the crowd clearly does not know what on earth is going on..A mighty blow is struck for Punk Rock!!

Nine days later, Rotten would play his last show with the Pistols.
Ten months later, Sid Vicious would be arrested for the murder of his girlfriend, Nancy Spungen. After Sid spent some time in Riker’s Island Prison, McLaren convinced Virgin Records to put up the $50,000 to bail Sid out. At a party celebrating his release on Feb. 2, 1979, Sid Vicious died from an overdose of heroin that he allegedly obtained from his addict mother. Truth is stranger than fiction, my friends.

So coming to you from deep inside Lynnrd Skynnrd territory, it’s the Sex Pistols!

January 5, 1978
Great Southeast Music Hall
Atlanta, Georgia

Download (zip file)

God Save The Queen
I Wanna Be Me
New York
Holidays In The Sun
No Feelings
Pretty Vacant
*Anarchy In The UK
*No Fun
*Tracks 12-14 are from December 11, 1977, Maasbree, Holland

sid vicious

Bonus: Sid ViciousMy Way (mp3)

The Clash hit France

There are a few recurring themes on this site that I unapologetically hammer at the masses. There’s Prince, there’s Springsteen, and there is Joe Strummer & The Clash. I came across a cool bootleg recently of what I guess would be called Sandanista-era Clash.

This May 9, 1981 show came five months after the release of their ambitious, extremely eclectic 3-LP juggernaut that was (and is) ‘Sandanista’. The album review on All Music has it just about right:

The Clash sounded like they could do anything on London Calling. For its triple-album follow-up, Sandinista!, they tried to do everything, adding dub, rap, gospel, and even children’s choruses to the punk, reggae, R&B, and roots rock they already were playing. Instead of presenting a band with a far-reaching vision, like London Calling did, Sandinista! plays as a messy, confused jumble, which means that its numerous virtues are easy to ignore.

While it doesn’t come close to the brilliance and magnitude of London Calling, it does have its moments (“The Call Up”, “The Magnificent Seven”, “Washington Bullets”, etc.), but it is a triple album of 36 songs for cryin’ out loud, so there’s bound to be some less than stellar moments (like a reworked “Career Opportunities” sung by children).

So anyhoo, the bootleg was recorded live in France. It’s great quality, and really captures their F**ing brilliance….

The Clash live at Palais St. Sauveur, Lille in France
May 9, 1981

[all links are mp3]

Want this show? Click here.

London Calling
Safe European Home
The Leader
Somebody Got Murdered
White Man in Hammersmith Palais
The Guns of Brixton
Lightning Strikes (not once but twice)
I Fought The Law
Corner Soul
Ivan Meets G.I. Joe
Radio Clash
Charlie Don’t Surf
Magnificent Seven
Wrong ‘Em Boyo
Train in Vain

Rotten: Bugger to the Hall of Fame


I just caught John Lydon (AKA Johnny Rotten) on Jimmy Kimmel Live a few nights ago. He is one entertaining and honest guy. He was ranting about the Sex Pistols induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. In a nutshell, eh, they ain’t goin’. Though they’ve been history for a long time, it’s admirable that a band so anti-establishment has stuck to their principles so many years later, and not bowed down to the “system”.

Cheers to them for causing a little stir… here’s my favorite Sex Pistols song.

The Sex Pistols: Bodies (mp3) – from Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols

Here’s the letter written to the Hall of Fame, thought to be John Lydon’s handwriting (Link to John Lydon’s Official Site with a larger image of the letter):

Next to the SEX PISTOLS rock and roll and that hall of fame is a piss stain. Your museum. Urine in wine. Were not your monkey and so what? Fame at $25,000 if we paid for a table or $15,000 to squeak up in the gallery, goes to a non-profit organization selling us a load of old famous. Congradulations. If you voted for us, I hope you noted your reasons. Your anonymous as judges. but your still music industry people. Were not coming. Your not paying attention. Outside the shit-stem is a real SEX PISTOL.