Country,  Punk

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]


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