The Clash were formed during the heady days of the London Punk scene, but unlike The Sex Pistols they stayed together and explored a variety of sounds during their decade-long tenure. The group was led by Joe Strummer (lead vocals, guitar) and Mick Jones (guitar, vocals), along with Paul Simonon (bass), and a variety of drummers most notably Topper Headon (1977-1982). They were hailed as “The only band that matters” by fans (and their record company) and were among the most influential groups of their day.

London Calling

The Clash’s self-titled debut album was issued in 1977, featuring the key track “White Riot.” Their third album London Calling was hailed as a masterpiece, featuring key tracks such as “Spanish Bombs”, “Lost in a Supermarket” and the title track. A hidden track “Train in Vain” was sung by Jones and actually became a top 30 hit in America. Other diverse sounds on London Calling included “The Guns of Brixton” that had a reggae sound and vocals from Simonon. “This is Radio Clash” was a single released in 1981 that featured hip-hop elements.

Combat Rock was issued in 1982 and became the group’s biggest hit in America, selling two million copies. Riding the wave of modern rock popularity, the album featured two hit singles. “Rock the Casbah” was a dancable groove sung by Strummer, which featured words in various foreign languages. The song’s title was a euphemism for sex. That song became a top 10 hit in the U.S.  The follow-up single, “Should I Stay or Should I Go” was sung by Jones and features a pop-punk sound more consistent with the band’s brand. It too was a big hit for the band (later hitting number one in Britain in 1991), culminating with the band’s appearance at the US’83 Festival, where they headlined “New Wave Day.”

Headon was dropped from the group in 1982, due to heroin use. Jones left the band amidst squabbles with Strummer in 1983, after the US Festival. He later went on to form General Public and Big Audio Dynamite. Strummer continued for one more Clash album before disbanding the group. They were announced as inductees for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002, and there was some talk of officially reuniting the group. However, in late 2002 shortly before the induction, Strummer died suddenly of a heart defect.

“Should I Stay or Should I Go?” video (embedding disabled)