The members of The Clash were drawn together in 1976 as the explosion of the punk scene in England that year gave rise to a rash of bands who channelled the anger and frustration on the streets of gloomy mid-'70s Britain into a new kind of cauterising, anti-establishment rock n roll. Their debut single ‘White Riot’ was released in March 1977, and set the pattern for The Clash’s biting, politically charged lyrics underpinned by a musical bed that owed as much of a debt to the minimalist garage-punk ethic of the Stooges and MC5 as it did to Lee Perry and London’s transplanted ska and reggae roots rockers. This sound dominated their self-titled British debut LP of early 1977 which reached No 12 on the U.K. national chart and establishedThe Clash as a headline act.
The band’s second album ‘Give ‘Em Enough Rope’ (1978) showed a tougher rock sound. Their third album ‘London Calling’ (1979) was an ambitious double-LP incorporating rockabilly, soul and R&B, even a taste of jazz ('London Calling,' 'The Guns of Brixton,' 'Clampdown,' 'Jimmy Jazz,' 'Train In Vain'). The Clash’s first platinum album would earn an endorsement years later from the Rolling Stones as ‘the greatest album of the ‘80s.’
In order to accommodate the prolific outpouring of songs from Strummer and Jones the even-more ambitious triple-LP ‘Sandinista!’ was issued in late 1980, followed by ‘Combat Rock’ - which gave The Clash their first real Top 10 hit with ‘Rock the Casbah’.
Even after they disbanded in 1986 their legend endured with collections and anthologies that wrapped up many loose ends – plus demos, live recordings, outtakes, non-album single and EP sides and so on, well into the '90s and beyond.
Image credit: Pennie Smith