post punk gems, v. 41 — The Specials’ “Ghost Town”

Happy weekend, people. It’s turned bitter-ish up north, and I expect that the bustling sidewalks of the past few months will thin considerably as the days get shorter, colder, and icier. How fortuitous, then, that 33 1/3 years ago, The Specials released “Ghost Town,” which was still all the rage on the radio when I had a home stay in Coventry (home base of The Specials) in July 1982.

A trip to Jamaica inspired the narrative and, of course, the de-industrialization of English metropoles was also on their minds. As Lynal Golding told the NME, “Kingston is a real ghost town. The place is a complete wreck … It was the first time I’d been to Jamaica in 20 years and it was frightening … people begging for a dollar, people begging you for the shoes on your feet.”

The 12″ single, I figure, was backed with “Why” and the sweet adagio swing of “Friday Night / Saturday Morning.” (You can find more recent live performances of this track, but I’m fond of the low-fi herein.)

The book’s available at most big online stores, but if you’re interested in the book (and its politics), please consider buying from somewhere other than amazon, including your local bookshop, whose hip cashiers may even be inspired by your fine tastes to order a couple of extra copies for the shop. I’m sure amazon is full of lovely people and all, but if half of what Hightower writes here is 25% true, it’s a bit of a mess.

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25 Sept — Spirit of ’77 show (most of it, anyway)

‘allo, music mavens! Here’s the audio part of most of last Thursday’s show. It starts off well before ’77 with The Fabulous Counts, and includes tracks by Iggy Pop (from ’77), Game Theory, Costello, Guided by Voices, English Beat, Big Star, The Fastbacks, and The Corin Tucker Band. A bit more ‘merican than I usually do, but I think it’s a decent set.

I’m spinning discs every Th. for an hour, 5-6pm, EDT, @ wobc.org this fall. Send me requests via @stealingclash or, if you’d like, give the station a call — 440.775.8139.

U2’s “The Miracle”: Homage or Requiem?

The good folks at Louder than War picked up this post — check it out here. Thanks!

Can you keep London Callling’s secret?

Happy Saturday folks! I’ll be keeping my Sunday and Wednesday posting routine through the fall, but today’s post is rather timely. I figure many folks on twitter and elsewhere are bound to be posting pix of Paul Simonon in flagrante delicto (delicio?) tomorrow in celebration of the alleged anniversary–and, alas, they’ll miss it by a day.

The anniversary of his impersonation of Paul Bunyan is 20 September, actually, and I’ve shared here four items toward that end:

  • two pages of a four-page section in Stealing All Transmissions (due out 15 October in the US, the following month in the commonwealth)
  • a still from a video clip from the 9/21 show, in which it’s clear that Simonon’s playing a bass lacking the “pressure drop” sticker preserved in the rocknroll hall of fame
  • the video itself, and
  • the audio file from the coda of the 9/20 show.

This evidence, I understand, is not definitive, and may be only of interest to the most bona-fide nutters, but it may jump-start a conversations or two, and set a-lit the hot-foot of a hater or two. (Much gratitude is due to Dave Marin — follow him on twitter here — for bringing this item to my attention and helping compile much more evidence than I’ve presented here.)

Stealing snippet

Here’s the video that’s been synched up with the Guns of Brixton bootleg audio track, along with a still from that video.

Simonon -- Palladium

And here’s the audio clip of perfectly punk quality from the 20 September show, in which you can hear quite a ruckus at the end. (The 21 September show has nothing of the sort.)

 

Again: it’s simply a fun stir of the pot here, which I hope you’ve enjoyed.

musicians are workers, too // the pleasure of yearning

Happy Sunday, folks! One of the real joys of writing about The Clash is catching up with the great characters who played key roles in their success back in the day. Yesterday I had a delightful conversation with Howie Klein, former head of 415 Records out of SF circa ’79, when The Clash first made it to the west coast, and eventual head of Reprise Records. (He’s a political blogger now @ http://downwithtyranny.blogspot.com/.)  It’s possible, I suppose, if I had written about KISS, for example, people in KISS-de-camp might now be just as generous with their time, but I’d like to think The Clash’s politics (and aesthetics)–and Strummer’s delight in talking with all sorts of folks deep into the night–has something to do with my comrades’ generosity of time and spirit.

simmonsSpeaking of KISS: Gene Simmons is making a splash these days with his “rock is dead” pronouncement in Esquire. Simmons is good businessman, probably always has been, and he’s after something big here, which I hope is not lost in the “poptimistic” backlash: back in the day, musicians with label support could hone their craft in no small part because they didn’t need day jobs. They had oodles of free time. They wrote songs, and neither tweets nor blogs–which are both cool, don’t get me wrong, but the structures of time and days, then and now, are remarkably different. This moment is still unfolding, so it’s perhaps too early to proclaim death and all–but things have certainly shifted, and it might not be premature to mourn the loss of yearning in fandom.

I wish I had seen this brilliant piece by Simon Reynolds a few years back, as I would have cited it in the afterword of Stealing, where I make a similar argument about analog fandom. Reynolds’ requiem for the British music weeklies during the punk and new wave years is equal parts eloquent and forceful, and absolutely right on regarding anticipation and pleasure back in the day. As that so-called hero of new wave (!) Tom Petty noted, “the waiting is the hardest part”–and yet the consummation of literary and musical desire was ever so sweet. A long-form journalism piece worthy of an extended period of your attention.

Have a delightful week!

punk purity and punk hybridity

Good morning, Clash-o-philes, and other readers, and a special welcome to folks tuning in this week from Indonesia, Poland, Israel and Italy.

beauty

It’s been ages since I read academic writing, even in its most accessible form, but I’m quite enjoying PFMB by Barry Shank. So far, it’s smart, well-written, and it’s clarified anew for me why my affinities in punk lean toward the east side of the Atlantic. (I’ll get after the argument once I’ve read a bit more.) After a brief bit on the virtues of Bad Brains, he notes how, in American punk circa 1980, “masculine competitiveness … turned inward as the form of authenticity” and, in turn, “demanded an ever greater purity from each person” (p. 6).

That ideal of purity, then, made demands on taste, corporeality, consumption, and the rest. Sure, the straight-edge scene had its virtues and included female-bodied folk, but US hardcore punk largely purified itself as a white masculine domain, free of the influence of black musical forebears (and black fans, female fans, and black female fans, too). The Clash, at Mick Jones’ behest through Sandinista! and Combat Rock, and with Big Audio Dynamite, found a hybrid route that was much more open-ended, and much more akin to the indie Americana scene emerging alongside (and then eclipsing) American hardcore. As Shank notes, “Where hardcore’s authenticity retained a vigorous individualism … indie instilled incompleteness, contradiction, and an insatiable hunger for constantly deferred meaning” (p. 7). Thank goodness for that–even it did mean some really terrible hat choices.

Have a great week, and tune into @stealingclash for more info on the October 2014 release of Stealing All Transmissions.

manuscript in motion

Hey Clash-o-philes!

I’ve sent the new manuscript in, and it’s nearly 100% bigger than the 2012 version, so that’s fun. I’ve got a busy summer ahead of me, but hope to start posting regularly come August.

In case you missed this re-post from the Clash blog, a video clip from the summer of 1979, in Finland:

I can see why folks argue that The Clash were at the top of their game in 1979, but from the bootlegs I’ve heard, few moments sounded better than the shows from their Bond residency in New York in spring 1981.

I hope you have music-rich plans for the summer, and look forward to providing more updates on *Stealing All T.” Mark II.