(Almost) 30 Years Out: The Clash, Austin 1982

When the Clash toured the United States in 1982, they were pretty much on top of the world.  Their fifth album Combat Rock, which came out in June, was a hit – produced by Glyn Johns (who’d worked with the Beatles, among others), it spawned hit singles “Should I Stay Or Should I Go” and “Rock The Casbah.”  The Clash were considered the best band of its time; formed in 1976, they managed to survive the self destruction suffered by so many other punk bands of the era.

I was in Austin for a movie junket and saw a bunch of people milling about the hotel who looked out of place.  You have to understand at the time, movie people had a “look” about them – feathered hair, nice clothes, fancy shoes, the whole bit.  These other people were, well, rock and roll.  Turns out they were with the Clash, in the area filming a video and performing a couple of shows at the Austin city Coliseum.  We were able to talk briefly with Joe Strummer and Paul Simonon as they came through the hotel lobby – but their management knew we were reporters so they swept the musicians away rather quickly. 

Anyway, even though the show was apparently a sellout it was easy to score a ticket (10 bucks, face price from a roadie) and I was off to the Clash’s second show.  Apparently Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble opened the first night but they weren’t used to being booed (in Austin, no less) so they opted out of the second show.  No matter: the Coliseum ticket taker ripped my ticket just as the last notes of the opening act were fading away. 

The Clash hit the stage roaring, with “London Calling.”  Ripping through some of their early numbers and swinging right into “Train In Vain,” I realized this was truly one of the few rock acts I’d ever seen that really did live up to the hype.  They had kicked out drummer Topper Headon and had their original basher, Terry Chimes.  Some people believed the Clash had sold out for greater fame and fortune, and unbelievably, they showed up at the concert to yell at the group.

Nonetheless, the boys ripped through the tunes and hit the homestretch with “Clash City Rockers,” an early song I remember being surprised they performed.   They also did “Brand New Cadillac,” a rockabilly throwback, and wound up the night with “I Fought The Law.”  The Austin punkers trashed the Coliseum – it was pretty run down to begin with – and provided an epitaph for the punk era.  The Clash would go on to open for the Who in the fall of 1982 (preserved on the excellent new Clash Live at Shea Stadium), and would continue their disintegration by firing guitarist Mick Jones in 1983.  Long live the Clash.

MP3: “Complete Control” (Iive)

MP3: “I Fought The Law” (live)

The Clash official website

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