REVOLUTION ROCK - A CLASH JUKEBOX - Various Artists (Trojan Records distributed by Fuse)
There have been plenty of compilations that pull together peoples’ influences, or the originals of cover versions they have made their own. The Cramps fanbase is probably the most prolific at pumping these out, but Nick Cave has two, and there’s even a Detroit Cobras collection floating round. This, though, is a bit different.
What you get is 21 songs chosen and annotated in some detail by Paul Simonon, that cover a huge swathe of the Clash’s influences. Some were recorded, some were only played live, some were only ever used as rehearsal warm-ups. As a collection, it’s a dream, as an insight into the musical tides that washed through the band at various stages of their development it’s invaluable. With Strummer dead these past years there is no way the Clash will ever reform. Their back catalogue has already been mined and repackaged way too often. This collection adds a whole new dimension to what’s already out there, and stands up well as a musical education in itself.
Who knew that, like the Sex Pistols, the Clash jammed on the Modern Lovers “Roadrunner” early in their career? Who knew they played the Ramones’ “Blitzkreig Bop” both off and onstage? Imagine a spliffed & quiffed Strummer getting stuck into Bo Diddley’s “You Can’t Judge A Book By The Cover”…at this point I’m tempted to just give you the track listing, and go back to pressing the shuffle button on my CD player.
For me, the most sublime moments come in the strange connections that are made here. For instance, the Maytals’ “Pressure Drop” is followed by Booker T & the MGs’ “Time Is Tight”- I would never have picked that as such a natural segue, but it works a treat, even more so when you realize how much the scratchy Memphis guitar sounds like it’s chopping Jamaican counterpart. The Ruler’s original “Wrong ‘em Boyo” starts by quoting a verse of the old R & B standard “Stagger Lee”- and that’s on here too.
Yes, there is a lot of reggae here of course, but nothing anyone with open ears should be worried by. No Elvis, Beatles or Rolling Stones, of course- and oddly, no sign of Prince Far-I, David Bowie or Gary Glitter, who all got namechecked in “Clash City Rockers”. There’s no political sloganeering here, either.
If you were ever a fan, you can’t help but like this. If you weren’t, it may tempt you into the fold. - TJ Honeysuckle
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