Every Record I Own - Day 236: The Clash Combat Rock
A quick overview of my history with The Clash.
1991: I’m halfway through junior high and starting to get really into skateboarding and punk. I meet an older skateboarder who’s about to go off to college and when he discovers that I like punk he immediately asks if I like The Clash. I sheepishly admit that I don’t know who they are. He mentions “Rock the Casbah”, which I’ve seen the video for on MTV, but I’m confused why anyone would consider this ‘80s disco song to be “punk.” He then makes me listen to a Christian thrash metal band called Vengeance.
1992: I buy a used copy of The Clash’s self-titled debut on cassette. The player eats the tape during the first listen. I’m out $2.
1993: I buy a copy of Crass’s Stations of the Crass. One of the songs starts with the line “they said that we were trash / well, the name’s Crass, not Clash.” I decide Crass is way cooler than The Clash.
1996: It’s my freshman year of college and I become friends with a guy from the campus radio station who’s a few years older and really into punk stuff from Olympia, the Bay Area, and England. He plays me “Death or Glory” off of London Calling and I love it. I try to listen to the rest of the album but can’t get through more than a couple of songs before growing bored.
2006: The roadie for my old band works at a record store and is an encyclopedia of music knowledge. His enthusiasm seems so boundless that at one point we ask him if there are any esteemed bands that he doesn’t like. After a moment’s pause, he responds “I guess I’ve never really been all that wild about The Clash.” I nod in agreement.
2009: My older brother gives me a used copy of Combat Rock. I figure I should try to give The Clash another chance, but not much grabs me off the album, other than I notice the beginning of “Straight To Hell” is sampled in M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes”.
2014: SUMAC has our first show booked. It’s in Vancouver. I cross the border with Aaron and the immigration officer processing our paperwork is friendly until he asks if we’ve ever been in any other bands. Aaron nonchalantly says “I was in a group called ISIS.” The immigration officer pauses, frowns, then asks what kind of music we like. Aaron says metal. I say punk. He asks what my favorite punk band is, and I’m so rattled from Aaron telling a border agent that he was in ISIS—not to mention thoroughly stumped by a border agent asking what my favorite punk band is—that I say “The Clash”. I don’t even like The Clash.
2018: I still don’t listen to much of The Clash, but now I’ve had this record for close to a decade. I’ve really only held onto it because it was a gift and I still feel like maybe it will click with me someday. It’s interesting to hear some of the funk and dub elements and think how Fugazi would meld those same sounds on their first EP just five years later, so I know this stuff is in my wheelhouse. All in all, it’s a decent record, but at this point I’m not sure I’ll ever really develop an affinity for the band.