Sure, that line was created by their record label, but for once, it wasn’t just hype.
In the late 70s/early 80s, the big acts of yore were simply getting too rich, too stale, and too tired to rock after years of constant touring and excess. Meanwhile, many of the young bands who made their bones during the punkstravaganza of 1977—or in its wake—began moving towards goth, or synth-pop, or plain weirdness (if they stayed together at all, that is, since many overnight sensations crumbled in the light of day). If you were young and bored and saw no way out, there was only one place to turn.
If you wanted rock ‘n’ roll, artistry, and attitude… If you wanted passion, politics, and raw energy… If you wanted to stay free, fight the law, and drink brew for breakfast…
If you wanted to rock the casbah.
Then you wanted The Clash.
In 1976, Joe Strummer and Mick Jones—the Lennon/McCartney of their era—hitched their wagons to the star known as punk, hiding their true love for the music of Mott The Hoople, Faces, The Rolling Stones, and Chuck Berry. (The UK punk scene wanted their bands to emerge, fully formed, out of a vacuum. Heroes were for tearing down, and just about everything that came before 1977 was suspect.) When the scene imploded, The Clash—finally given free rein—made the most of it and unleashed their inner rock stars. With their outlaw image and fight-for-your-rights attitude, they embodied the rock ‘n’ roll spirit, even when they started incorporating funkier, dance-oriented music. Unfortunately, on their way to conquering the world, two roads diverged in a wood — Strummer took one, and Jones took the other.
But you can go back to where it all began.
Want a riot of your own? (Oh mi corazón.) Here’s the least you need to know:
The Clash [US Version] (1977) Punk’s reputation centered largely around singles, but there are a few albums you must know, particularly Never Mind The Bollocks…Here’s The Sex Pistols, and the debut album by The Clash. Some people swear by the original UK version, but the US version—which replaces some tracks with UK-only singles—rocks harder, and sweats more. The group sounds like a bunch of teens drunkenly shouting over a swarm of buzzsaws. In the best possible way. Check: White Riot & Clash City Rockers
London Calling (1979) This is where The Clash transforms from “the greatest punk band” to “the greatest rock band.” (The cover puts a twist on Elvis Presley’s debut cover art, establishing that the band is now both looking backwards and starting anew.) A double-record set which sees the group galloping through a variety of styles with a command and confidence not even hinted at on their previous albums. No one was expecting The White Album from a bunch of punks. One of the finest records of any era. Check: Rudie Can’t Fail & Train In Vain
The Essential Clash (1977-1985) The other albums by The Clash suffer some inconsistencies of awesomeness when compared to their brethren above. This collection cherry-picks the strongest tracks (and they’re pretty damn strong) as well as non-album singles. Check: The Magnificent Seven & Rock The Casbah