This is Radio Clash

This sound does not subscribe / To the international plan
“This is Radio Clash” (1981)

Happy International Clash Day!

So February 7 marks the first time The Clash played on US soil back in 1979. I imagined that something as “international” as International Clash Day (now in its sixth year) couldn’t be so US-centric, especially since the band was much beloved in Europe, Japan, Australia and, of course, the boring USA. And there’s a host of events in world history from February 7 that we can read through the words and urgent sounds from The Clash discography:

  • 1962: The US bans all Cuban imports (“Complete Control”)
  • 1974: Grenada gains independence from the UK (“Charlie Don’t Surf”)
  • 1990: Dissolution of the Soviet Union (“Ivan Meets G.I. Joe”)
  • 2012: Anti-government protests in Maldive commence in resignation of President Nasheed (“Know Your Rights”)

And yet, according to Rolling Stone magazine, “One February mooring in [Seattle] in 2013, KEXP DJ John Richards arbitrarily declared it ‘International Clash Day’ for no other reason than the fact that he could.” Seattle Mayor Ed Murray made it municipally official three years later, and now ICD is celebrated around the world.

clash
Strummer holds the middle, as Simonson and Jones tangle up the leads (Bob Gruen, 1979).

But why The Clash? The Beatles got their own day (July 10), of course, but neither The Who, The Stones, Led Zeppelin, nor Bob Dylan have their own day. David Bowie died for his own day in NYC (January 20, established ten days after his death in 2016).

(And here’s a fun parallel between Beatles Day and Clash Day: on July 10, 1964, the mop tops returned from their US tour. As noted above: Clash Day marks the one of the first salvos of the much-tidier-coifs leading the second British invasion. (The Damned toured the US in ’77.))

So back to the operative question. Why The Clash? Yes: they were one of the hardest working quartets in rocknroll. For years, after every gig, the lads entered the dressing room, stripped off their sweat-soaked shirts, and flung them against the wall or the floor with a squelch. There’s Joe Strummer’s simple maxim: “without people, you’re nothing”–and that still counts for plenty, especially as more humans watch in terror as AI gets better and better. (I spoke to someone today about a new medical device that can perform biopsies better than humans: “this robot can bend a needle around one organ to get to another.” Wow. And yikes.)

I think, too, about what critic Robert Christgau told me back in 2014: “They made politically effective art, which as we know is very difficult.” Rebel music for artists, and artistic music for rebels, with a sustained nod to the guttersnipes of the world. Few, if any, did it better.

Likewise, it’s about the people. With my book on The Clash as my calling card, I’ve befriended many a Clash-o-phile, including folks from the inner circle back in the day. They’ve all been generous and kind, and I think it’s an ongoing tribute to that guttersnipe ethos that helps sustain their beneficence. In the US, of course, their largely coastal people, whereas my own mini-Clash-de-camp is here in Northeast Ohio. I wish I had the chance to see them more often, and I do wish them an especially happy International Clash Day. Viva la Clash!

A clip from their spring 1981 residency at Bonds, NYC, when The Clash were at the top of their game: