Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Clash: Out of Control (Cut the Crap Revisited)

Every self-anointed rock historian knows the story of how the Clash, after the massive success of Combat Rock, dumped their linchpin, Mick Jones. and let their tone deaf manager produce their synth and gang vocal dominated album, Cut the Crap, which is now often considered the most inept, ill-considered follow-up since Operation Barbarrosa. (Of course, MRML and ... er ... Mojo may beg to differ.)

(The Clash Mark II - JOE STRUMMER: Lead vocals and rhythm guitar, PAUL SIMONON: Bass and backing vocals, NICK SHEPPARD: Lead/rhythm guitar and backing vocals (Lead vocals on “North And South"), VINCE WHITE: Lead/rhythm guitar and backing vocals, PETE HOWARD: Drums and percussion)

Now chasing the ghosts of possibilities lost is fruitless and perhaps it's better that Cut the Crap was such a debacle. After all, Strummer was spent, in his own words, "exhausted physically, mentally, every which way". Maybe an average "back-to-basics'' record, with a few fine songs, would have been even less honourable; after all we can still say the Clash were never mediocre - bombastic or self-indulgent, peut-être - but never, ever mediocre.

But still, for some of us the "What If's?" stick to us like tar. And in that spirit, here's:

"An alternate version of the final Clash studio album. Featuring live versions, demos and several tracks performed live but left off the official album."(From the liner notes*)

*The source of the original CD-R is unknown but credit will be given upon learning their identity.

The sound herein ranges from crude to muffled and this is obviously for the die-hards and the dreamers. I've played with the volume on a few tracks and even added the few songs from the 1983 demos (released as a different bootleg, also entitled Out of Control, see here) that were not on the original version.

The rating system works on scale of one to three "This is Englands":

Problematic but worthwhile ("Is better than the C.T.C. a compliment?")

A glimmer of greatness ("Wow, there was a real song beneath the sonic goo.")

Almost revelatory ("Hey Sony, we demand a re-mix!")

1. Dictator (2:57) (Barrowlands, Glasgow 02/10/84)
While the sloganeering still grates, the group rocks and even the recorded-live-in-a-bunker sound can't dull the raw guitar fury.

2. Dirty Punk (3:01) (Brixton Academy, London 12/07/84)
Cliches are once-meaningful words dulled by overuse, nothing in this dunderheaded song ever had much meaning and the big chorus actually works better with the gang vocals.

3. We Are The Clash (2:40) (Barrowlands, Glasgow 02/10/84)
Written in response to a possible fight with Jones' over the band's name (Mick politely chose the worst name ever, Big Audio Dynamite) this version has enough of that the Strummer self-righteous fire to redeem what is one of the most-oft derided songs on a most oft-derided album.

4. Are You Ready For War? (3:59) (Paramount Theater. Seattle 05/30/84)
Kinda funky, especially without the electro-sheen and with an actual human being behind the kit but lyrically it's still stuck in the secular Amageddonism that so gripped the 1980's.

5. Ammunition (3:14) (Barrowlands, Glasgow 02/10/84)
A bludgeoning "no bullshit" track that, with a little Mick sweetening on the guitar and vocals could've come from '77.

6. Glue Zombie (2:13) (Barrowlands, Glasgow 02/10/84)
Like a cautionary take on the Ramones "Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue", this not yet fully formed rocker is yet another case where you can almost see the gaping wound Mick Jones left in the band.

7. This Is England (3:24) (Brixton Academy, London 3/10/84)
A little muddy sounding but transformed from wistful ballad into a into a defiant rocker.

8. In The Pouring Rain (5:07) (Paramount Theater, Seattle 05/30/84)
Okay it can't beat Dylan's' "Blind Wille Mctell" from the first Bootleg Series in the Greatest Unreleased Song of All time contest but it sure challenges all the glib dismissals of the Clash Mark II as songwriters and performers.

9. Three Card Trick (3:18) (Stockholm 02/17/84)
Like "In the Pouring Rain" this is another nominee for the Last Great Clash Song and this version is ferocious.

10. Fingerpoppin' (3:22) (Brixton Academy, London 12/06/84)
This song bears scant relation to the wretched track of the same name on CTC though neither track is terribly exciting.

11. Sex Mad War (2:11) (Oregon 05/29/84)
An average song given an slightly-above average reading.

12. Movers And Shakers (2:49) (Gateshead. Newcastle 11/05/85)
No quality bootleg of the Clash's 1985 busking tour of England exists, in someways this is a shame as the performances are loose, spontaneous and fun (unlike much of CTC) but on the other hand it the whole affair seems a bit of an anti-climax, as this song demonstrates.

13. Cool Under Heat (3:01) (Gateshead. Newcastle 11/05/85)
See above and ask yourself what's worse a crappy drum machine or a recording made by some guy who taped his sole mike to whatever the hell found object drummer Pete Howard was banging on that day?

14. North And South (2:41) (Brixton Academy. London 12/07/84)
Nick Sheppard gets the lead vocals, on a song that might, one day, make a fine English folk-rock ballad.

15. National Powder (3:36) (11/83 demo)
The 1983 demos (like the Vanilla Tapes, they're more like rehearsals than actual demos) are a bit a bit bunker-ish and the songs often unfinished, of which this song is a serviceable example of both problems.

16. Galleani (3:06) (11/83 demo)
Again the sound quality is muddy but if you listen closely, you can hear that Clash reggae burbling up; a real loss this one.

17. Are You Ready For War? (2:43) (11/83 demo)
Second version sounds more human than the CTC version but still falls short of real significance.

18. Out of Control (3:03) (11/83 demo)
This fits the template of the CTC material, a basic song structure, sing-along ready chorus but in addition there's a nice ska feel and Pete Howard is doing a shit-kicking job on those very real drums.

19. Rock N' Roll City (2:23) (11/83 demo)
Loud unfinished track missing much in the way of charm or inventiveness.

20. Backwoods Drive (11/83 demo)
Once more into the mud, Clash fans will hear the start of something here but for the most part it's garbled noise looking for an escape.

{MRML Readers Leave us a comment: Does this ragtag collection improve on a flawed work or not?}


Out of Control (Cut the Crap Revisited) is not available at this time.


  1. If they only had been rid of Bernie's idiotic and destructive internal politics, stupid communist/terrorist romanticizing, and utterly insane "production" of CTC, they could have made a fine little record.

    Thank you for your effort!

  2. C'mon Jeffen, this version of Cool Under Heat is pretty damn good. It's my choice for the Last Great Clash Song (slightly edging out We Are The Clash). 2 1/2 for that if you're giving North And South 2 TiEs. Crappy drum machines and synths will always lose out to the real deal, no matter where the bootlegger's mike is placed in relation to the drummer, IMHO. But I think Glue Zombie is also far superior to the boring In the Pouring Rain. Glue Zombie is much more '77 than any of the other tracks. That 1-2-3-4 intro, a total Ramones tip... 2 1/2 TiEs!!! ItPR would need a horn section or something like that for me to get anywhere near your 3 TiE rating. 1 1/2 TiEs there. I'd up Fingerpoppin' by a half too, but only because it always reminds me of my mum and not for any other reason.

    I always liked Cut The Crap over Combat Rock. Thanks for the opportunity to opine. Cheers!

  3. HeiHeimdall

    "If, If, If..."

    A word that pains all obsessives but Clash fans even more so.

    Thanks for your words of appreciation.


    Well-stated you've made me re-consider my ridiculous rating system.
    I've never been wild about CUH but as a song I do believe that N & S is underrated.
    As for the busking tour, I so wish someone had recorded decently but at least we can get a sense of it from what we have.
    ItPR really grew on me (though its worth has been overstated in the past).
    GZ - 2 1/2 TiEs actually sounds about right, I stand corrected!
    Finegerpoppin' is an odd one, I have a friend who liked the album but always stressed that that was his favourite song.
    Both CR and CTC are flawed works with accompanying frustrations but CR's flaws are a result of vaulting ambition and CTC's flaws result from under-reaching (i.e. letting Bernie finish the album with studio hacks).

    Thanks for coming by and leaving some sharp commentary!

  4. Hey, thanks for this collection. I was a Clash fan from the beginning. Amazingly, they played my hometown (Dayton, Ohio) during the Out Of Control tour and I was there. It was my first time seeing them. I thought the show was passionate. However, I also knew the passion they were trying to generate could backfire. I felt they were trying to recreate the glory days of 1977. But times had changed. The fans had changed. I still believed in them & the spirit they were trying to convey.

    Cut The Crap had not been released yet, but one magazine had said that when the new album came out, it would have to be "hard as iron" to make everyone believe again.
    Was Cut The Crap "hard as iron?" I got the first import copy that came into town & eagerly went home to play it. Some of the songs had all the elements. Others failed miserably. It was a sad moment because I knew the general public would reject it, which they did. The hardcore Clash fans would come away confused & disillusioned. But I didn't. I admired the way The Clash went out fighting. Sure, Cut The Crap was fragmented. But I'll always respect the way this band took a bruising last stand when the odds were against them. Thank you again for this reminder of what was & what could have been.

  5. The album was just plain bad,as for line up and the gigs, best to just forget thay existed!
    I had spent the first 3 yers of the 80's living in Italy and I had just returned to my native London with my new Italian wife. She had heard enough of my stories of the Clash at the Electric Ballroom, the Lyceum, the Music Machine and Victoria Park, so she was well up to tagging allong with me to one of the Accademy dates. But god my heroes were bad, or if possible even worse, for me it was a large part of my illussions of youth that went out the window that night, as for my wife well she thought I had lousy taste and couldn't see what all the fuss was about, and maybe as a result of that night we never got round to cellebrating our first wedding aniversary!

  6. Point of observation

    Isn't it fascinating the deeply-felt, very personal reactions the Clash Mark II generate?

    "I bought Cut the Crap...the day it came out. As a good obsessive I listened to it compulsively."

    "I always liked Cut The Crap over Combat Rock."

    "I admired the way The Clash went out fighting."

    "But god my heroes were bad, or if possible even worse, for me it was a large part of my illusions of youth that went out the window that night..."

  7. I remember my brother, the most punk person I ever knew, buying the LP of "Cut The Crap" at a mall in the Big City. It looked pretty fierce to me, what with the use of the more than somewhat naughty word "Crap" in the title. I don't remember the first time I heard it (not a good sign) but when I did realize the Clash record my brother had purchased was hum-drum-machining along in the background my thoughts were something along the line of: "If this is punk, punk is lame".

  8. Richard from Ohio and I must have read the same articles on The Clash at the time. A return to form was what I heard too. CTC was ok-ish..though in hindsight as an adult that has EARS now, someone should shoot the motherfucker. These demos piss over CTC. Oh well...we will never get to realize The Only Band That Matters ever again. RIP Joe...You changed my life.

  9. Shoot the MF was meant for Bernie...Sorry folks

  10. Ken

    Yeah Bernie had so many different roles during the Clash's history it's hard to sort the good from the bad (except with CtC, then the good-bad sorting gets easier)

  11. 1984-1985 ..unfortunately all rock bands started using digital technology in those years so it was a bit of a trend I suppose. In my opinion CLASH MKII should have practised harder to achieve a better overall quality as performers, they were often out of tune and fragmented which sounds crap after you've worn out your sandinista tapes. Rather than hanging around London doing the same old things the boys should have seeked for new inspiration maybe in africa.. go there for 3 months and let those rythms and melodies contaminate your punk DNA as happened with raggae. CLASH MKII was a good opportunity to start something new that unfortunately didn't come... so I spent a lot of years waiting for kajagogo to piss off..
    Cheers to you all.

  12. A lost opportunity. Yup that's the size of it. Sometimes that slick, soulless decade known as the eighties seems like one long missed opportunity.

  13. I made a similar mix to this, there's a link on my blog. Any chance you can repost, your link is down. I'd like to hear a live version of Dirty Punk.

  14. PotW
    1) I think I'll re-post the whole things (since the link was killed) as this is one of my fave posts ever.
    2) You need a blog roll sidebar - when you put one in I'll add you to mine.

  15. Fantastic post! I always thought CTC had some hidden potential. Can't wait to hear these tracks :)

  16. Please please soon I hope.

  17. Hey can someone help me?The link for this cd doesn't work and wanna get a copy.Could someone send me one??
    Please Thanks

  18. The link is broken :(
    can you upload this again?

  19. very very good idea---pls re-post THIS if possible---Clash are still loved form legions of bands & fans all over the planet.....i am musician , from 25 yrs...and you cant imagine how many times ,,when i talked abt The Clash..with other bands...i see a adrenalin shot in their eyes & smile......from Manu Chao till Rancid, somos todos hijos de la misma rabia y de los Clash.- ----bring it back ..gracias!! rudie

  20. can you put this up again ?

  21. Can you email the link to download this collection? Please thanks

  22. ya please put it up! were cut the crappers!

    the observations on comments is interesting. ive had deep ctc moments

    the slower studio version of glue zombie rules! heard it for the first time tonight and am blown away by that era again! maybe bernies production busted it, but i feel like good songs get a way to the light. ctc forever yo!

  23. Could you please reup this? The link is dead. :(


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