Sunday, February 6, 2011

The Clash: Out of Control (CTC Revisited)

(Re-upped due to the many comments!

COMMENTS make good things happen!!!)

Every self-appointed rock historian knows the story of how The Clash, after the massive success of 1982's Combat Rock, dumped their musical linchpin, Mick Jones, and let their tone deaf manager, Bernie Rhodes, produce their 1985 album, Cut the Crap. This synth and gang-vocal dominated mess is now often considered the most inept, ill-considered follow-up since Operation Barbarrosa. (Of course, MRML and ... er ... Mojo may have tried to polish this Crap.)

(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:


The liner notes say, "An alternate version of the final Clash studio album. Featuring live versions, demos and several tracks performed live but left off the official album."(While the source of the original CD-R is unknown, we will gladly offer credit once the original compiler is identified.)

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 CTC a compliment?")

- A glimmer of greatness ("Wow, there were real songs 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)
Clichés are once-meaningful words dulled by overuse but nothing in this dunderheaded song ever had much meaning and the big, dumb chorus actually works better with the studio 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 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, the whole affair may have been 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?

Speaking of comments, that section is where you will find the Out of Control link.

Support The Clash!






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    (pleas leave a comment!)

  2. Great post. Thank you.


  3. CallPastorJerkfaceFebruary 9, 2011 at 7:45 PM

    It's official: I now completely dig "Cut The Crap" and am hoping to somehow catch a B.A.D. reunion show (as if they'll ever reach this frosty corner of the globe). You've achieved the impossible Jeff. Well done, I say, well done!

  4. CPB
    Yay! (or have I just brought you over to the Dark Side?)

  5. I will tempt fate and try this album on for size. I hope it fits.

  6. gracias---i was searching from long time...saludos clashicos...u have a great blog, dale power.---ciao Rudie

  7. oh no link is dead again...can someone post a working link please

  8. can you re upload this please?

  9. Can you re-upload this album please?


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