July 25, 2021

his relationship with football and the role that the ball played in his best album

When the band changed their boots for ankle boots to give an extra “touch” to the album London Calling.

We publish a note from the journalist Chris Salewicz (who was one of the main figures of the prestigious magazine New Musical Express between 1975 and 1981), which was made for the magazine 8 by 8 from New York and published there in June 2015.

The translation is by Leandro Nice Van Brixton for the highly recommended Clashland site, the most complete in Spanish on The Clash and his wide universe, which he graciously yielded to publish in The Left Diary.

Illustration of the original article in 8 by 8 magazine by Yuko Shimizu.
Illustration of the original article in 8 by 8 magazine by Yuko Shimizu.

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In 1979, the Clash they composed and recorded London Calling, the double album that was his top artistic statement. As it was not published in the US until January 1980, ten years later the magazine Rolling Stone he named it “the album of the decade.”

When they started working on their masterpiece, the Clash they were in a slump. They had fired their first manager, Bernie Rhodes, and his temporary successor. The group had no one to lean on but themselves. And it was football, as well as their supreme songwriting skills, that propelled them into the state of mind necessary to compose and record the album.

Plaza in Pimlico (London) where the Clash played their picados.
Plaza in Pimlico (London) where the Clash played their picados.

The Clash played long games every afternoon in the square in front of Vanilla, Pimlico’s rehearsal room, in central London.

  • I think we really found ourselves at that time, and football had a lot to do with it, because it made us be united, as if we were one, -said the founder and guitarist of the Clash, Mick Jones.
    Vanilla rehearsal room, where the album London Calling was created.
    Vanilla rehearsal room, where the album London Calling was created.
  • We played football a lot, until we couldn’t kick one more kick. And then we started to play and compose. It was our warm-up, ”Joe Strummer told me the following year.

    Every day, around four in the afternoon, some local kids who went from school to the house, knocked on the door of Vanilla:

  • Can they go out to play?
  • They were typical working-class London kids from municipal housing, about 9 to 13 years old, ”said Andrew Leslie, in charge of Vanilla. They had seen the Clash playing with each other, and they caught on and it became commonplace. I think they weren’t as aware that it was a band and that they could brag about it at school. It was a good time for the group to take a break; they had started at one in the afternoon. They played against each other, two on each team, with the boys.
    Unpublished photos: Topper Headon and Joe Strummer playing ball.
    Unpublished photos: Topper Headon and Joe Strummer playing ball.

    “Topper particularly liked to kick; he was probably the best player, ”Leslie said of the group’s diminutive drummer, Topper Headon, who was in perpetual fitness, emulating the karate skills of his idol Bruce Lee.

    Jones was throwing away luxuries (as the band’s tour manager Johnny Green recalls), but his ability didn’t quite match his ambition. Strummer was determined, tireless, but he lacked real talent. And bassist Paul Simonon was endlessly enthusiastic too.

    Before discovering rock, Jones had immersed himself in the culture of soccer. At a similar age of the kids who knocked on the door of Vanilla, he hung out with other pre-teen fans every Saturday morning outside the hotel lines of the city. Plaza Russell From london. Visiting teams would stop there before games.

    With the autographs of the players already secured, Jones then crossed the city to watch a game of the Chelsea or the Queens Park Rangers.

  • On Chelsea you could climb the railroad bars. Once I got stuck. I hooked my leg on the barbed wire and they almost grabbed me. At first I was a soccer player autograph hunter. Then I crossed that age limit and came across rock. I became a huge fan of music and wanted to be in a band, ”he said. But collecting autographs from soccer players was very useful to me. Because some were re-enlarged. I don’t want to mention names, but I could. The way they treated you was a good lesson in how not to treat others when you found yourself in that position of power.

    In fact, the magnanimous treatment of Clash towards his fans, he became part of his legend. And Jones’s enduring love for both football and music (shared by the other members of the Clash, especially Strummer), personifies how football and rock were the traditional escape for young people, from the bland boredom of UK life at the time.

    Chelsea's Stamford Bridge stadium in the 1980s.
    Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge stadium in the 1980s.

    During the era London Calling, Strummer lived with his girlfriend Gaby Salter and her mother, in a neighborhood near the Chelsea, Stamford Bridge. The property was right across the Thames. The lyrics to the song “London calling” declare: “I live by the river.” When the Blue they played local, he went to games, on Saturday afternoons. He was accompanied by 12-year-old Josie Ohendjan (who later became the babysitter for Strummer’s two daughters); Gaby’s brother Nicky (16); Nicky’s school friend, Black John; and a family friend, Crispin Chetwynd.

    They were at Gaby’s mother’s house, they smoked a lot and faced off for the field. It was a 10 minute walk and they bought a bag of potatoes along the way. Once there, having paid a couple of pounds, they stood at the Shed grandstand.

    Strummer was a fan of Chelsea. He read everything he could about the team. But the West London team was in a dark time; stuck in the Second Division. According to Ohendjan, Strummer “loved the tribal; the movement; join under one color. Joe lived nearby and was a fan and he liked that aspect of the fans. “

    What did not fit Strummer was “aggression and racism.” This was a couple of seasons before Paul Canoville was the first black player in the Chelsea. His own fans received him many times by throwing bananas onto the field and singing “We don’t want black.” The barrabrava of the Chelsea was famous for containing groups from the far-right faction National Front (National Front). Black players on visiting teams received similar treatment at the Bridge. But the visual identity of the man who wrote the song “(White man) in Hammersmith Palais” did not cause him any problems in games.

  • Joe was recognized at Stamford Bridge, ”Ohendjan said. We were punks and we stood out among the skinheads, but they didn’t bother us. The drummer of the Sex Pistols, Paul Cook, was also a regular at Stamford Bridge, as were Suggs McPherson and Chas Smash of the band Madness. The three of them keep going to watch games on the court of the Chelsea.

    But after a match against him West HamIn November 1979, fans of the Hammer, brandishing cutters and knives, ran off Strummer and his gang.

  • We had to run to the potato chip shop across from where Joe lived, ”Ohendjan recalled. It was terrifying. After that, all of us, including Joe, decided to stop going.
    Wessex Studios, where London Calling was recorded.
    Wessex Studios, where London Calling was recorded.

    Yet another team from London proved to be an inspiration to London Calling. The material for the album, composed in Vanilla, was recorded at Wessex Studios, Highbury, North London, between August and September 1979. In Highbury the ArsenalThe record’s producer, Guy Stevens, a bohemian eccentric and legendary in the British music business, was an obsessive fan of the club.

    Guy Stevens, productor de London Calling, junto a Mick Jones.
    Guy Stevens, productor de London Calling, junto a Mick Jones.

    Stevens, upon discovering that some of the field staff at the Arsenal I admired the Clash, he colluded with them and established a daily ritual that he felt could add more magic to what he was trying to inject into the new disk. The radio taxi hired to take him to Wessex every morning, made a slight detour and stopped at the Arsenal field. There Stevens briefly exited the vehicle and entered the center circle of the Highbury, kneeling down and paying homage to his mental image of offensive midfielder Liam Brady. Then he continued on his way to Wessex.

    Arsenal's Highsbury Park stadium in the '80s.
    Arsenal’s Highsbury Park stadium in the ’80s.

    After what London Calling finally reached the pots, Strummer returned to the court of the Chelsea, to see a game. That afternoon he left Stamford Bridge and took a look at a branch of the record store chain. Our Price. There he discovered something even more disturbing than the armed fans of the West Ham. Horrified, he saw that a fresh copy of London Calling cost 7.99 pounds [40 dólares actuales]. The Clash they had decreed that it could not be sold for more than five pounds [25 dólares actuales]; the cost of a single disk.

    Furious, Strummer berated the store manager until he lowered the price to the ordered amount, and then returned to the massive line of fans leaving the court of the Chelsea.