40 Years Ago: The Clash Play Their First Show
On July 4, 1976, as America celebrated the 200th anniversary of their successful rebellion against England, a new musical revolution was taking root in Britain as the Clash made their live debut.
“The first gig we ever played was at what we used to call the Mucky Duck in Shefield,” recalled guitarist/singer Joe Strummer in the band bio The Clash. “The line-up was Terry Chimes, Paul Simonon, Mick Jones, myself and Ketih Levene, so we had a three guitar set-up.” Though they charmingly nicknamed the venue the Mucky Duck, it was actually the Black Swan. The headliner that eventful evening were the Sex Pistols.
Just three months prior, Strummer and his previous band, a pub-rock outfit named the 101ers, had shared the stage with the Pistols at the Nashville Room. It was at that gig that Sturmmer saw the writing on the wall. “Five seconds into [the Sex Pistols’] first song, I just knew we were like yesterday’s papers. I mean, we were over,” he recalled. It didn’t take Strummer long to quit the 101ers and join the Clash, who he felt could go toe-to-toe with punk’s new standard-bearers.
Based on reviews of the Clash’s first show, the music press quickly agreed with his assessment. “[They are] the first band to come along who’ll really frighten the Sex Pistols,” read the headline in the music paper Sounds. (Keep in mind, the Sex Pistols hadn’t even made national headlines yet, but the music press were already setting the two groups up as rivals.)
“What hits first is the gut-curdling power of them,” wrote Giovanini Dadomo in that Sounds review. “It’s like the gleaming and totally unstoppable bastard son of the Pistols and the Ramones with the firepower of Status Quo. I think a hell of a lot of people are going to be knocked out by them. Exciting isn’t the word for it.”
“It was the first time I’d ever played onstage,” said bassist Paul Simonon. “But the moment we walked onstage it was like I was in my living room. I felt really comfortable.” The show went off without a hitch, other than some minor tuning issues. “Mick (Jones) had come over to tune my guitar but it didn’t bother me,” Simonon recalled. “I just wanted to jump around, but Mick wanted to be in tune.”
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