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February 2016

Ever Get The Feeling You've Been Cheated?

Goodbye Winterland front

With those memorable words, Johnny Rotten ended the final Sex Pistols concert at Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco in January 1978. Rotten parted company with the band, though they released a few other singles without him as well as the miserable Julian Temple film "The Great Rock 'n' Roll Swindle." 

Although most reports from this era say they weren't playing very well, concert footage from Winterland and bootleg albums, tell a different story.  Yes, there are times when the band appears to just want to get things over with --particularly on "No Fun," the Stooges song that served as an encore. The vocals are rough, Steve Jones guitar is occasionally out of tune and Sid's bass playing is not always excellent. But it's still much better than I had expected.  

It also seems that in San Francisco, the band found a receptive audience. The show was recorded for local San Jose radio station KSAN and so bootlegs are available if you know where to look.  The sound check bootleg is particularly good.  

The Rise and Fall of the Clash

Clash rise and fall

Rock fans who lived through the late '70s and early '80s are generally pretty aware of The Clash --"the only band that matters." Their 1979 double album "London Calling" was a breakthrough album, and 1982's "Combat Rock" was even bigger. (Ok, yes, I had bloated triple album "Sandanista" and it would have been a great double album.)

Cut the crapBut few fans know about the disintegration of the band. Drummer Topper Headon got sacked when the band was at their peak touring with The Who, and guitarist co-founder Mick Jones was sacked after playing the 1983 US Festival for "rock star tendencies." And then Joe Strummer and returning manager Bernie Rhodes released the ill-conceived, ill-fated, ill-inducing "Cut the Crap" album, which even Joe Strummer disavowed.

I managed to see the clash twice, in 1979 and 1982 and they were truly a game changing band. They could have been as big as U2 or The Rolling Stones if they'd managed to hold it together. But releasing the equivalent of 9 albums in 5 years and non-stop touring took its toll and things melted down pretty fast.

Clash mk iiIf you want to understand all the ins and outs of the final days of The Clash, Danny Garcia's overlooked documentary "The Rise and Fall Of The Clash" is worth checking out. To be clear, it is mostly about the fall of The Clash; how personalities and poor management ruined a great band.

There are candid interviews with Mick Jones as well as the "new" members of the Clash Mk II that you've probably never heard of: drummer Pete Howard and guitarists Vince White and Nick Sheppard. 

It's a heart-breaking story and it leaves you wondering: if only things had turned out a bit different.