Get Out Of Control Tour
Supported by Richard Hell & The Voidoids & The Lous
cancelled, see A Riot of Our Own p20
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Spit Records · The Clash in Belfast Oct 77
RM) Back to the serious stuff, Ron. The Clash flew to Belfast, had some nice photos taken near some barricades and murals. Then they flew home. No gigs played. What do you think about all that?
Ron) Well, it's to them. Sometimes, promotional events can take over. You can be wise after the event, it might have sounded like a good thing at the time. Who knows, I mean, it might have been sincere. I didn't know them as a band who had very political motives outside of the publicity. It's saying they didn't have a heart, but sometimes publicity sows a life of its own, you know.
Clash flyer for the gig
Belfast University celebrates that iconic cancelled 1977 Clash gig in belfast with conference
A Riot of Our Own a symposium on the Clash Belfast University celebrates that iconic cancelled 1977 Clash gig in belfast with conference
By johnrobb -June 18, 2014
All culture becomes history and all the noise and confusion of rock n roll will one day be a University thesis’ someone once said.
A Riot of Our Own a symposium on the Clash is being organised by the Department of Sociology at the National University of Ireland Maynooth and the University of Ulster’s School of Sociology and Applied Social Studies.
It is being held at the University of Ulster’s Belfast campus on 20-21 June.
The iconic gig was one of the key talking points of that wild time with the Clash attempting to play a show in Belfast in the middle of the so called troubles. It had all the hallmarks of a real riot and the gig was pulled by the nervous council leaving the band to wander the streets for those iconic leather jacket and DM shots that pretty much freeze framed the punk rock look forever.
It’s now 37 years since that gig and the academic conference organised by Dr Paul Burgess, a founder member of Belfast punk band Ruefrex, is going to debate the band’s wider impact and legacy.
To put things into context during punk’s ‘year zero’ of 1977, 111 people were killed in Northern Ireland and few bands made the trip. When the Clash arrived in october 1977 a huge crowd was outside the iconic Ulster Hall but the rumours spread fast that the gig was off.
The gig was apparently cancelled because insurance cover for the concert was withdrawn.
“There was some trouble when a handful of the fans smashed three windows in the hall and some others lay down on the road. Police made five arrests,” it reported
According to the BBC photographer Adrian Boot, who is among the speakers at the conference, said the situation on the streets was so dramatic that he would have got striking images even if the band were not there.
“The photo session was extended because the concert was cancelled so it was a bit of an opportunity for me,” he said.
The record company knew there was a dearth of entertainment coming into Belfast and it upset the Clash that they couldn’t play.”
While the photos have gone on to adorn T-shirts and posters owned by new generations of fans, they were not without controversy.
“The real issue at the time, as the Sex Pistols’ John Lydon famously said, was whether they were having a cheap holiday in other people’s misery,” said Dr Burgess.
“The criticism was that they were perhaps flying in for a photo opportunity in a conflict zone.”
The Clash in Belfast
A university conference may seem far removed from the white heat of punk, but one of its organisers said it was in keeping with the Clash’s ideology.
“Certainly they were a band who were pro-education, pro-creativity, pro-ideas and pro-ideals, so I would imagine Joe Strummer might consider this a fitting testimony to the body of work he left,” said Dr Colin Coulter of the National University of Ireland Maynooth.
“The band’s musical and political horizons were so broad that they broadened everyone else’s as well.
“Listening to the Clash was a cultural and political education second to none.” (PDF version)
Did you go? What do you remember?
Any info, articles, reviews, comments or photos welcome.
AT FIRST the band were reluctant to have their photo taken anywhere near the soldiers. "They'll think we're here to entertain the troops," said Strummer. They all felt that they didn't know enough about the political situation. They learned fast.
Paul Simonon said: "Punk Rock is the Salvation of Northern Ireland. With the attitudes of parents and the Authorities as they are sectarianism will never end. But kids of both religions come together to hear rock 'n' roll."
BELFAST is one long nervously obessive security check. You can't cross a road, drive down the street, walk into a shop or hotel without passing through an elaborate system of flashing lights, concrete and steel barracades, high barbed wire fences or road blocks. At each of these frequent security check points, the hands of men and women in police or army uniform feel over your body and pry into your personal possessions.
Jesus (in whose name the fighting continues) Christ! The eroding invasion of privacy liquifies your guts in seconds. You're just about to scream and question the necessity of the process when again the words "bomb scare" pass from mouth to mouth. Army trucks roll by, soldiers run and crouch ready with their sinister rifles loaded. Your palms begin sweating. There's no dynamite hidden in your handbag. But suspicion and fear prevail. On what side are the people next to you? Do you look Catholic or Protestant? And anyway, extremists on either side are frequently apologising for killing the wrong person. Danger stranger? You better believe it.
"Where are you playing tonight", a suited gentleman asks the Clash at the airport.
The Ulster Hall.
"Well, that's in a nice part of town. You won't get knee-capped there."
Gulp. Ha Ha Ha. An Irish joke already.
"You see", the local BBC reporter explains later in the bar of the Europa Hotel, "when there have been people dying at your feet for eight years, you've got to laugh."
Everyone relaxes a little. For all the tension in the air, coming to Belfast is a positive gesture of optimism. Within minutes of arriving in town, the Clash are surrounded by fans. Heavy punks. Safety pins through their cheeks. Dog collars. Bondage straps. The lot. They are feverishly excited. Everyone's smiling and laughing. The Clash are examined as if they are visitors bringing a magic interlude from another planet. The atmosphere is unbelievable.
"We've come to play for all the kids here", says Paul Simon. "For everybody who ever or what ever they are."
George, nineteen, a Protestant laboratory worker tells him: "It's so great that you're here. We've been waiting for this for weeks. Nobody ever comes here. It's marvellous getting to go to something like this. We're all going to love it."
Will there be Protestants and Catholics at the gig?
"Oh yes. We all mix and we get on together. Everybody's bored with the fighting. Only a minority are fighting. It's music we want to hear not religion."
THE CLASH are in the right place. Definitely. It's the first night of their second UK tour and they are psyched-up to give an all time great performance. Never have they been so certain before a gig of the extent to which they are wanted.
Joe has a brand new Telecaster. Paul is wearing Patti Smith's fifteen-year-old High School T-shirt. They are all on full alert and ready.
Then the news breaks. The gig is OFF. It can't be. Panic. Two hours before the show is due to start! There must be somewhere else to play. Confusion. The Northern Ireland Polytechnic entertainment committee, the promoters, can't get insurance. The original company, Medical And Professional Insurance Limited, withdrew their cover at the last minute. In a letter, they refused to insure punk music.
Already, hundreds of fans are outside the Ulster Hall just a stone's throw from the hotel. They know where the Clash are staying and the Europa is besieged. "We want the Clash. We want the Clash" they roar from behind the wire bomb guards. Police materialise out of the darkness. Inside, Paul and Nicky Headon realise the situation is explosive.
Simonon: "We've got to go out and talk to them. To explain."
They both speed through the security check and into the mob.
"Please keep calm", they implore. "We're trying to find an alternative venue. Pass the word to keep calm. If there's trouble tonight, we'll never be able to play here."
Minutes later word filters through that fans outside the Ulster Hall refused to disperse. Bottles were thrown. Some kids lay in the road in front of police Land Rovers. Two have been rushed to hospital.
Again Paul and Nicky, joined by Joe, decide to face the angry fans themselves.
Outside the Ulster Hall they are mobbed. "Common Joe, PLAY!" "Don't sell out, Paul."
"We WANNA play", the Clash yell back. And their presence and pleas to "Keep cool" reasures the fans and the angry scene turns into a mammoth, good-humoured autograph session and talk-in.
"Whether you're a Protestant or Catholic here, you get it if you're a punk", says Maggie. On her way across town, she and her friend were stopped by soldiers. "Go Home", they were told. They climbed over the security barracades to get to the gig.
BACK at base, manager Bernard Rhodes is trying to salvage the situation. The social secretary of Queens University offers a hall. The gig is on again. The word spreads. Punks outside the Europa and the Ulster Hall converge on the University. The band arrive to a resounding cheer. They push through the crowd into the hall.
But the place is like amorgue. Kids rush up to the band. They are crying. "The bastards have called off the gig again," they say.
In a back room, two University Officials are deliberating, negatively. Deputations from the band, the promoters, the press and the fans beg them to change their minds. The phrase "acceptable levels of violence" hangs in the air.
Two huge, uniformed Police Inspectors enter. The crowd outside are calm, they say. If the University Officials say 'no' they can easily, sir, be dispersed.
What do they think will hapen if the University allows the gig to go ahead, I ask them.
"Every window in the place will be smashed" is the instant reply.*
The band are stunned. Accuations of a publicity stunt make them feel sick. Mick Jones is refusing to leave the dressing room until he is allowed to play. Slowly the fact that there's nothing anybody can do to save the gig sinks in. Go home everybody.
The Clash are silent, inwardly seething, outwardly setting an example of responsible cool.
Paul Simonon is the last to leave the dressing room. He rips a leaflet from the student's notice board. It reads: THE WORLD IS A BASTARD PLACE.
*The next evening the Clash played two shows at Trinity College, Dublin. The sets included their new numbers 'Complete Control', 'The Prisoner', 'Clash City Rockers','City Of The Dead', 'White Man In Hammersmith Palais' and 'Jail Guitar Doors'. Over a thousand fans packed the place. There was no violence and no damage.
© Caroline Coon, 1977
If you know of any articles or references for this particular gig, anything that is missing, please do let us know.
TRICK Fanzine - Clash in Ulster - 3 pages
The Clash in Belfast - Sounds 29th October 1977
The Gig (?) At first The Clash were reluctant to have their picture taken anywhere near the soldiers. ìThey'll think we're here to entertain the troops," said Strummer. They all felt they didn't know enough about the political situation. They learned fast.
The Clash in Belfast
Report by Caroline Coon,
Sounds, October 1977
AT FIRST the band were reluctant to have their photo taken anywhere near the soldiers. "They'll think we're here to entertain the troops," said Strummer. They ...
The Clash: First date called off
The Clash foundthemselves in the centre of another controversy last Thursday when the first night of their Major British Tour ...
When we fought the law for The Clash: Recalling Belfast's 1977 punk riot
As an academic conference opening today debates what really happened during the band's infamous visit to Belfast in 1977, Henry McDonald recalls the riot that took place - and the myths that followed.
'Belfast Calling' out to all fans of punk music
By Maureen Coleman - July 04 2008
It's been credited as the catalyst for the Northern Ireland punk movement. On October 20 1977 the late Joe Strummer brought The Clash to Belfast at a time when the city was a no-go area at night. But at the eleventh hour the concert was cancelled by the city fathers, sparking a mini riot in Bedford Street. Punk had arrived in Northern Ireland.
Manchester – Nov 15
Elizabethan Ballroom, Belle Vue
Often circulated as Elizabthan Suite, it is in fact a full gig which was filmed by and for Granada TV and included Souisie and the Banshees as support.Snippets were screened twice on the So It Goes TV show (Dec 77 and Nov 78) (and repeated again in 1990) and circulate on video and audio.Other than the So It Goes source, no other source exists. It is thought Granada don't know where it is either and that the Dec 78 footage may have come from Tony Wilsons own collection.?
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