Clash make it goo

Clash USA '79

Paul Morley, NME, 13 October 1979

Details: The Scene

The Clash on tour of America. There's a glamorous image, with a confident, crusading edge to it.

The Clash: a lot of hope and responsibility there.

America: it still means a lot.

CLASH'S CURRENT six week coast to coast tip to toe tour of the United States Of America is their first major assault upon the stupefied standards of the land. It follows a few months after their exploratory dip into the stagnant, dense culture waters of America a six date trip definitively chronicled by Joe Strummer's own frantic pen in the NME of March 3rd, 1979.

The tour titled 'Take The Fifth' possesses a resistance and direction that sets it well apart from the soft centered, soft hearted British invasion of Sniff'N' The Tears, The Records, Ian Gomm, Bram Tchaikovsky, et al. The Clash are in America following destiny. The tour has taken on the spirit of a quest. The Quest: abstract words with a definition much the same as 'punk'. New change and choice...

In America this is about working towards less Kansas, Styx, Foreigner and Boston and more reggae and Clash on the radio; towards replacing the glazed look in the eyes of American youth with a glint of purpose and passion, towards staying alive, towards saying 'look out'. The Quest is a battle requiring non stop concentration, humour, flexibility and understanding. Blind faith, even.

Joe Strummer will refer to the unknown American audience as the great grey people, maybe something ultimately unreachable. "You know how we can get through here," Strummer will reflect, "I want to get through to the person in high school; you know, all the people that we've got to in the cities, they're sussed, right, it's the kid in the high school who doesn't know anything about it even yet. I hope ultimately we get through to him. Because he's the one at home in his bedroom, he's got Kansas albums and racks of Kiss and all that, and I feel like he should have a dose of us."

But perhaps, paradoxically, it's a victory that The Clash must never complete: "To sell something like Rod Stewart here, that's going to mean that we reach all the nerds, they're gonna have to go out and buy a copy, right, and they ain't even gonna do that because they never heard of us...but maybe that's why we are never going to get there; because once you get there, you're fucked. You know what I mean Maybe we'll never get there."

It's an end commercial success that The Clash shove in a corner. "If we were just going to be another Stones or another Who," Strummer told a Detroit newspaper, "it would be a bit of a bore. That's why we're going to try and turn left where we should've turned right, y'know."

The Clash try to live from day to day. The Clash are in America for better or worse; it's a shot-gun wedding of sorts. They are committed to convincing America that there is something wrong. There is no easy way.

I spent nine days with the group, the first part of their stint, about a fifth of the total. I glimpsed the pain and pressure, a little bit of the pleasure, shared a lot of the monotony and frustration. There was some jealousy, but ultimately a gladness that I wasn't in what they were in. Mixed up with love, admiration, confusion; that's this writer's cocktail.

The Clash have surrounded themselves on the tour with a lot of people. Girlfriends Gabrielle (Strummer), Dee (Headon), Debbie (Simonon); publicist, clown and one of the most important people in rock'n'roll, Godfather of the Quest Kozmo Vinyl; photographer Pennie Smith; cartoonist Ray Lowry; DJ Barry Myers; personal roadie Johnnie Green. Already this circus of creativity has been reported as unnecessarily unwieldy the way music papers transmit fragmented fractions of truths that negatively pad out the glamour image is one of the things that frustrated me about the tour. These fellow travellers were all invited on to the tour, were not a buffer, and did not cramp The Clash. If energies were split and diverted that's the only way it could be. At least the energy was there.

The Clash love to be with people, and shared their touring coach to bursting point with no complaints. They feed off others' energies. This is one reason so many on the road adventures of The Clash turn up in the pop press. My own presence, if unwelcome, would have been quickly discarded. The Clash are hardly tolerant or submissive.

Reports have indicated that such an unwieldy entourage suggests confusion. Of course The Clash are confused. In such unnatural circumstances who wouldn't be This confusion is more positive than harmful. There is nothing slick or pre-planned about The Clash, who were literally living, financially, from day to day on the tour, not able to be certain that hotels two days ahead were booked. Reports that the group were smothered in money from Epic are silly and laughable; at one point the group was forced to seriously discuss coming home.

There is still confusion over Clash management. On the tour, at certain points, up to four people would be telling the individual members of the band what the next move was. This caused misunderstanding, a lot of waiting, a lot of muttering under the breath. It emphasised that The Clash are not a business; they are still an amateur organisation, and whilst this can be frustrating it's positive in that the essence of Clash is not set, sealed and unchanging. There is nothing certain about The Clash. Nothing comfortable. No chance to sit back.

Joe Strummer, Topper Headon, Paul Simonon and Mick Jones live The Clash. Touring America is a long hard job with no distinction between work and play, where things constantly shove into the mainline preoccupations of travelling, soundchecking, sleeping and performing. Distractions like round the clock newspaper / radio / tv interviews. Distractions like attempting to package, title, and even mix their third LP, knowing at the back of their minds that decisions often made snappily or jokingly will stick around them for a long time to come.

Distractions like fighting to insist that the record will be a double for the price of a single, knowing that if their demands get ignored by faraway CBS they will be the ones to face the cynical derision.

The third LP is going to contain 18 songs. Songs they took to writing as part of the recovery from the spiritual low they experienced at the beginning of the year. "Black music, black vinyl, black and white cover."

But there's nothing about The Clash that is straightforward. They concentrate on bringing these long, tall and wide new songs into the set, thinking about the forthcoming release, and meanwhile their American label Epic have finally released the first LP, with the addition of a few recent songs to contrive a 'greatest hits' package. The Clash find themselves unwittingly and unwillingly having to promote relics from the past that was that and now its now songs that have a part in their set but little relevance in their new way of thinking.

Not only that, but whilst The Clash are away, CBS will play. CBS thought it would be a good idea to release the USA package in Britain. Full price and all that. The Clash are forced to fight this nonsense.

"What a threat," snaps Strummer, "just to pay for this jaunt!"

"Typical of them to try and trick us when we are away," snarls Jones. "They always do that. They thought that they could make it look like the British fans would want the record and then it would pay for us to come over here. We're not going to do that! How would that look To the kids at home, some kid in Bolton: 'Oh yeah, I'm paying for them to ponce about in America' we've successfully put the block on that.

"We just said we would come back home if they did that," expands Strummer. "We were willing to go home straight away. Fuck it, we'd go home, bollocks to the rest of it."

On it goes. A ball of confusion bouncing wayward but forward. Vague ideas about visiting Mexico and Cuba are brought into play, introducing more problems. The curiosity of The Clash will never be curbed. Their ills of desire will never be cured. The reputation thickens, for better or worse.

This yet-another-lengthy NME support of The Clash is subjective details of the extent of their commitment, a commitment that is often nothing more than a commitment to merely continuing. It is a report on the new responses; The Clash truly never look back.

It is a glance at four totally different characters who came together, became the strongest survivors of the punk purge because of spite, the ability to expand, the odd accident, a lot of stubborness and fear. They have had to struggle constantly with compromises, their naivity, their impatience, the scorn of those who are convinced that they've failed in their 'task', the sycophantic glee of those who observe in the group's desperation and dilettantism and arrogance the saviours of something or other.

Details from little bits of a story. The Clash story, like all the very best stories, doesn't start once upon a time, but is about limitation and potential, a search, and will not have a happy ending. It's thick with plot, the characters are complex and wonderful, and it's impossible to ignore.

It started something like this:

Details: The History

"Twenty one was when I first got sensible, when I learnt to play the guitar. Before that I was just poncing about," Joe Strummer tells me.

"From school I went straight into art college, and after a year I just went off and did absolutely nothing. For at least two years I was just bumming around. Everyone's gotta bum around. I worked on a farm but stayed round London most of the time, and then when I was 21 I thought right I'll get really serious now and I'll learn to play the guitar.

"When I was sixteen like everyone I had a Spanish flamenco guitar and I learnt to play some blues toons on it, then I thought well I can't handle any more of that so I never bothered. When I was 20 I felt sick that I'd never bothered. I thought 'Shit, I could be better than Eric Clapton, so now I'm 21 I'm really gonna do it. If I don't do it next year I'm going to be even more pissed off'.

"So I just started, and having to earn my living with it helped. I ended up bottling for this busker, and it was like, I found out later on, the apprenticeship of a blues musician. I got a real kick out of that. All the great blues players started out collecting the money for some master, to learn the licks. The guy I bottled for would play the violin and eventually whenever there was a guitar lying around from another busker I would borrow it and he would teach me how to accompany. Just simple country and western and Chuck Berry.

"One day he said he was going off to do the pitch at Oxford Circus and he left me at Green Park and said' 'Now you do this pitch.' I had a ukelele. He just walked off and left me alone. It was rush hour and the train emptied at one end of the corridor. One second the corridor was like empty, the next minute it was packed with people streaming through. It was like now or never, playing to this full house. That was the first time I remember performing on my own.

"I got good money but I had to give it up. I was walking along a curved passage at Oxford Circus and I happened to glance up at the ceiling at these speakers and I couldn't work out what they were, and I started playing and a voice said, from the box, speaking to me all on my own in this corridor, one flight under the city, this box was saying 'Right you clear off we're sending the railway police'. I realised these speakers were linked to the cop shop upstairs, where I was used to being dragged, but usually you had a chance to run off. But this was like what can you do This is 1984. This guy walked past and I screamed at him 'Can you hear that This is 1984!' and he gave me a funny look and rushed off. I thought 'Aah fuck it' and packed it in.

"Then I was hanging around the Elgin Avenue, the Elephant And Castle pub there, and I was watching this lrish trio hacking out this stuff and I thought, 'Hey this is how to get over the summer', y'know, when my form of income was like curtailed because of the speaker system, I thought this is how to do it. All these people were hanging round my squat just doing nothing and I thought I'll whip up a few of these guys and we'll play in some lrish pubs. I can do that. And that's how the 101'ers started, just to get over the summer. I never thought we'd end up playing in the Windsor Castle, which seemed to me to be the be all and end all, never mind Madison Square Garden, that's what it seemed like to me.

"After busking for a while doing Chuck Berry and blues tunes you start to switch around the chords when no one's looking. You start making up things in those endless hours when no one's around. That's how I guess I started. I didn't really want to write songs cos I figured that I couldn't...I'd never been musical, I didn't know what I was getting into. I'd always been into the music ever since 'Not Fade Away', I'd always been a total number one fan, but I never thought that I could do it, especially as I'd always been more into painting. I just ended up writing after trying everything else, by default.

"The 101'ers' gigs were really chaotic, like hiring a room above a pub, tenpence to get in independent promotion I just realised that was. This girl said rent the room for a quid A QUID and we can put on a club, and we can print circulars, and we were lying around going 'Leave it out, we'll never do that, no one'll ever turn up'. She pushed us into it and we had a thriving club going before we knew where we were. Every Wednesday night, packed with lunatics.

"It just seemed by default again, doing 'Boney Maroney' to a load of lunatics, and we only had six numbers so to fill it out I figured I was going to have to write something. I think the first thing I wrote was 'Keys To Your Heart'.

"It took a long time for me to meet up with Mick. I mean, from that time to the time I met Mick is almost the longest period of my life. It was six gigs a week for maybe eighteen months. Getting work was all by default as well. We got on to the pub circuit and we started getting one line mentions in the papers. After that started it was just a slog. It just seemed after doing eighteen months of that we were just invisible. I started to lose my mind, I would go around the squat saying, 'We're invisible, we should change our name to The Invisibles'. Cos I felt like we'd been doing great shows for three hundred people in Norwich or Thetford and it would just be invisible. You'd get back to London about 5 in the morning, unload the gear in the back room, put on a kettle and go 'What the fuck's all that about' And in the paper it'd be like Queen and all that. We were just shambling from one gig to the next banging our heads against the wall.

"As soon as Johnny Rotten hit the stand, right, the writing was on the wall. As far as I was concerned. I was in that state of mind that I was just slogging around getting nowhere. I sacked yet another guitarist because although he was a brilliant technician he didn't understand what I wanted. I got Martin Stone in to play some shows and that was fun but it just seemed that whole thing was over.

"Bernie Rhodes turned up at the Golden Lion with Keith Levine and I went outside and stood at the bustop with them and he sort of said, 'What you gonna do' And I said, 'I dunno,' and he said, 'Well come down to this squat in Sheperds Bush and meet these guys,' and Keith was sat there nodding saying, 'You'd better'.

"I met Mick the next day. I didn't even have no choice. The 101'ers were strictly a well known west London Rock band.

"When I met Mick and Keith at the squat we went in and sat on the bed and looked at each other and like Bernie said, 'This is the guy you gotta write songs with,' and Mick sort of scowled and I thought, 'Well I haven't got any choice. This is what I've got to do'.

"Finally we got playing and we'd play anything until we could think of something to write. Me and Mick were just sitting upstairs and I had a big notebook and I would just write the words out with a big crayon and he would bang out a simple tune. I don't know how it happened. I got no memory, really, no recall at all. I can remember writing 'White Riot' and '1977' but the rest I can't remember.

"The whole thing was really great from the beginning of 1976 when my group crumbled and I met this lot and we took off, all the way through that. My dreams were like carnivals, my mind would churn over and over in my sleep and I'd wake up and I'd been speeding naturally cos of the decisions, throwing in one thing and doing another, everything was being tried and experimented, it was just great.

"It can't seem to be like that all the time but it's great when it is.

"We knew it was going to be good. You know that certainty when you don't even bother to think, that certainty was with us and I'm glad of it. We knew that this was it. I don't know how or why.

"I loved the exposure that I got. Finally. I thought 'We'll show those bastards'. They'd been ignoring us, and when we got big reviews I just thought it was really something. It seemed like we deserved it.

"To be honest I'm a total idiot in the business affairs, more so then, I'm really dumb and naive now, and I'd freely admit that I didn't know what the fuck was going on, I hadn't got a fucking clue. Maybe it was because we were being so totally creative, like business decisions seemed totally irrelevant. It's like jazz musicians saying 'Let me play the horn, don't bother me with details'. I was only happy that we were going to be able to put our stuff on record. When Bernie said we were going to sign to Polydor I just left it all to him and I just thought 'Fucking great, we can put out a record'.

"Signing for CBS was a good idea for us at the time because it was really a danger of it being us and The Pistols, we signed to major labels, The Damned went to Stiff, and then like we went in the Rainbow as well as that and the Pistols went off on the Anarchy tour with us bottom of the bill and like that was a conscious attempt on the part of McLaren and Rhodes to burst out of the confined thing. They'd been to New York and what they hated was that the punk thing was like CBGB's on the Bowery was how it stayed for five years. It never came out of there.

"And McLaren and Rhodes were right; our stuff and the Pistols' stuff was great. I don't want to brag, but it was great, and it didn't deserve to stay in a hole in Covent Garden for five years. Can you imagine us playing The Roxy Covent Garden for four years I'm glad that McLaren and Rhodes had the suss to suss that, and that was like part of breaking out. We burst out when it needed to be taken seriously, y'know what I mean.

"Now people go 'Of course it was taken seriously', but in those days it was a novelty: 'Ha ha ha look at those idiots, pass me the Little Feat album'. And at least we fucking burst out. We had to."

Details: The TV Show

Two and a half years after bursting out, gaunt, twitchy Joe Strummer is sitting in a row with his equally restless comrades, blinking in front of the unblinking glare of a white heat television light.

Perhaps that early Joe Strummer was looking for a reward. So is this it It's part of it. Sitting in a room the size of a bathroom tucked away in the corner of the New York Palladium, squashed between Mick Jones and Topper Headon, preparing to play spokesman for a movement to the film camera of a well known American documentary programme, 20/20 which wants to know what this noise is all about. Thirty minutes after concluding a performance that cracked his voice, blistered his hands and blurred his eyes, Strummer is expected to explain. And perhaps he'd better get it right. Millions will look on. Joe can't see it like that. He needs a drink.

Two and a half years, two albums of songs, a handful of singles, lots of questions and lots of answers, and Joe Strummer and The Clash's reward is to have people continually poking away.

What's going on

What's this...and that

Why do you look like that

Where's the change

Whatever it is, revolution or idle chit chat, it has to be televised. And because of the defaults and the anger it had to be The Clash. It was inevitable looking back. The Clash have become known. Unique. Important. And still a novelty. They don't flinch. They get on with it.

That a programme like 20/20 comes to The Clash for comment and hopefully a small helping of controversy is both a sign of success, and also, because of the nature of the programme, a sign of failure. Clash are viewed as little more than hopeless eccentrics. To burst out in America isn't easy. The Clash don't shy away; they get on with it.

Kozmo Vinyl manages to get the group in one place at the same time and squeeze them into the room. The tv people smile genially and hopefully. The room has been set up so that the final on screen viewing will be the typical stark, crude punk setting. Clash fidget and sigh as the technicians fix microphones and camera. They're to play sensible spokesmen for British punk rock but they're tired, they want to go home. Duty, the vague sense that this is the reward, keeps them in place.

Quiet Paul Simonon, with the awkward frame and beautiful face, contributes a couple of works to the conversation, fights to keep a playful smirk off his hard features, and then walks out, letting the smirk break up his face. That'll look good on tv.

Topper Headon, sneaky and cheeky, small and tough, absent mindedly lets Strummer draw a moustache on his slight face and then he departs too.

Grinning condemning Mick Jones and a tetchy Strummer do the talking, warming just a little to their subject: How could they not Off camera, the careful female voice prods, nudges and doesn't help the discontented duo into action.

...20/20 take six...I have to ask you some pretty dumb and stupid and obvious questions because a lot of people don't know anything about you or punk.

Micky plays the good boy, teeth break through his lips. "Well, we are The Clash," he explains as if to a little child, "and we are a British punk band from London."

"Australia," grunts Strummer, looking away.

What is punk anyway

"It's a music innit" charms Jones.

Is there such a thing as American punk music

"Not really," decides Jones, taking the question at safety pin literal.

"What about the Dead Kennedy's" asks Joe.

"Mmm. But really it started in London in the mid '70s and we are the only survivors!" Jones eyes sparkle.

What do the people who play punk have in common

Simonon says his two words worth. "Short hair."

"Yeah," agrees Jones "and no flairs."

Everyone says you're angry. What are you angry about

"Fucking everything," spits Jones convincingly.

"The hotels ain't good enough," croaks Strummer.

"Well we're quite happy actually," claims Headon.

Are you a political band

Headon, Strummer and Jones break into a silly sing song. "We're A Political Band. La La La La." Jones decided they should write that one down.

The careful female voice continues, unmoved: What's the difference between your music and American

"Well this is English music. What happened to American music is completely opposite to what happened to English music. The English music is really exciting, it's in the spirit of rock'n'roll; that's what we're doing, we're trying to remind people of that..." Jones pauses. Strummer screams and clears his throat: "IT AIN'T ABOUT PLAYING THE RIGHT FUCKING CHORD FOR A START!"

What is it about

"I can't quite put my finger on it," Strummer sneers.

How do you feel about people buying your album The commercial success

Strummer: "Well, there's about three people who've bought our album so far."

Jones: "I'd rather they bought ours than somebody else's."

Strummer: "We've sold three records and after this tour we'll sell another three."

What are you trying to do You're on a tour of American and lots of people are seeing you, far more than three.

Strummer: "If we come to an American city there are approximately 2,400 people who come to see us, who know about us. On the other hand there are ten million zillion people who've never even heard of us in the city, especially those people who go to high school or low school or any other kind of school. I've been in their bedrooms in Virginia or Texas and I've seen their albums stacked up by the bed, and there's Kansas, Boston, Foreigner and I try to say to them, 'These records ain't no good, doncha know about The Yardbirds' And they say 'Who' And I say 'Doncha know about The Clash' And they say 'Who' And that's it. How are we going to get through to these people They ain't rushing over to the radio station saying 'Put on a Clash record PUT ON A CLASH RECORD!' They ain't doing that."

Jones: "A lot of the radio stations in America aren't even playing black music..."

Strummer: "Which is even worse! Never mind The Clash,

what about where the music came from!"

Jones: "You're sitting in Minneapolis and you don't even know what reggae music is!"

Strummer: "For every satin-suited platform-soled macho-strutting guitarist, for everyone of those up there in the lights sniffing coke, right, there's like 50 or 60 black men starving in the same town who invented the music with their own sweat, and this guy is ripping it off and posing away. It's shit!"

Jones and Strummer had by now successfully succeeded in pulling the conversation away from the confines it looked like it was keeping to. The conversation jumps through discos and theatres and things, Strummer and Jones really wanting to go but keep getting worked up by the questions. They have to answer. Who else will point these things out Eventually the careful female voice asks for some final words of wisdom.

Jones: "Keep on complaining." Strummer scrawls TRUE on the wall behind Jones' head as he speaks. "If you want to give us a hand you've really got to do it...if you want to hear things on the radio you got to ring up the radio station..."

Strummer: "In Detroit they've got a free radio radio for the '80s, they ain't being passive...I'd just like to say don't be passive..."

Jones: "Don't be apathetic."

Strummer: "And we highly recommend that you go to a show and if you don't like the show you've got to bottle them off stage, you gotta make your feelings felt. That way everybody knows what you want. If you don't tell anybody how they gonna know"

OK. One more question can I ask: You're signed to CBS, and Columbia and all that stuff, are they trying to put any pressure on you

Jones: "They try."

Strummer: "We've been on Epic, we've been an artiste on Epic Records for two and a half years and for the first two and a half years they didn't even know we were on the label, and then they found out out and they come and shake our hands but they never make with the chequebook baby. We want some cheques, otherwise how we gonna get petrol in the bus to get down to Kansas"

Jones: "So come on. Hey this is on ABC not CBS!"

Strummer: "CBS never come crawling..."

Details: The Fans

Don't ask me to be your hero

I will only let you down

Don't ever sleep with your hero

Things will never be the same

All the heros, like they say

They're all dead out of the way

If you see me on the street

Don't attempt to speak to me, cos

If you see me on the street

I won't want to know you

Patrik Fitzgerald. Copyright Control

Mick Jones likes the Patrik Fitzgerald song 'Your Hero . He says that Fitzgerald has got it exactly right, which is odd because Fitzgerald must never have experienced, perhaps only anticipated, what Jones has to go a new hero.

Even in America, walking down the street, visiting clubs, in the dressing room, teenagers and people in their twenties clamour around Jones, clutch his hand, offer bits of paper for autographs, attempt conversation...Jones always seems a little unsure...

"I find the laying of hands a very strange thing. No one's come along and wanted to shake my hand in order to heal me, but they often look to be healed..."

"Yeah, I know what you mean," agrees Strummer, "they want to shake your hand, but they want to take something, I don't know what..."

"They never offer anything, or very few do," continues Jones. Even so, Jones often looks for something.

After 20/20 have used The Clash, Jones and Strummer move back to the nearby dressing room, overflowing with New Yorkers. The previous night's New York performance had seen a post gig dressing room filled with slick liggers and empty smilers. For the second night, Jones wanted the fans to be let in.

The fans are let in. Stern but not impassive schoolteacher Kozmo Vinyl organises them in batches. Jones never really knows how to handle them, but he wants the experience.

Jones back in the dressing room, fans move in for the kill. Jones, is, unusually, frowning. He's not pleased with the tv performance. He's not as comfortable as the others with Clash's tendency to lark about. "I think we were a bit like Morecambe and Wise," he mutters, "it's like a comedy. It wasn't right, what we're talking about isn't comedy, it's tragedy, the story is a tragedy. Still by the time they've fucking finished with it..."

All the time Jones is talking to me in the crush of the dressing room he's obliged to sign autographs and put on a brave face through his fretting. "I can refuse, but I feel that I need to explain why I am refusing. In the streets I refuse; it feels like a mutually humiliating experience. This is why now I'm talking to you I'm signing, it takes time to explain to everybody that it's not worth it. In a situation like this it's better to keep signing. I just hope it doesn't do too much harm."

Doesn't he see it as a sign he's achieving something I ask, as another autograph has to be signed

"Not at all. If all we've achieved is someone wanting my autograph then I think we've gone wrong."

Jones seems in an emotional mood, a little pensive, so it is a good time to ask him what he wants to achieve. He looks into the distance, oblivious for the moment to the congratulatory hubble and cry of New York's finest all round him and the people close to looking for a look. The grin has gone.

"What do I want to achieve...I want things to be different here...I want things to be different in England...I want stupid things like people happy...and real music...and an end to all the shit...I just feel to be able to contribute, that's an achievement in itself. Change Little things do change but it takes a bloody lot longer than people think. In a way that's what I mean when I say there's too many smiles, because although I enjoy the playing I don't want people to think I'm all 'Ha ha ha how you doing let's boogie!" y'know, cos that's no challenge for the audience, that's exactly what they're expecting, and then they get what they expect. Well I hope that we're gonna be something that they don't expect."

He emphasises the don't. People around are beginning to listen. I ask him about The Clash clowing.

"I think there's too much. I do want people to have a great time and enjoy themselves, and I think that's what it's all about really, as far as the concert is concerned right, but somehow I don't feel good unless I feel that they've gone away and thought about it or something...the after effect, the after taste is what I'm really after."

A small bearded person nearby has been listening. He speaks: "I think everybody buys your record after the show and they get the text."

Jones isn't satisfied. "I don't want everybody to buy the record just because that's what you do after you've seen a group, although I do want people to have the records, but that like ain't the be all and end all of it, it's like only the start when you've got the records. That's where it starts. You've got to hear it and really listen and then maybe there'll be a change. Maybe that's just my imagination..." Jones is often very self depracating about his passion.

"Maybe there won't be a change. How does it affect you" he asks the small bearded person.

The small bearded person comes on like a university lecturer. "I can say that in Belgium there's a lot of people listening to these records and discussing about it, they're saying this, they're saying that, anti-capitilistic things, discussing starts it and then it goes further and further and it starts to change your life, things other than things like money are important, saying everything's beautiful and I love you...things to change."

Jones pulls a face: "Sounds like George Harrison to me."

"No," retorts the small bearded person, "I'm not an optimist."

"No, I agree with most of the things you say," says Jones, "We're living in the material world! Good old George! I'm going to join a monastry, Paul."

He's alright, I say. He has financed Life Of Brian.

Jones' grin twitches. "George Harrison is a good bloke after all! Hey look!" he lunges away and grabs a boy a couple of yards that he'd been talking to before. "Tell this guy what you were saying before about Bored With The USA and New York"

The boy drawls at me, with as much a garble as possible with such a slow accent. "They were bored with the USA until they came over here and realised that the fans loved them, realised that The Clash are the ones so we figured that you weren't bored with us no more and you wanted to come here, and then you play the song and show that you still are. You've got to keep coming!"

Jones is pleased that he is having a conversation with a fan that seems quite constructive. He's getting information. He continues reliving the previous conversation they'd had. "What about if we started to sound a bit strange to you, playing all acoustic numbers or something, what would you think of that"

"That's ok."

"What about jazz"

"Hang on, you said two things, before you just said acoustic...acoustic work I like 'Groovy Times', that is really special maaano..."

"If we played jazz..."

"Naaah...I think we'd fade away a little."

"But they love us now," Jones smiles. The future takes care of itself.

"Aaaw I really love you now," the fan is a fan again. "It's not like The Ramones, they keep playing the same sound!"

"And we are always different!" triumphs Jones. The grin returns. For now at least.

Paul Morley, 1979