BEST n141, April 80

HEAVYWEIGHT - An interview with Mick Jones. Best Magazine on the Road with the Clash

Birmingham Top Rank, Coventry Tiffanys (home of the new ska scene) and the Electric Ballroom, London.

So it was just fabulous. More than the Clash we had some crusty bonuses that justify my job 'cause I'm telling you. 

In Coventry they'd gave us the 'Keys To Your Heart' that was previously written by Strummer for the 101ers but also the 'Train In Vain', forgotten on the French issue of  'London Calling' and 'Capital Radio' and all the rest; I'd could buy my ticket twice the price just to see Strummer moving on 'Jimmy Jazz', which is the favourite of the English public, or to assist at the over powerful and absolutely devastating rendition of 'Police & Thieves' just followed by 'Janie Jones' and 'Complete Control' for a totally leached public since the dump of 'Wrong  Em Boyo' 10mns earlier. 

As you maybe already knows, Joe Ely (Country& Western mixed with Texan Rock) was doing the opening act and in London they came back for an amazing 'Johnny be Goode', just followed by this huge reggae, 'Armagideon Time' from Willie Williams (Travellers, don't miss the maxi 12 inches that Rough Trade is giving you for 2 pounds: 'Rocking Universally' on the same  'Armagideon Time' base)& on which one the Jamaican 'toaster' genius Mickey Dread, improvised some mind blowing dub lyrics for the occasion. 

He was also doing his number, between Joe Ely and The Clash, 'toasting' miss the maxi 12 inches that Rough Trade is giving you for 2 pounds: 'Rocking Universally' on the same  'Armagideon Time'  which one the Jamaican 'toaster' genius Mickey Dread, improvised some mind blowing dub lyrics for the occasion. He was also doing his number, between Joe Ely and The Clash, 'toasting'.

16 Tons Tour

'16 Tons on the Road' is the name of the major tour Bruno Blum just got the chance to joint.  But for him, as for many, the weight of the band in today's rock' n' roll is far heavier. All categories champ, yes, master of swing, low blow enemies who just knocked us out with a historically double L.P and number one show. He's talking about it with Mick Jones, original founder of this providential winner.

We'd already told it before, the Clash don't give a fuck about all the 'you betrayed, you don't deserve to continue,  you're not punk anymore, you'd even write a love song, do you really understand, we were all counting on you' and that kind of stuff because its all came from the same posh, close minded minority clique populating the over hype zone of London or Paris. That kind of persons doesn't show them so much and if I' m talking about them it's because it gives me à super introduction, just in the right tone, right on the subject: the Clash. I'm also telling you that nasty things because, I'd got the privilege to follow the band on tour and to assist to 3 - according with the group himself- of the top best gigs of the '16 tons On The Road' 1980 tour and it's one of that thing that's let you speechless& Birmingham Top Rank, Coventry (home of the new ska scene) and the Electric Ballroom of London were magnificent places of top shock concerts and which left me the wonderful impression that I'd been witness of some piece of history. History that I'd consumes, lived, at the right place at the right time where the event happens and as you know me, I'm not the kind of guy able to bullshitting you if he hasn't have serious over-average burst of adrenaline.

'Revolution rock, it is a brand new rock 

A bad, b' on pre-recorded dub tracks from his last album. During this roots interlude, we could see 3 or 4 masked dudes, wearing shades and 'pork pie hat' dancing on stage with an obvious great fun. Under the sputum rain, that didn't hit Mickey, we could recognized, Mickey 'Glasses' Green, all time road manager, Baker Glare, personal roadie of the band and Robin ' Eudeline' Banks, childhood friend of Mick Jones for who he'd write 'Stay Free'. 

The party continued with the Clash begining as usual with a 'Clash City Rockers' that each chords hit my stomach and made my hairs straights up on my head. All at the same time, and without the hands. Last but not least: added to Mickey Dread, who does the Lion each evenings on 'Armagideon Time' (B Side of the 7'' by the way), we could also see Ranking Roger, toaster-singer of the English Beat (see 'In The City' last month article) jamming on the same tune for the 'Let's Play With The Local Musicians Operation', that offered us during the tour, Ian Dury and Pete Townsend (which a solo album is coming soon) as special-special guests. 

Not counting with the particular addition of Mickey Gallagher, keyboard with the Ian Dury's Blockheads, whose doing that tour and probably the next one. Can you figure this? If no, no doubt you'd miss 'Chorus'.

The Guns Of Brixton

By the time I'd could came back with my portable recorder Monty Clift had disappear. I'd turn mad and rush backstage into the toilets door  in Coventry and find Mick Jones, one of the two singer-composer-guitarists of the Clash. The place wasn't the most pleasant choice to make but we decided, because of its quiet and far situation, to use it as the background of this interview and start chatting.

And now few detail about the man: Mick Jones, founder member of the Clash, began his musical career in 1975 with the London SS. Mick Jones is playing a Gibson Les Paul Pro and sometimes an adorable dark brown Gibson Junior. Of all the 4 members of the band, he's the most tormented, the less self-confident, and the most trapped into the contradictions surrounding the Clash. He now have the obligation to conciliate his star statue with the engaged side of the band, that makes a good part of the band strength; Mick is always uncertain and with Strummer, the living legend, he's always able to keep an incredibly distance and a lucidity just barely obstructed by the huge clouds of ganja that are certainly take a good part in his music approach. 

With his absolutely unique feeling, his guitar playing his very melodic, very simple, efficient and devoid of any attempt of technical feat despite en already respectable musical past. Mick does his thing day by day and he's completely invested into the rock monument he's helping to build: the Clash. This is his only thing left, but being him, will you really complain?

Mick Jones: After this English tour which passes by Paris where we do 'Chorus', we'll do a 10 dates tour in the US and right after that, I'll go to bed and do nothing for quiet a long time.

Bruno Blum: Not even some rehearsals with the band?

Mick Jones: No, I don't think so, because Paul (Simonon, blond hair, bass player) will stay in the US to play in a movie that'll be called  'All Washed Up'.

Bruno Blum:I don't know him so much. In fact, I don't think so much people know him really well.

Mick Jones: that's your opinion. (Long pause)& I think Paul will be& . A  huge star in this decade.

Bruno Blum: Did he do his 50's haircut for the Movie?

Mick Jones: I don't know& . I think he just want to get rid of this bad habit we took in the USA! I also need to cut my hair. & But otherwise Paul& . I think he's my big mate. My big friend& . During the shooting he's always in the band but I think after this movie people will look at the Clash with a brand new eye. Now he does a lot of thing and I'm really glad he starts to write such great songs& . And he's becoming a great bass player and I'm really touched by this.

Bruno Blum: You don't record the bass parts?

Mick Jones: No, Paul plays its& . I know you saw me play the bass in studio (during the recording of 'The Cost Of Living' EP) but it doesn't mean anything. Let's say we're helping us mutually and equally. We both show stuff to us. We work together. He's becoming really good. He finds really amazing reggae bass lines for example witch it's really exceptional for a white guy and for witch I I didn't had nothing to say.

(We just remind to the public the obvious parallel between Paul and James Dean and we wait until 'All Washed Up' comes out to see if I'm wrong)

Bruno Blum: You write a lot of music.

Mick Jones: And lyrics too. But I'll don't tell you which ones.

Bruno Blum: I'll have to guess.

Mick Jones: sometimes it's obvious.

Bruno Blum: Obvious for you!

Mick Jones: The point is I write a particular kind of song that I often sing all alone.

Bruno Blum: Is 'Lost In The Supermarket' one of yours?

Mick Jones: No, it's as mine as Joe.


Bruno Blum: It seems that, like most of the band, you didn't realize your potential in France?

Mick Jones: Yes, you're right. The last time we played in Paris, at the Stadium, we planned to organize a tour with Marc Zermati, which I like a lot. We talk about that seriously, we wanted to rent a train, shoot a movie and everything, but Marc Zermati has been arrested and went to jail and the tour just fall apart. We'd also have a lot of troubles with our manager, Bernie Rhodes with who we aren't anymore.

Bruno Blum: It was when 'Clash City Rockers' came out?

Mick Jones: That was the problem. The song has been lightly accelerated by Mickey Foote, that why we don't work with him anymore, because that kind of decisions wasn't a part of his attributions. It was really hard and difficult to get rid of Bernie Rhodes because of the contract we  d got with him but it was a good choice. I need to say that 'Clash City Rockers' is on its right speed on the American issue of the first album (witch is quiet different to the European one: gems like 'Protex Blue' being removed and replaced by the singles of the band) and this is the only difference with the original versions. No remixing was done on the others song.

Bruno Blum: How did you meet Chrissie Hyde?

Mick Jones: When she arrived from Paris with Sacha, the Lou's drummer. He was still with the Fenchies and she just played with Dr Feelgood, I think.

Bruno Blum: Flammin' Groovies at the Olympia, maybe.

Mick Jones: Yes, that's it. That's Bernie and Malcolm Mac Laren who brought the girls back. There were Tony James (now bassist and lyricist of Generation X), Brian James (composer and guitarist on the first 2 LP of the Damned) and me the first time I'd met her. It's been a long time already& I knew her better after that and we became quiet friends. We tried to build up band; we were singing duos in my bedroom& .

Bruno Blum: What kind?

Mick Jones: 'I don't want youuuuu, but I need youuuuuu' by the Beatles-no, Smokey Robinson and also 'Have you heard of mmh-mmh, Every time I die, Every time I wonder why you treat me sooooo-mmmh, Oh, I can't let you gooooo, Bo-domm!' The Spencer Davis Group did a cover too&

Bruno Blum: When did you hear 'Police & Thieves' for the first time?

Mick Jones: I don't know anymore& . Before the recording our first album! (Accomplices drunk laugh)& . In 1976, just when it came out& it was in London, probably Camden Town, where we were all the time (the Bernie Rhodes' rehearsal studio is located behind the Dingwall's)

Bruno Blum: You were living there?

Mick Jones: No. Paul yes. Me, I was living in my Grandmother's flat& I was sleeping on the floor& . that's also there that I live right now because I'd been kicked out from my flat in Pembridge Place where I was living with Tony James.J'm living nowhere. All my stuff is locked in a garage& and Joe move alternatively from small hotels to squat& . it's absolutely true.

Bruno Blum: Could we find reggae covers before you did 'police & Thieves'?

Mick Jones: No& there were a lot of originals hits like 'Fatty Bum Bum' mais that's all&

Bruno Blum: Do Mickey Dread will produce your next album?

Mick Jones: I don't know& . What I can say, it's he already done the next single& . it's called 'Bank robber'

Bruno Blum: Is it definitive?

Mick Jones: No, nothing is definitive! (In that particular case it's because the record label is making difficulties because they want extract the next single from the album).

Bruno Blum: and the B Side?

Mick Jones: it's difficult to say& it'll probably be a dub version of 'Bank robber' with Mickey Dread toasting. 'Bank robber' is quiet slow. It's reggae, but not in the way you're been bring to expect. This is not 'crash-crash-crash', it's oscillating quietly, I could say.

Bruno Blum: You should probably have some others songs left from the 'London Calling' sessions?

Mick Jones: No, not really. Some quiet raunchy cover of 'Louie Louie' and that thing& with a trumpet, a kind of 'Billy The Kid' where Joe plays piano as a mad man on some Bob Dylan's chords! It's a mix between all kind of stuff from Bob Dylan& do you know the 'Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid'album? It's a sort of but reduce to one song. This 'Pat Garrett' album is a record that really turns me on& do you know that on this record all the songs are the same, he just says its in different ways, all the time.

Bruno Blum: did you see him on the 78 tour?

Mick Jones: Yes, but can't see nothing from the Z-Z rank where I was&

Bruno Blum: in how many times did you record 'London Calling'?

Mick Jones: In one month finally and in London.

Bruno Blum: Some says that you said that  London Calling' is your 'Exile on Main Street'?

Mick Jones: No, I'd never said that& I don't feel it looks like 'Exile' at all& . I listen to it sometimes and I think& it's a good record. But ours is not like that. They just have 2 things in common: they are double and with black and white sleeve.

Bruno Blum: What did the Clash acquire by going to the USA?

Mick Jones: I don' t really know& . But the real question could be 'what do the USA did acquire by seeing the Clash?'. They'd retire more thing that me.

In the way we brought them parallel culture, different of theirs. That's what we're doing. It's like giving a good book to someone.

Bruno Blum: Do people change over there?

Mick Jones: I think it  ll be the completely horrible if they'd bring back the obligatory military service. Specially because, I do believe and I hope people willn  t hear the call-up and they'll do anti-conscriptions movement, I can still see us playing supporting concerts. I really know the problem because us, we'd never been trapped by army. Never, man& this& this is not my Style.

Bruno Blum: What can you answer to those who say that America changed the Clash and that now, the production of your albums are, thank for American radios? What do you think about that?

Mick Jones: I think about that& . But I don't care so much. What I think is, right, 'London Calling' is what we do, it is as we recorded it, this is the music we play, the way play it& we had a good time doing it. We were recording nearly live in the studio, you know, this record shows exactly what we are now, exactly in the same way the first album did and the second one too. You understand? This record, it's us, today. In fact, it's true; yes the radio plays it in America. And yes, maybe by chance we'll have a big hit over there and yes, we'll accept it, and yes, we'll doing everything we can to make it works. Yes, we'll do everything and so what? For them, it's better than us than others.

Bruno Blum: Do you listen to American song right now?

Mick Jones: Yeah! The Roller Skaters and Chic! I love Chic!

Bruno Blum: Wrong 'Em Boyo- 

Mick Jones: this is a song where we put us un a moralistic position, just for fun you see.

Bruno Blum: When I told you yesterday that it was the song I'd chose for a single if I' have to extract one from the album and you told me you don't want because it's quiet ska and the ska is too hype by now. But, isn't it falling in the inverse trap? This is a great tune and that's all.

Mick Jones: You right& . Maybe the problem is I'm not enough self-confident& and prefer others songs too.

Bruno Blum: I also love 'The Right Profile'

Mick Jones: Yes but I will not chose it for a single. What do you think of 'Train In Vain' (The song that CBS didn't put on the French issue of 'London Calling '& )? This is the one who works the best in the US. Look! This is what the American win with us.


Bruno Blum: Are you aware that it is not on the French issue?

Kosmo Vinyl Vinyl :(real cool bloke by state and also council-manager for the band after spending some time with Ian Dury.)& No way!!!!!& . You're kidding?

Bruno Blum: No, not at all. So people plan to buy the album later or buy the import for double price.

(Kosmo Vinyl and Mick look at each others, devastated)

Mick Jones: You know, Bruno is blaming us a lot& . And I start to understand how far we'd move away from France& not until we don' t play here anymore but 'Train In Vain' is even not on the LP& .pffff& &

Kosmo Vinyl: What you say to us is extremely annoying& but it doesn't' t surprised me so much& . Everybody could tell you that French Music Labels are made of the most beautiful bunch of scumbags that ever walk the earth& . The concerts producers are the worst, etc&

Mick Jones: The relationship with CBS-which Kosmo Vinyl is in charge-are perpetual compromises. They'd come to see us the other day, if we knew about this we'd could tell them to put the song on the record cause if not, we don't play France! So they don' t put the song on the record and we don't play in France! That's the way it always is and it's exhausting; we're losing on both sides! Neither song nor us!

Bruno Blum: Tell them to add a free 7'' with the LP.

Mick Jones: No! They've got to put the song on the LP.

Bruno Blum: So, a regular 7'' for sale?

Mick Jones: No, this is for the US, the radios plays the song& .

Kosmo Vinyl: Sure! 114 of the 160 most important radios play the track& its number 60,62 and 80 in the charts.

Mick Jones: The main problem is, if you want to be able to stand all that kind of stuff, you've got to be hyper responsible all the time , you can't be too stoned and you need to be able to keep some distance with the business& .

Bruno Blum: Jimmy Jazz

Mick Jones: That's strange& . Because when the track was conceived I was all-alone in the studio in Pimlico, playing an recording some guitar stuff, kind of demo, with Baker recording on a 4tracks. I was playing chords that look like the song as it is now. You know I& . I've got some paranoiac tendencies generally, specially when weird stuff happens, I don't know if you ever notice, and so, anyway, my nose was stuck to the neck of my guitar and when I'd look up, like that and there was policemen all over the room& . They were just standing there& . Usually when I tell that kind of story, I ve got to add that they'd found us busy doing well& bad things, I mean when, it happens you feel automatically guilty, when a cop came in you feel instantly paranoid even if you're completely innocent& but that time, they were just there& . Police just came in& . if you want, we did the parallel between them and mafia in the song.

Bruno Blum: What is 'Satta Massagana for Jimmy Dread'? ('Satta Massagana' is the title of one super hit from the Abyssinians-reggae-and I can't really make the connection. On the other hand, the lyrics were written by Strummer who sees things by a certain visionary angle)  

Mick Jones: If you re-read 'Satta Massagana', you can notice that ou can also pronounce it 'Sat On My Cigar' you know. Imagine a big chief of the Mafia, sitting in his huge armchair, hairdresser style, and who suddenly learn that Jimmy Jazz is just arrived in town and he's playing by his own rules and one of his 'godfather' stands up, furious (He stands up and start miming the scene, getting more and more excited), and lets his cigar drop because of excitement. He sits back on it and burn his butts, and, even more furious, he yells to his men to leave right now and to go get Jimmy Jazz (He starts to jump in the air) and to bring his head back.

Bruno Blum: Who is the 'Stagger Lee' from 'Wrong  Em Boyo ?'

Mick Jones: Probably the same as Jimmy Jazz? But with a different approach& 'Wrong  Em Boyo' is more a Moral Count, it's us saying it's bad doing this or that. Clash preaches again& .

Bruno Blum: and do you preaching a lot like this?

Mick Jones: No, for us is more than a testify or a refusal to testify& .

Bruno Blum: Did you ever ever hear bootlegs recording of the Clash?

Mick Jones: Yes, the Manchester's one and the sound is bloody awrfull. That's the only one I know.

Bruno Blum:  You're not like Patti Smith who loves bootlegs and push people to do its?

Mick Jones: No, we'd never help anybody for that. You know, everybody's aware that Bernie Rhodes got full boxes of the 'Capital Radio' 45T.One day, we'll go to his house to takes its back& . And that day, I'll be there.

Bruno Blum: Do you have good relationship with him since he's not your manager anymore? With the help of some nostalgia&

Mick Jones: Yes, it's nearly a long time by now. But, I'm pretty upsetted because my present directly depends for his errors from the past, especially because of the enormous debt that has accumulated with him.

Bruno Blum: By doing what?

Mick Jones: I don't know! Simply by having real assholes behaviour, I guess& . By renting massive car floats for our poached weekends by the sea!!! You know, that kind of things.

Because, we'd also been in Jamaica.

Bruno Blum: And do Kosmo Vinyl let you do that kind of caprices?

Mick Jones: No! And we're less fanciful too. We're quieter. The only trouble we'd got on that tour is a cop coming to our hotel because we were goofing around. But generally, the band is not involved in those troubles. Me, I'm very calm (he smiles).

Bruno Blum: Mick, with who do you really want to play? This is a good question. Take your time and think

Mick Jones: (long silence) That's what I do& mmh& Occasions when I'd see a band with who I can play I really rare& . Frankly, I think I'm in the band I really want to be and I wouldn't be in absolutely any others ones& I'm really pleased to be in the Clash& that said, I'd really want to play with Ian Dury and I did it& . I think it's the best English band&

Bruno Blum: and Jam?

Mick Jones: Yes, as an English author, Paul Weller is really good. I can say, I respect him he same way I respect Ray Davies or someone like this if you want. And he's ridiculously young& how old is he& . Nineteen, twenty years old& . And he has already done his third LP!!!!

(A girl, comes in)

The Girl: Hello!

Mick Jones: I'll see you after the show. Just, take care of you.

The Girl: Ok!

(Then, at me)

Mick Jones: She's a runaway& she's a bit lost& . She left her house so her parents called the cops and they're looking for her everywhere.

Bruno Blum: Is she ok?

Mick Jones: Yes.

Bruno Blum: How old is she?

Mick Jones: She's major and old enough to take care of her but the cops still look for her anyway& . She freaks out& connerie.

Bruno Blum: Are you speaking French?

Mick Jones: No, but I can read it quiet well. And on that subject, you must tell to the readers that we don't say 'LES Clash' but 'LE Clash'. I'd noticed that in the French press; Plural of Clash should be Clashes.

Bruno Blum: So & .you read my papers!?!

Mick Jones: Yeah. It takes me quiet a long time and I often misunderstand. But I can understand the general sense. As most of the people I act instinctively. If, I read something that's seems interesting I gave it to have a correct translation. I've got instinct to see the good parts.

Bruno Blum: So, tell me, just between you and me, since the time I know you do you believe I'm accepted here, in the entourage and by the band also?

Mick Jones: No.

Bruno Blum: Why???

Mick Jones: (he deeply thinks for a long time)& . You are tolerated& .

Bruno Blum: But why???

Mick Jones: Because you are& . French, I think.

Bruno Blum ( Re-translated by Copas)

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