The year of 1977 was a watershed in popular music, when pale-faced, leather-clad punks from New York and London laid rock-n-roll proper to rest. Elvis Presley passed away in August of that year but drew little sympathy from the new guard. In their aptly-named song “1977,” the Clash declared “No Elvis, Beatles or the Rolling Stones,” and Elvis Costello, punk’s answer to Buddy Holly, furtively declared “Elvis is King” on the cover of his debut record.
Twenty-five years later, it’s happening all over again. But this time it’s happening in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, now that the punksters can be induction.
The Hall has long been a rest home for the aging elite – the fogies, the dinosaurs, the oldfangled – a memorial remembering rock’s good old days, a clubhouse where the Paul McCartneys, Neil Youngs and Brian Wilsons can get together and reminisce.
All of that changes with the induction of the Clash next month, when the Hall welcomes a band that’s still relevant, still vital, still cool.
This past November, when Mick Jones joined Joe Strummer (the same Joe Strummer who kicked him out of the Clash in 1983) onstage for the first time in nearly 20 years, a Clash reunion at the Hall of Fame induction ceremony was almost certain. Unfortunately, all hopes of the band reuniting for the induction ceremony were dashed when Strummer died of a heart attack (depressingly unpunk) last December.
The Clash entered a music scene dominated by corporate rock with its self-titled debut, which showed the band at its punkest, full of primal rage and fiery passion that would characterize all of its work. And 1979’s London Calling, the Clash’s magnum opus, combines that same punk charisma with a varied musical style that incorporated reggae, rockabilly, lounge music and R&B.
The band’s second LP, 1978’s Give ‘Em Enough Rope, which fell between The Clash and London Calling remains the band’s oft-overlooked gem. Some felt it was overproduced, others though it strayed too far from punk’s roots. But the truth is, it ranks among punk’s finest achievements.
When it was announced that the Clash would be working with American heavy metal producer Sandy Pearlman, best known for his work with Blue