Monday, April 14, 2008

Uncle Anacher's Punk Rock Tales: The Clash, Vol. 1

"White Man In Hammersmith Palais" March 8, 1980.*

Those who know me from my parents to my past and present neighbors' dogs are well aware of my decades long Clash obsession. I was always the music guy. The Clash tossed my musical world on its ass.

Back in 1979 I was 15 years old and in a band that was more what I now know as pub rock than punk rock. My band played all originals at real gigs in the city in real clubs. We usually $6-$10 apiece -- enough to cover gas money and a slice of pizza or two on the way home. Already an outsider in high school, this made me a somewhat of any alien. It was just the way I liked it.

That Halloween we played an elaborate costume party in my home town. (I'm saving that story for the movie). I met an outgoing, friendly lass in my grade there who was exactly one month younger than I. Our common bond was music. I was immediately smitten.

She soon lent me the Americanized version of The Clash sans lyric sheet. Dropping the needle on the record I was immediately hooked by the raw, powerful guitars but bewildered by Joe Strummer's heavily accented barking then incoherent to my ears. Fer chrissakes I was already well familiar with, and at least could understand, The Ramones! We frequently covered Road To Ruin's "I Just Wanna Have Something To Do" at band practice.

I listened to The Clash again and again. I started to pick out two or three words in every sentence. What I little I comprehended was radical and compelling -- plus I needed to be able to discuss The Clash with my new friend. (Ha!) By the 10th time through I was completely hooked. My life was forever changed.

It never did nor ever would have worked out between my friend and I. I'm totally cool with that. I'm not the type that pines for any "love lost" that never was. Until we both moved once too many times, we kept in touch for 15 years or so. Still, I'd like to speak with her again if only to remind her I owe her a huge debt of gratitude for an album lent almost 30 years ago.

*Exactly one night before I saw 'em at Boston's Orpheum Theater.