When I first saw The Clash poster above I took a screenshot.
I had eyed it up and, while it was awesome, there's no way I could afford it from the quite legitimate eBay seller it was coming from. The price being asked was high, but fair for the rarity.
The second thing I did after seeing that Clash poster was post that screenshot to the r/TheClash sub-reddit. I captioned the title of the post and wrote, "Hey, if you were wondering what to get me - it is my birthday soon." This much was true, but my memory of the Only Band That Matters was off-base.
Initially, I'd neglected the fact that the date of the concert listed so prominently on this poster was 1985.
Not sure how I was 3 full years off in my calendar of events but I'd actually confused this never-played show at The Zenith in France for another humorous Clash in France incident.
The Event Which Occurred
Earlier than 1985 was, yay, you can count, in 1982. You can learn more about Joe Strummer's "disappearing" to France at that link. But, in short - Under the advisement of their recently re-hired, former Manager, Bernie Rhodes, Joe Strummer peaced out to France to hang with his girlfriend and, obviously (at least partially) for publicity.
The band had upcoming shows in Scotland, advance ticket sales weren't great and Bernie hoped to capitalize on an event such as Strummer "vanishing."
Strummer was known to tell varying accounts of this part of Clash history, so reaching certainty on what happened will most likely never occur. However, what's interesting is, as mentioned by Strummer, The Clash singer knew the band had a huge "walk-up" draw. Meaning, fans didn't buy tickets in advance, but rather at the door. And they came out in droves to do so.
Even knowing this, Joe played along with the scheme devised by Rhodes, claiming to have wanted to "F*ck off for a bit at that time anyway" - So that's what he did.
Now, a key thing to note is that to everyone's knowledge at the time, Strummer was laying low in Texas with an American friend and Folk Singer. But while Joe was supposed to be State-side, he bounced to France. He did so for so long that his whereabouts became a concern for even Rhodes and The Clash's inner circle.
During his detour in France, Joe found time to run the Paris Marathon. No joke. All 26 miles. And this wasn't the first time Joe sporadically decided he was going to engage in an Olympic activity on a whim. According to the article linked from Groovy History above, Joe ran as an unnamed participant in 1981 and the following year, 1983.
When asked by interested members of the Press about the regimen he kept to reach this feats of Athleticism, he had this to say -
"Drink 10 pints of beer the night before the race. Ya got that? And don’t run a single step at least four weeks before the race… None at all. And don’t forget the 10 pints of beer the night before. But make sure you put a warning in this article, ‘Do not try this at home.’ I mean, it works for me and Hunter Thompson but it might not work for others. I can only tell you what I do."
That is such a badass statement that all you can do when reading it is say, “Hell yeah!” And then begin to wonder how his body did take that abuse … I mean, I’m 35 and get winded going up and down the stairs for my apartment. I have to seriously ask - How the heck DID HE do that?!?!
Before continuing, it's only proper to stop and give some credit where it's due to the King of Gonzo Journalism. We certainly miss you, Hunter! And Joe alike. But back to the absurdity of this whole thing. .
A longtime friend of Joe's was sent to retrieve him after a Dutch Journalist spotted him in Paris and informed on him.
At this point, Joe had been gone a really long time for an up and coming celebrity approaching the height of his fame. Fans feared the worst, since Joe had missed the release for Combat Rock and many U.K. dates found themselves canceled. The tickets to the Scottish shows Bernie was seeking to pump some publicity into did not sell out. The effort appeared to be for nothing, but there was no time to discuss, as The Clash were already boogying to make it to a show in the Netherlands.
Bernie's plan could not have fired back on him worse. The Band was already at odds in the Studio and Joe bailing didn't help. Drummer Topper Headon's heroin addiction had become quite the thorn in everyone's side very quickly. In addition, Mick and Joe weren't necessarily each other's largest fans following the release of Sandinista!. By the time everyone could once again commiserate, Joe had already made the decision to fire Topper.
The decision to fire Topper was a bit shocking but expected. What was extremely shocking, was that following the Combat Rock tour Strummer had the cajones to fire Jones. If you've read this far you're enough of a Clash fan to know that there's no Clash without the duo of Strummer and Jones. This was big. And not entirely done yet, at least Joe wanted to hope.
Mick went on to form Big Audio Dynamite. Topper continued the junkie lifestyle. One day he heard "Rock the Casbah" on the radio and began to reflect on his screw ups. If you are unaware, what is arguably The Clash's largest commercial success was written and recorded, nearly in its entirety by Topper. Joe handled lyrics and vocals, but the core of the song, the music, was Topper’s creation.
Bored one day waiting on his bandmates while in the studio, the drummer began fooling around with a song. The Band managed to be so late that Topper had found enough time to record the whole damn song. Only minor overdubs were added to Topper's recording.
Fast forward to Topper hearing his song on the radio as he's living on the streets again. Topper is left baffled by the occurrence but without much recourse. He fell into a full on downward spiral following his exit from The Clash.
Topper continued his junkie lifestyle as Mick Jones formed Big Audio Dynamite. Mick attempted to bring Topper on board, placing him in rehab and trying to get him clean. Topper and Mick's endeavor did not pan out due to Headon's addiction troubles. Mick sent him off with $200,000 and Topper was in junkie heaven, going broke in 18 months.
Joe Strummer passed in 2002, aged 50, due to an unknown congenital heart condition. The news of Joe's passing finally flipped toppers switch. He began taking recovery seriously and was able to kick the junk finally in 2003.
But back to the poster!
The Clash did give a go at recording a Mick-Jones-Less album in 1985 with their sixth and final LP, "Cut the Crap."
The Tour Behind The Release Was Ill-Fated
If I was to put it lightly. The Clash broke up way ahead of the scheduled date at France’s LeZenith venue but not with enough time to prevent the printing of promotional material like the lovely tour poster now adorning an entire wall in my home studio. A million thank you’s to my wife for the present, professional frame AND hanging job. *Five million digital high fives*.
But Why Did I Pester Her About It In The First Place?
This poster was important to grab right now because it is literal rock history. Albeit a bittersweet tale to align with memorabilia, we see our proverbial hero looking cool as hell with 'walking off into the sunset' vibes from the orange tint of the poster as things are falling apart around him. The image embodies stamina in art, with Joe ultimately forming the Mescaleros, Mick's creation of Big Audio Dynamite and Paul Simmonon still recording with at least one band I can think of off the top of my head.
The idiom of The Clash being 'the only band that mattered' - ? It STILL holds true to this day. I won't say all, but most of The Clash albums can still make you imagine someone with a leather jacket and a mohawk ringing your doorbell as they prepare to kick the shit out of you. The Clash also modeled perseverance hand in hand with politeness (sort of) in an era where they could have spit on their fans and been loved all the same.
Thanks for giving this a read! I could have continued on but figured it was time to wrap up. Keep your eyes peeled for more weird discussions on music and pop culture as I develop the channel. If you liked this story, I’d recommend Googling the Clash’s Busking Tour. The events shortly following those discussed here and are a hell of a story all in their own. Stay awesome!