Just when you think it's safe to hang up your amps and microphones for a little while, a different project comes along -- in this case, revisiting the Clash's much-maligned much-maligned swan song, Cut The Crap (1985). In this case, the momentum came from the regulars at If Music Could Talk (IMCT), the major board dedicated to The Only Band That Matters.
One of the most eagerly-awaited occasions on the board is "EET Week," which takes its title from one the odder lines that Joe Strummer utters in "Play To Win," Cut The Crap's strangest, least understood number ("Yeah, and the piranha got EET!"). With that in mind, I figured -- having spent my share of time chronicling this era, and preparing to do so again -- why not contribute myself?
So, on Saturday, I summoned my longtime comprade Don Hargraves to the Chairman's nest. Not having had much time to grapple with the intricacies of recording on Cool Edit Pro 2.0, I figured it was best to let him deal with that issue, so I could get the musical side down. (Technically, we could call these songs "Instant Artifacts #4-7," since they're in keeping with the anything-can-happen, warts 'n' all spirit of that particular series.)
We managed to get three tracks down, starting with the chorus of "Play To Win" itself – which was to be combined with other, similar efforts into one truly wigged-out number. Anyway, in that spirit, Don and I quickly laid down a four-track section, 15 seconds long, with two vocals from each of us.
We then moved on to "North And South," which I've played before, and have always appreciated -- to my mind, it's one of the few places where Crap's everything-and-the-kitchen-sink style actually, dare I say it, works -- and put five tracks down, just me, my guitar and vocals (lead/backup).
However, Don and I decided not to recreate the "kitchen sink" for this version -- I had an image of people singing these lyrics ("And so we say, we ain't diggin' no grave/We diggin' a foundation for the future to be made") out on a campground somewhere, late at night...so that's what we ended up doing.
However, we needed to put a sock over the microphone to eliminate the impact of those plosive "p" and "b" sounds that were spoiling the earlier takes. By the time I did the fifth (and final) vocal take, my mouth was getting like cotton, so I was happy to hear none of those exploding plosives on that one!
For "Movers And Shakers," we decided to go in a totally different direction. We started with a football-style chant of the infamous grammatically-challenged "communique" that Bernie Rhodes, the Clash's manager -- and, it should be added, Cut The Crap's creative overseer -- decided to include on the inner sleeve ("Wise MEN and street kids together make a GREAT TEAM...but can the old system be BEAT??...no...not without your participation...RADICAL social change begins on the STREET!!...so if your looking for some ACTION...CUT THE CRAP and Get Out There").
Why not, we figured, since the song seems to style itself as some kind of Elder Statesman of Punk Rock rallying cry?That's what went on tracks 1-4: for track 5, Don and I decided to play together, as if we were on that legendary '85 busking tour, trying to work out the kinks of this song in downtown Edinburgh, Glasgow, or Yorkshire...which is it's why one take, with all the mistakes deliberately kept intact.
That's why we added, on the spur of the moment,some mock insults for our remaining three tracks. That was the basic concept -- the illusion of a live performance, achieved by playing live together, and adding selected elements on top of it. If we'd had more time, we might have experimented with adding found or ambient sounds...but Don couldn't stay overnight on this occasion, so by 10 p.m., we called it quits, roughly four hours after we got started.
I just need to post the actual URLs for these MP3s on the relevant thread, and that'll wrap up another interesting one-off project. After hearing all the various takes on these songs from my fellow IMCT'ers, such as Heston's "We Aren't The Clash," or '60s-ish take on "Cool Under Heat," or Kory's hiphop rendition of "Are You Ready For War," and thinking to myself, "Given all these possibilities that got unleashed here...
...it's tantatalizing to think about what might have been," especially given the prevailing consensus that Cut The Crap amounts to a bad case, of, well...Clash shitty rockers. As Don observed afterwards, the '80s had arrived, in all their highly buffed and polished glory, "and Bernie was trying to reposition The Clash as elder statesmen, get a more modern sound, with everything and the kitchen sink."
"Whether he got there," I responded, "depends how you define the term ('modern sound'), and whether 'the tyranny of choice' (to use one of Don's favorite terms) is truly a good thing."
But that's half the fun of recording, isn't it? There's always one more (or less) track that you can do, which is why Don and I enjoyed this particular exercise so much. We'll do it again, I'm sure.
FOR THE IMCT DISCUSSION, GO HERE: