For a lineup often dismissed as a) not terribly memorable, b) overly loud, or c) too strident for its own good, the Clash Mark II have proven remarkably durable. One indication is the constant preponderance of new anecdotes, live tapes and photos that keep turning up, such as the badge -- created for the miner's strike -- by Eddie King, the artist who created many of the graphics associated with that era, as he confirmed through an email to my co-author, Mark Andersen:
"The badge? Yep...that's one of mine...got my drummer at the time (from Middlesborough) to pose for it....we also made a stencil from it and when it came to the 'Skagill's' [Christmas Party] gigs at Brixton we made multi coloured bunting that was sprayed with that logo then hung throughout the lobby....idea was kind of like 'let's make this a party/carnival/rebellion against Thatcher'....we made it all (yards and yards and yards of it) over a period of a couple of days on the upper floor of the Clash base of operations/headquarters in Camden Stables....can't remember how many spray cans we used - let's just say if there was a hole in the ozone above Camden I'll put my hand up for it."
I'm pleased to note that Mark and myself have just completed our rough draft of We Are The Clash: The Last Stand Of A Band That Mattered, which comes four years after we announced it, via our joint communique. Though, at times, the editorial goalposts have seemingly moved further and further back, we're amply confident that the end result will be worth the wait.
We now move into the editing and postproduction phase, which will carry on through the summer, with the goal of releasing We Are The Clash (via Akashic Books) in 2019. That's 35 years after Joe Strummer, Paul Simonon and Bernard Rhodes sought to remake the band for the fight ahead, against the twin claws of Thatcherism, and its American counterpart, Reaganomics, which works for me.
I find it equally fitting that we completed our work in March, 32 years after the miners' strike ended, without any concessions from the Thatcher regime -- and the unfetted monetarist aggression that it represented. These are the same ides of March, of course, that have seen the U.S. House of Representatives rushing to strip an estimated 24 million of their hard-won benefits through the innocuously-named American Health Care Act.
Time will tell what befalls this legislation, which the U.S. Senate is attempting to remake in its own image, behind closed doors. If nothing else, those who dismiss the Clash Mark II as invalid and insubstantial should recognize its ability to soundtrack the events it decried -- such as the repression of the miners, and the union that advocated for them.
"We could either surrender, or we could stand and fight," Scargill observed, in a 25th anniversary piece for the Guardian newspaper. The need to respond in a seemingly life or death struggle overrode all other issues, such as whether the NUM should call a national benefit before it proceeded -- as Scargill made clear during a special conference on April 19, 1984,to deal with the issue: "We can all make speeches, but at the end of the day we have got to stand up and be counted ... We have got to come out and say not only what we feel should be done, but do it because if we don't do that, then we fail."
This is the landscape that the Clash Mark II's music inhabits, why people respond to it, and why it still matters -- then, and now. That "last stand" against unrestricted capitalism, and all the social ills it represents, is more resonant than ever, because the basic issues don't change throughout history. What matters is how we respond...which is We Are The Clash comes in. Enough said.