Last Thursday, I got the thrill I'd awaited since this summer, when I recorded my contribution. RECUTTING THE CRAP VOL. 2 (Crooked Beat Records) landed, right on my doorstep, plus the bonus LP, THE FUTURE IS UNWRITTEN, which I ended up on. As the cliche goes, it's one thing to see any object on a screen, but a different feeling to hold it in your hand. And what a package it is -- the two photos I've posted only scratch the surface (so to speak: I'll post more images after this weekend).
RECUTTING THE CRAP picks up where last year's VOL. I release left off, with various Washington, D.C. area bands recasting songs from the Clash's final bow, and likely, its most controversial: Cut The Crap (1985), as well as the handful of unreleased tracks that have circulated mainly in tape trading and bootleg circles ("In The Pouring, Pouring Rain," "Jericho," and so on) all these years.
THE FUTURE IS UNWRITTEN, for which I recorded "Beyond The Pale" (Big Audio Dynamite), rounds up the various Joe Strummer-Mick Jones collaborations that they managed after the Clash broke up, including those that made it on record (notably, the second BAD album, No. 10, Upping St.), and those that didn't (such as "Dog In A Satellite," and "US North," which BAD actually played on their spring 1987 tours). I also wrote the liner notes, as well (while my compatriot, Mark Andersen, with whom I co-authored We Are The Clash, did the honors on VOL. I).
Crooked Beat will release both albums on Record Store Day, which is Saturday, April 21. This edition is limited to 1,000 copies, so act fast, if you want a copy, as they tend to go quickly. For more information, see: http://www.crookedbeat.com/.
For "Beyond The Pale," I carried the full instrumental load (bass, acoustic and electric guitars), and sang the song, while my longtime friend, Don Hargraves, did the drum programming, helped me work out the arrangement, and produced the track. We largely recorded it in August 2017, with additional touch-ups and remixing completed in October.
I chose to record this song for one simple reason: its central theme ("Immigration built this nation/You got a bloodclot standing here"), which provoked no less argument at the time of its release (1986) than it does nowadays. Some of Joe's most powerful and provocative lyrics are here, particularly this line: "If I was in your shoes/I'd say Soweto's gonna happen here, too." Not surprisingly, many fans see it as the "great lost Clash song".
More pertinently, I relate to this song on a personal level, since my late parents came from Germany to the USA...though they went three times, before they finally decided to stay here for good, during the 1960s. Like many people in that era, they simply hoped to build a better life -- as the so-called German "economic miracle" was still a long way off -- without clamoring for undue attention from the powers that be.
That attention waxes and wanes, depending on the level of demagoguery attached to it, and whether the haters manipulating it think they can get away with it. I still hold strong memories of the '90s, when the Republican-controlled Congress floated ideas to cut off legal immigrants, as well as their illegal brethren. I'd never seen my father so angry in my life -- it was "intergalactic," as Miles Davis's biographer observed of the late trumpeter's equally explosive outbursts.
Thankfully, that mania passed, but Trump's ascendancy -- and determination to punish all who disagree with him, legal or illegal -- is a warning not to relax too deeply, or risk sliding into banana republic status. Ironically, I might not have ended up in our current political situation, had my father gotten his first wish: Australia. He wanted to go there first, but couldn't get in, due to strict labor quotas in place at the time.
I often think of how differently my life would have turned out, in a country several time zones away...one of many associations that comes to mind when I listen to "Beyond The Pale," or play it live.
Now, all I need is a record player to hear it...and I'll be in business!