Or: 'How I lost my long playing virginity to a Clash 12 inch...'
It was thirty-four years ago today... Well, in fact it was thirty-four years and eleven days ago today: rewind to
April 8th 1977 and the Clash’s eponymous first album arrived in our record shop racks. A perfect platter. Even the sleeve alone is iconic.
I’ve liked, been, drawn, worn, said and done lots of things in my life that are truly embarrassing - but buying my first album isn’t one of them! I bought ‘The Clash’, and I’m proud! I was still at school and had to save my pocket money for months before I could pool together the £2.99 (or thereabouts) required to enter the new and rather adult world of LP ownership. Up to then I’d bought a few 7” singles (which could definitely be included in the ‘embarrassing things’ list - well, I was barely in my teens) but there was something about purchasing an album that was in a totally different league. It meant you were serious. You liked a band enough to want to hear perhaps ten or more songs by them in succession, numbers that wouldn’t get played on the radio, tracks that you might not even like on the first listen, but you were prepared to make that commitment. I went into the local record shop, Startime, and asked to listen to ‘The Clash’ on the headphones. Within the first few seconds, as ‘Janie Jones’ burst into life and blasted into my ears, I knew I had to have it. (Share that memory with me here.) As my friends and I walked home from town, I took it out of the carrier bag and tucked it under my arm so that everybody could see what I had just done. You know what it’s like when you’re young and daft and actually believe that the man/woman in the street might be impressed or (preferably) outraged by the music you're into, a bit like winding your car windows down at traffic lights and turning up the volume on your CD player so the world can share your sonic choices… It was like a rite of passage.
At that time here in the
punk was emerging from the underground and making controversial headlines, and when I started getting interested in it my parents may have been worrying that their shy little daughter might go off the rails. “Don’t worry, mum, I just like the music, I don’t want to look like that…” But secretly I was harbouring the desire to; and, not long after, I bought a red studded dog collar from the pet shop. I didn’t realise I had the same neck measurements as a bull mastiff but there you go. I hid it in a drawer and when I went out I used to wait ‘til I was around the corner from home to put it on. As is the way in life, one thing often leads to another and by the following year I was customising clothes, had my long hair cut short and was open about my obsession with this new music and its many dimensions. One day at school I was obviously showing my boredom with Pythagoras’ Theorem and was stirred from my daydreams of meeting Paul Simonon by my maths teacher shouting, “Would the punk rocker please pay attention?” It was the best compliment the old bat could have paid me. But it all started with the Clash. UK
Since those early days I’ve been into so many songs, so many groups, so many albums, but there is something about this band, and their debut in particular, that stands that difficult test of time, and, oh, I love them for it.