The Clash and the Angry Left, Circa 1977

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I’ve been getting into The Clash lately.

Okay, okay: this probably isn’t the appropriate season for the music of an angry Socialist punk band (it ain’t Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” album), but I couldn’t help it. I got pulled in last week by this Spotify podcast, Stay Free: The Story of The Clash.

It’s really good. I think it’s “overproduced,” in the sense that it tries a little too hard to be jumpy and punchy, making it a bit too disjointed. Each episode so far has started in medias res, then it jumps back, then returns to the middle, then back, then to the middle. I find it a bit disorientating, wholly unnecessary, and mildly disrespectful of the listener’s time.

However, it is really good so far (I’m 3/8ths of the way through).

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The brief sidelight about drummer Terry Chimes (Episode 3; 15:00-20:00) is instructive.

Chimes was a butt of jokes because he wasn’t political. He was in the band to make money. That didn’t sit well with the rest of the band members, who let him know it. He finally quit shortly before the first album came out. (In retaliation, the band named him “Tory Crimes” on the credits.)

Years later, Chimes was interviewed and said, though he didn’t realize it at the time, everyone in the band was angry about life in general, which is why they were leftwing radicals:

Every one of those people, no exceptions, came from a broken home. I came from a happy home. When [the manager] would say, “The world’s horrible, it’s out to get you, you have to fight for every single thing,” they’d go “yeah.” I’d say, “I don’t think it’s like that at all. I think it’s, you know, quite happy in the world.” So that’s where we fundamentally, at a very deep level, completely disagreed over everything. They were angry at the world all the time. I was a fish out of water.

It’s a leftist theme.

A person is unhappy with his existence and angry, but instead of locating the source of unhappiness within himself, he locates it in the world. He then sets out to change the world in order to eliminate his unhappiness and because he is angry, he sets out to change it with violence: either riotous anarchy or by taking the reigns of government and forcing others to comply.