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The Only Band That Matters Tear Up The Lewisham Odeon in February 1980

Filmed on February 18th, 1980 in south London, this clip shows the Clash in peak form. “London Calling”, their genre busting double album had cracked the British top ten. Their previous release “Give 'Em Enough Rope” had prompted rock laureate Greil Marcus to gush, “The Clash are now so good they will be changing the face of rock & roll simply by addressing themselves to the form…” And within weeks of this show, front men Joe Strummer and Mick Jones would grace the cover of the Rolling Stone – an eye opening development for a magazine still embarrassingly fixated on the soft rock scene of the early 70’s.

CBS records had dispatched a film crew and a mobile sound unit to the Lewisham Odeon in South London to film the show for a future promo for “Train in Vain”, the album’s designated single. The show was opened by two acts with strong ties to the Clash: Texas-born roots rocker Joe Ely and dub-reggae innovator Mikey Dread.

The key to this performance, (and The Clash’s best work), is Topper Headon. A drummer of incredible precision and strength, Headon had learned his trade playing alongside jazz and R&B records of the 50’s and 60’s as well as backing touring bands that could offer top coin.

Joining the Clash in 1978 he played a significant role in broadening their sound, allowing them to convincingly embrace reggae, funk and rockabilly. More importantly, he brought imagination to Jones and Strummer’s songs so that the musical arrangement had a drama and power that matched the music and lyrics.

The distinctive militaristic snare drum crack of “Tommy Gun” from “Give Em Enough Rope” serves as a blueprint for this new style. The song opens with a no frills drum roll that cues guitars mixed so loud that they sound like canons. The effect is repeated over and over again, (with minor variations on the same theme) until it builds to a drop dead stop. It’s more than a bit ham-fisted but remarkably effective.

On “Clampdown” the band have the histrionics down to a fine art. Rather than opening with a blast of the canons, Strummer, Jones and Simonon play a descending chord structure while Headon aggressively rides the closed hi-hat cymbal. It’s got tons of energy, (just watch the sea of heads bobbing in the front rows) but the band lets the tension build for a minute before the snare drum rolls out a rhythmic echo of the songs enigmatic opening line, “What are we going to do now?” At that point the song switches over to pure rock 4/4 time. Mick Jones waits out the beat, swaying from side before raising his hand to head pledging mock salute, “1-2-3-4”. THEN they roll out the guitar thunder. “Taking off his turban, they said, is this man a Jew?” The performance shows a band brimming with confidence.

No additional information is available at this time.
Retrieved from Wikipedia:
Clampdown on Wikipedia
Single by The Clash
from the album London Calling
B-side"The Guns of Brixton"
Released14 December 1979
Format7" single
RecordedAugust-September 1979, November 1979 at Wessex Studios
GenrePunk rock
Writer(s)Joe Strummer and Mick Jones
ProducerGuy Stevens
The Clash singles chronology

"Clampdown" is a single and a song by The Clash from their album London Calling. The song began as an instrumental track called "Working and Waiting".[1] It is sometimes called "Working for the Clampdown" which is the main lyric of the song, and also the title provided on the album's lyric sheet. Its lyrics comment on people who forsake the idealism of youth and urges young people to fight the status quo.[2]

Writing and recording

"Clampdown" was written by Joe Strummer and Mick Jones.

The song's lyrics, written by Joe Strummer, refers to the failures of capitalist society.[3][4] The wearing of the "blue and brown" refers to the color of the uniforms that are mostly worn by workers. This idea goes along with lyrics that refer to "young believers" who are brought and bought into the capital system by those "working for the clampdown" who will "teach with twisted speech." Strummer wrote,

The men in the factory are old and cunning
You don't owe nothing, so boy get running!
It's the best years of your life they want to steal!
You grow up and you calm down and you're working for the clampdown.
You start wearing the blue and brown and you're working for the clampdown.
So you got someone to boss around. It makes you feel big now...

These lyrics are seen to refer to how one gets caught by the capital economic system and its ethos of work, debt, power, position and conformist lifestyle.[5] Strummer, who was a proud and loud socialist, also uses the song's closing refrain to highlight this mindset and potential trap and offers a warning not to give oneself over to "the clampdown". He does this by repeating as the song fades out the word "work" five times and "more work" twice. This reaffirms the idea that Strummer saw "the clampdown" as a threat to all who get caught up in the modern economic wage-hour system. Bass player and Clash co-founder Paul Simonon, in an interview with the LA Times, spoke about the opportunities available to him after he finished his education,

What was worse was that when it got time for us to start leaving school, they took us out on trips to give us an idea of what jobs were available. But they didn't try to introduce us to anything exciting or meaningful. They took us to the power station and the Navy yards. It was like saying, 'This is all you guys could ever do.' Some of the kids fell for it. When we got taken down to the Navy yards, we went on a ship and got cooked up dinner and it was all chips and beans. It was really great. So some of the kids joined up - because the food was better than they ate at home.

—Paul Simonon , [6]

Strummer, like Simonon, spent time on the dole, but Strummer did not come from a lower-class family. In the same interview with the LA Times Strummer said,

You see, I'm not like Paul or the others, I had a chance to be a 'good, normal person' with a nice car and a house in the suburbs - the golden apple or whatever you call it. But I saw through it. I saw it was an empty life.

—Joe Strummer , [6]

Strummer's father was a diplomat in the British Field Service, and Joe was sent away to boarding school where he detested "the thick rich people’s thick rich kids". Strummer said,

I only saw my father once a year (after being sent to boarding school,) he was a real disciplinarian, who was always giving me speeches about how he had pulled himself up by the sweat of his brow: a real guts and determination man. What he was really saying to me was, 'If you play by the rules, you can end up like me'. And I saw right away I didn't want to end up like him. Once I got out on my own, I realized I was right. I saw how the rules worked and I didn't like them.

—Joe Strummer , [6]

Later verses suggest an alternative in revolution, a theme common throughout Joe Strummer's songwriting. This point of view also points to the lyric "You start wearing the blue and brown" as supporting their cause. The barely audible lyrics at the beginning of the song were deciphered by Clash fan Ade Marks, and first published in Q magazine's Clash special:

The kingdom is ransacked, the jewels all taken back
And the chopper descends
They're hidden in the back, with a message on a half-baked tape
With the spool going round, saying I'm back here in this place
And I could cry
And there's smoke you could click on
What are we going to do now?

Cover versions

"Clampdown" was later covered by Rage Against the Machine at their first live show in 1991, as well as their more recent show in Antwerp, Belgium on 2 June 2008. It was also was covered by Indigo Girls and can be heard on Rarities (2005) as well as the Clash tribute album Burning London: The Clash Tribute (1999). The song was also covered by The Strokes (at their Oxegen and T in the Park appearances in July 2004), Poster Children on their 2004 release, On the Offensive, and James Dean Bradfield (of the Manic Street Preachers) on his solo tour in October 2006. Another band that covered this song was Hot Water Music, on their B sides and rarities compilation album called "Till the Wheels Fall Off". The song was also covered by The National on the album "A Tribute to The Clash," and by Inward Eye, which they released through a video on their YouTube channel.

Popular reference

The song was also used in the US television show Malcolm in the Middle during an episode where Malcolm and some misfits organise an anti-prom called "Morp". It was also used in a episode of Futurama.


The following people contributed to "Clampdown":[7]


  1. ^ Sweeting, Adam (October 2004). "Death or Glory". Uncut: 67. 
  2. ^ Guarisco, Donald A.. "Clampdown Review". Allmusic. Retrieved 2008-03-13. 
  3. ^ D'Ambrosio, Antonino (June 2003). "'Let fury have the hour': the passionate politics of Joe Strummer (Page 4)". Monthly Review. CNET Networks. Retrieved 2008-03-13. [dead link]
  4. ^ D'Ambrosio, Antonino (June 2003). "'Let fury have the hour': the passionate politics of Joe Strummer (Page 5)". Monthly Review. CNET Networks. Retrieved 2008-03-13. [dead link]
  5. ^ Dimery, Robert (1999). Collins Gem Classic Albums. Glasgow: Harper Collins Publishers. ISBN 0004724852. OCLC 43582584. 
    Related news articles:
    • "The Clash - London Calling". Super Seventies. Retrieved 2008-03-13. 
  6. ^ a b c Hilburn, Robert (22 January 1984). "Clash make it goo". Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles, CA. London: Times-Mirror). ISSN 0458-3035. OCLC 3638237. "LONDON - The Clash is a rock band that lives up to its name." 
    Related news articles:
    • "Clash make it goo". Retrieved 2008-03-13. 
  7. ^ London Calling: 25th Anniversary Legacy Edition (CD liner notes). Epic Records. September 2004.


  • Gilbert, Pat (2005) [2004]. Passion Is a Fashion: The Real Story of The Clash (4th ed.). London: Aurum Press. pp. 233, 235, 238, 257, 260, 267. ISBN 1845131134. OCLC 61177239. 
  • Gray, Marcus (2005) [1995]. The Clash: Return of the Last Gang in Town (5th revised ed.). London: Helter Skelter. ISBN 1905139101. OCLC 60668626. 
  • Green, Johnny; Garry Barker (2003) [1997]. A Riot of Our Own: Night and Day with The Clash (3rd ed.). London: Orion. ISBN 0752858432. OCLC 52990890. 
  • Gruen, Bob; Chris Salewicz (2004) [2001]. The Clash (3rd ed.). London: Omnibus. ISBN 1903399343. OCLC 69241279. 
  • Needs, Kris (2005-01-25). Joe Strummer and the Legend of the Clash. London: Plexus. ISBN 085965348X. OCLC 53155325. 
  • Topping, Keith (2004) [2003]. The Complete Clash (2nd ed.). Richmond: Reynolds & Hearn. ISBN 1903111706. OCLC 63129186. 

External links

  • songmeanings about Clampdown
  • 'Let fury have the hour': the passionate politics of Joe Strummer
  • LA Times article

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