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Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Rewind: 1978 Give 'Em Enough Rope - The Clash

Give 'Em Enough Rope is the 2nd studio album from The Clash. CBS had told the band that they needed a cleaner sound than their debut album in order to access American Audiences and so Sandy Pearlman was brought on board to produce. He had previously founded, written for and produced Blue Öyster Cult.

Between March-April 1978 The Clash recorded the album along with "(White Man) In Hammersmith Palais", "The Prisoner", "1-2 Crush on You" and "Pressure Drop". Four more songs were recorded: "One Emotion", "Groovy Times", "Ooh Baby Ooh (It's Not Over)" (AKA "Rusted Chrome", later reworked and released as "Gates of the West") and "RAF 1810".

On its release it was taken to the cleaners by Melody Maker's Jon Savage and didn't fair so well with other critics. I remember at the time that friends who liked The Clash were quite dismissive of it as well, toeing a similar line to the music press. 

But for me it's an album I have a lot of affection for, there's a couple of tracks I'm not overly fussed about (Julie's Been Working For The Drug Squad and maybe Drug Stabbing Time) and unlike Danny Baker (see below) I really liked the singles a lot (especially Tommy Gun).

It's funny re-reading the old review of the album by Jon Savage and coming across the line, "Stay Free is embarrassing in the failure of Mick Jones' vocal to carry the weight of the song, overburdened by 'tasteful' arrangements and the attempt at personal dedication." You could ask a number of fans of The Clash to name their favourite song and many many times Stay Free sits top of the pile!

Give 'Em Enough Rope was the first album by The Clash to be released in the USA and it didn't really set the country alight peaking at #128 - it was a start! The Debut album on release in the US made it to #126. London Calling would get them in the Top 30 (peaking at #27), Sandinista would climb a little higher to #24 and Combat Rock would blast them into the Top Ten (eventually peaking at #7).

As for live performance (I've added some links below for a number of shows played at two venues in London from the summer On Parole Tour and from the Sort It Out Tour) at the time of release the band had never sounded better. They were maybe a little more polished than they had been on previous tours (and I would wholeheartedly disagree with NME writer Emma Ruth who reviewed a show in Leeds for the 8th July issue that stated that "The Clash seem to have shifted towards heavy metal music - distinctive, discordant maybe - but heavy metal all the same").

The critics had a lot to say about the band and the music but ulitmately it's what you and I as fans of the band and the buyers of the music have to say that really matters. So on the anniversary of its release I offer it up to your ears afresh. Enjoy!

Give 'Em Enough Rope - The Clash
Produced by Sandy Pearlman
Released 10th November 1978
UK Chart #2
US Chart #128

    Joe Strummer – lead and backing vocals, rhythm guitar
    Mick Jones – lead guitar, backing and lead vocals
    Paul Simonon – bass guitar, backing vocals
    Topper Headon – drums
    Allen Lanier - piano on "Julie's Been Working for the Drug Squad" (uncredited)

Singles From Give 'Em Enough Rope

24 November 1978
UK Chart #19

Danny Baker on Tommy Gun from NME 25th November 1978:
"This track has been around since early this year, and isn't made any more attractive by a shabby rendering of the ancient '1-2 Crush On You' on the B-Side (complete with Pleasers-style rising "Ah's" on the intro). With (White Man) In Hammersmith Palais, I thought The Clash were untouchable, but this is a sad report on the state of things. Collectors Item?"

23rd February 1979
UK Chart #25

Danny Baker (again!) on English Civil War from the NME 24 February 1979:
"A wise enough if miscued and rock 'n' rolly warning about all things uniformed and sinister that this chap can flow easier to than any tuppenny ha'penny 'Oliver's Army'. But then it was a CBS choice, we hear. The flip is the old Toots 'Pressure Drop' from the set of yore but done more professionally, less manic. Now is this a good thing? It sounds OK anyway and they at least feel  - which is more can be said for the disgusting rubbish "Ol' Keef" pays his bills with. Despite myself, The Clash are still the only rock group I would cross the road for."

Live and TV Performances
Relating to Give 'Em Enough Rope

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