Since The Clash’s breakout in 1977, they’ve influenced scores of punk rock artists and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003 for their contributions to the history of popular music.
The band were part of the first wave of British punk rock from the late 1970s, along with the Sex Pistols and The Damned. Their message transcends chart topping singles; it’s one that has come to define a generation and will surely do so for more to come. The Clash tailored their music towards the political atmosphere, doing their best to relay their sentiments without caring who disapproved.
Many millennials skim over The Clash and move straight towards their iconic 1979 album London Calling. That does the band and its debut a disservice, as they only gleam the general vibe from the band. It’s like if you only listen to Taylor Swift’s new songs without acknowledging her past country songs; you miss the premise of her artistry. The same thing applies here. Often times, it can take many tries for a band to reach fame with a series of singles and albums. The Clash’s debut, however, made them stars in the U.K. and immediately gave them recognition they deserved.
Their artistry shows throughout the whole album. The band wrote most of the songs together, further proving that songwriting abilities go hand-in-hand with successful and good bands. It makes lyrics more personal and relatable for listeners and the singers (in this case, Joe Strummer).
One of the best album cuts from The Clash is “I’m So Bored With the U.S.A.” for many reasons. It’s blatantly obvious what they want to assert: American culture has taken over every air wave and television screen and we’re sick of it. They get their point across by addressing the U.S. directly as “Yankee” and complaining about their domination. It only helps that the melodic line is catchy and fast paced. They give the chorus prominence by their use of notes that contradict the general melody and yet fit in perfectly.
The Clash tackles social issues but doesn’t stop short of political ones as well. “White Riot” is a response to the racial issues of Britain at the time. Rather than commenting on the problem, they invoke a condemnation of the inaction of many who would rather sit back than take action against injustice. This band documents the struggles of the young generation, giving them music to feel connected to. This has continued to influence so many rock artists, even today, which shows how important and vital the Clash really is. The guitar in this song illuminates the issue at hand and is perfectly balanced with the drums in an inspiring tune.
The many songs on this album are all brilliant in their own way. “Janie Jones” tells a story of the drudgery of jobs and what many people experience: dull jobs. The vocals at the end of the song are striking as they shift through simple runs. “Remote Control” is one of the longer tracks, yet still gets across how often people generalize those who simply don’t go along with the “man.” Every single song has a story to tell and a message. It’s something that makes this band unique and one of the best Britain has come to offer.
People view punk as simply “rebellion” but it is so much more than that. It’s a movement that gives voice to the young and uses music as a platform to do so, reaching millions as the Clash so successfully did. The influence they had was monumental. Their debut album is affirmation of that, and their brilliant lyrics and guitar playing is a testament to that. The legacy of the Clash will forever be cemented in history.