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How The Clash got their name

The world of rock as we know it currently would not have existed without English punk legends The Clash. What Joe Strummer, Mick Jones, Paul Simonon and Topper Headon produced, whilst not extensive, is of a quality that supersedes the output of the majority of their peers.

Aside from a few ‘misfires’ what The Clash did deliver was coloured by an authentic attitude and a sharp understanding of how the world works, reminding us that at heart, punk is always about the little guy. 

Often referred to as the thinking man’s punks, The Clash made a name for themselves as the politically minded side of the scene. While the Sex Pistols were all about shock tactics and spitting in the face of your enemies, The Clash were more intent on feeding the minds of the disenfranchised youth they represented than designing their clothes or changing the way they spoke. They were real, and even 26 years after their split, this essence permeates their work, meaning it retains a superior freshness. 

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From their incendiary debut to their whimpering end, The Clash kept their integrity at the forefront of everything they did, and, aided by that same attitude that made them such world-beaters when they first broke through, this ensured that their names were written into the history books long before they decided to call it a day.

While many may take the headlines in the scene, the Ramones were one of the first, the Sex Pistols the loudest, the Buzzcocks the most radio-ready, the Damned the most outlandish—The Clash were and will always be, the only band that mattered from the original wave of punk, and there’s no surprise that they have remained so relevant all these years.

In a 2013 interview with BBC Radio 2, Clash co-founder and bassist Paul Simonon explained how they came up with the name that allowed them to become so iconic. He said: “It really come about, I suppose, because of the period of the time that we were living in and as when the band started. I suppose in our childhoods, there was a lot of strikes going on in the ’70s. The country was in quite a serious economic depression.”

“We used to have these conversations with Bernie Rhodes and he would instigate a discussion about the political period that we were living in. What he were going to do if this happened or if that happened. So there was a lot of friction outside in general if we walked out on the streets there would be members of the public that would quite antagonistic towards anyone that looked like a Punk or even looked different.”

“So, in a way, the word The Clash became sort of quite appropriate. There is a lot of references in the headlines of the day or various strikes, battles between the strikers and the police. The word ‘clash, clash, clash’ kept coming up. So it seemed apt.”

Listen to ‘London Calling’ below.

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