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Music

How The Clash inspired Green Day

The Clash are one of the most influential bands of all time. On record and off-stage, they helped to redefine what punk actually meant. Outliving the original punk movement through sheer force of intellect and musical brilliance – there’s a reason why The Clash are still hailed as an influence on countless bands from different backgrounds today, and why many of their contemporaries are not. 

One of the most political bands of all time, a lot of this stylistic positioning can be attributed to Joe Strummer, the band’s frontman. A tremendous character who existed in his own lane, for the most part, Strummer exemplified how a famous musician should act. A champion of social issues, he penned some of the finest protest songs and punk anthems in existence. 

Strummer followed up his defiant on-stage persona with a burning personal crusade to do his bit in helping to cure the planet of its social, political and environmental ills. Strummer walked the walk and talked the talk, and his legacy remains as refreshing as it was over 30 years ago. 

It wasn’t just Strummer who was genuine, however. The rest of the band’s classic lineup was also the real deal when it came to all things punk. Co-songwriter and frontman Mick Jones also had a lot to say, as did bassist Paul Simonon and drummer Topper Headon. You could argue that in their pomp, The Clash espoused more zest than all of their punk contemporaries combined. 

When The Clash’s Joe Strummer collaborated with Jack Kerouac

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Another reason why The Clash are so influential was because of the way they helped to dispel the myth that to be a genuine punk, you had to ascribe to a fixed set of rules and be a faux-nihilist, like Johnny Rotten and Co. They showed this to be a fallacy and confirmed punk as what it always was, a fluid ethos, and one that was comprised of many different facets. Out of all of these, unity is the most important, and this message The Clash got across resoundingly. 

One band that took a lot from the Clash is West Coast pop-punk icons Green Day. Billie Joe Armstrong and his bandmates were galvanised by the hard work that went into the full proof sound of The Clash’s early records. 

“One thing I can’t do is do anything half-assed,” Armstrong told Rolling Stone in 2013. “I want to make sure everything is right, that the song is fully realised. I think of…the first Clash album—those songs are fully realised, well played. You can almost hear them doing it in a practice room…I want to make sure that while we’re evolving, we still sound like a unit.”

A team effort to heal the world through music, it’s no coincidence that everyone from Green Day to Massive Attack cites The Clash as a huge influence. It was about music, but also so much more. 

Listen to ‘Hateful’ below.