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Credit: John Coffey

Music

Mick Jones and Joe Strummer recall how The Clash got together

@TylerGolsen

The origins of The Clash is not exactly well-trodden territory. Mixing in separate tales of British art school, pub rock, and the Sex Pistols, it was inevitable that Mick Jones and Joe Strummer were going to cross paths eventually.

The punk scene was still in its nascent stages in early 1976. Jones was playing in a punk band called the London SS, while Strummer was in the pub rock group The 101ers. Although pub rock had a similar DIY ethos to punk, there was less of a focus on edge and aggression, allowing a folkier and rootsier sound to develop through sing alongs and chants.

While Jones was assembling members for his new group after the London SS broke up, he caught a performance by the 101ers. While walking down the street of Golborne Road with Pistols bassist Glen Matlock, the pair bumped into Strummer. Jones hit Strummer with his honest assessment “I don’t like your group,” Jones told him. “But we think you’re great.”

“As soon as I saw these guys, I knew that that was what a group, in my eyes, was supposed to look like,” Strummer later explained. “So I didn’t really hesitate when they asked me to join.” Strummer had seen the Sex Pistols and began wane on pub rock, so when Jones mentioned that he and friends Paul Simonon and Terry Chimes had a new group that needed a singer, Strummer enthusiastically signed on.

“As soon as I saw [the Sex Pistols], I knew that rhythm and blues was dead, that the future was here somehow,” Strummer recalled in an interview with Melody Maker in November 1976. “Every other group was riffing their way through the Black Sabbath catalogue. But hearing the Pistols I knew. I just knew. It was something you just knew without bothering to think about.”

The shared adoration for the Pistols sealed the bond between Strummer and Jones. “I knew something was up, so I went out in the crowd which was fairly sparse. And I saw the future—with a snotty handkerchief—right in front of me,” Strummer explained.

“It was immediately clear. Pub rock was, ‘Hello, you bunch of drunks, I’m gonna play these boogies and I hope you like them.’ The Pistols came out that Tuesday evening and their attitude was, ‘Here’s our tunes, and we couldn’t give a flying fuck whether you like them or not. In fact, we’re gonna play them even if you fucking hate them’.”

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