Remembering The Clash’s iconic interview on The Tom Snyder Show in 1981
Stepping back into the Far Out vault, we are remembering an iconic time in the history of a The Clash, a moment when they announced themselves to American audiences with a hell-raising performance and interview to boot.
From 1973 until 1982, Tom Snyder made his name nationally cutting his teeth as the host of the fascinating television programme The Tomorrow Show which offered a number of candid one-on-one interviews which gave the show an edge over its rival programming.
With a glittering CV, John Lennon’s final ever interview was perhaps the most famous of Snyder’s reign as host of the programme. However, he also hosted an infamous episode featuring KISS in 1979, one that was marred by an inebriated Ace Frehley who Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley tried and failed to contain during the interview. Other guests to have featured include the likes of Charles Manson and John Lydon.
The Clash’s appearance came shortly after the release of Sandinista, a project which embraced world music and saw the band maintain their political stance but proving that sonically they were much more than ‘just another punk band’ and solidified that they were ‘the only band that mattered’.
The band, battling an ongoing dispute with their record label for some time before the release of the aforementioned album, made their decision to release a triple-LP in an effort to mock CBS for resisting their desire to release London Calling as a double album—shortly before deciding to release Bruce Springsteen’s double album The River less than a year later. The band’s wish to release the material at a low price was also met with reluctance from their label who made sure the group would have to waive any royalties on the first 200,000 copies sold in the UK and a 50% cut in royalties elsewhere in order to sell it at an affordable price.
Returning back to the show, The Clash performed ‘Magnificent Seven’ and ‘Radio Clash’ before they opened up to Snyder for a truly fascinating interview. Arguably the most interesting point in the conversation comes when Snyder points out that the band prefers to be called a ‘news giving group’ rather than a ‘rock and roll group’. “I think too many songs have been written about love already, the subject’s been covered,” an animated Strummer explained. “The news is new right so it’s not boring, it’s what’s happening now and we like to play in to what’s happening now.”
With the interview rolling on, The Clash then discussed the chaotic 17-night stint that the band did at the Bonds nightclub in Times Square opening on May 30th, 1981, an event which saw the fire department attempt to shut down on the first night of their residency and garnered national press attention for the band.
“I think every club in New York jams in as many people as possible and the fire department’s sometimes they come down, sometimes they don’t y’ know,” Strummer stated. “They came down and we kind of walked into the situation blind, we’d just been touring Europe and come here straight from Europe without a break. We sold out seven nights at this nightclub called Bonds, it’s a standout venue everything is cushty mushty but then when we arrived the fire department, the building department is all shutting the place down faster than we can open it.”
Snyder then points out how the band decided to put on an extra 10 nights to cope with demand rather than get away from New York as soon as the initial dates were over, an attempt by the band to ensure that the people of the East Coast got their chance to watch them live.