This week marks 40 years since The Clash appeared on the American entertainment and sketch show Fridays. The show would be the launching pad for the careers of comics such as Larry David, Rich Hall, Bruce Mahler and many others.
The Clash’s appearance came at a turbulent time for the band due to frictions with their label and following the release of London Calling they were getting accused of being sell out’s which, knowing the band’s strict punk ethos, hurt Joe Strummer and co. rather deeply. Following the success of the aforementioned record, the band now had new fame found in the States and grabbed themselves a potentially lucrative an appearance on NBC’s brand new programme Fridays.
This appearance was a rare highlight in 1980 which didn’t go quite how the band had imagined. Struggling to get on the same page as CBS Records, The Clash hoped to release a brand new single every month for the entirety of the year—an unprecedented proposition which proved ahead of its time. However, CBS immediately baulked at the idea and refused to sanction it with ‘Bankrobber’ being the only single announced ahead of the release of their new record Sandinista! that December—their most experimental release by some margin. Joe Strummer would also be arrested later in the year for attacking a fan in Hamburg with his telecaster.
Fridays lasted three series from 1980 to 1982 and was launched in a thinly-veiled attempt to compete with Saturday Night Live. It didn’t. The main issue was it simply wasn’t very funny for a comedy programme in comparison to its bigger brother. However, each episode a musical guest was given a proper slot where they were allowed to perform a few tracks which managed to steal the show each and every week.
On the first series in which The Clash appeared, other musical guests included Warren Zevon, Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers, The Beach Boys and The Jam which was the show’s redeeming factor. In later series, acts such as The Cars, The Pretenders and Jimmy Buffet would appear as well as a duet from Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney on the final episode in 1982.
The Clash had only played their first-ever American concert in the February of 1979 in Berkeley, California and this opportunity to play on prime time television on a major network was an opportunity not to be missed. The band smashed through a raucous four track long set which kicked off with ‘London Calling’, ‘Train In Vain’, ‘The Guns Of Brixton’ and finished with a rendition of ‘Clampdown’.
By the time that the set was over anyone who was in doubt of who these British upstarts were at the start of the broadcast certainly knew that The Clash were ‘the only band that matters’. Check out the footage below.