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(Credit: Neal Preston)

Hear The Clash's secret Bob Dylan cover on the 'London Calling' demos


Often thought of as “the only band that mattered” The Clash developed their sense of super-charged punk rock wit, political prowess and pop sensibilities throughout their career. However, their 1979 record London Calling defined them as a band, gave them their landmark LP and has been a widespread cultural influence ever since. So, interested in the record’s larger inception, we thought we’d look back at the record’s earliest known beginnings, AKA The Vanilla Tapes.

While the monumental record has left an indelible mark on music since its release, these tapes are the foundations on which that iconic album was built. Like so many collections of sessions, the rarely heard recordings contain the framework of some of the album’s best songs but also covers of classic hits. One such cover comes from The Clash’s Vanilla Tapes, as they take on Bob Dylan’s 1970 song ‘The Man In Me’.

In the tapes, the band recorded their earliest sketches of the LP straight to four-track tape machine in their dingy and dirty central London rehearsal space. It’s a visceral and vital vision of a band formulating one of the most imposing albums of all time. The songs act as a quick reminder of the band’s unstoppable talent and the rawness that underpinned their output.

The tapes were recorded in London in 1979 and had been seemingly lost forever before being recently unearthed. While the tapes were known to exist by fans they were only ever mentioned in hushed tones—like a punk Holy Grail hiding in the urban undergrowth. That was until The Clash founding member, guitarist Mick Jones, found the tapes in 2004, saying he “recognised them instantly for what they were.” The iconic demos, “hadn’t been heard since before the record was made,” Jones confessed, “It was pretty amazing.”

Despite playing a key role in the Coen brothers’ iconic cult film The Big Lebowski in 1998, ‘The Man In Me’ isn’t one of Dylan’s most famous songs. A classic effort from the freewheeling troubadour, ‘The Man In Me’ was recorded in New York during some of Dylan’s most musical fruitful sessions. Working with the talents of Charlie Daniels, Ron Cornelius and Al Kooper, it was Dylan beginning to stretch his creative wings.

The song clearly connected with The Clash. The band knew their way around a cover or two, providing Junior Murvin and Toots and the Maytals with some enigmatic punk cover sin their time. Their take on Bob Dylan is just as gunslinging. Low and sleazy, Joe Strummer, Mick Jones, Paul Simon and Topper Heddon deliver some of the sessions’ greasiest moments.

Listen below to The Clash’s rarely heard cover of Bob Dylan’s song ‘The Man In Me’.