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The reason why Paul Simonon smashed his bass for The Clash 'London Calling' LP

@TylerGolsen

Anger wasn’t anything new to The Clash, but their performance one night in New York was something different. Most of The Clash’s righteous fury was given an appropriate audience in the punk rock scenes across the United States and the United Kingdom, but during the band’s performance at the Palladium on September 20th, 1979, there was a noted lack of response.

That wasn’t because of the audience, who had paid good money to lose their minds at a Clash concert. Rather, it was down to the security, who were being extra aggressive when tracking down what they viewed as unruly audience members. Clash bassist Paul Simonon saw what was going on and began to stew.

“I was sort of annoyed that the bouncers wouldn’t let the audience stand up out of their chairs,” Simonon recalled in an interview with Fender. “So that frustrated me to the point that I destroyed this bass guitar. Unfortunately, you always sort of destroy the things that you love in temper. I should think Fender should be very pleased that, even though I am destroying one their basses, but at least people [thought] ‘Oh, that’s a bass guitar, I wonder what make it is'”.

That’s because English photographer Pennie Smith was on hand to photograph the concert and wound up capturing Simonon’s moment of explosive anger on film. The shot was slightly blurry and out of focus, but Smith was so close to Simonon’s rage that the photo was instantly identifiable. Complete with a lettering scheme that paid homage to Elvis Presley’s debut album, London Calling now had one of the most iconic album covers of all time.

Simonon initially felt bad about destroying the Fender Precision Bass, since he “wasn’t taking it out on the bass guitar, because there was nothing wrong with it – it was a great guitar.” Simonon was forced to use a lighter model of P-Bass for the rest of the tour, which didn’t quite have the same might as the bass that he smashed, but Simonon sought out another, heavier model which he continues to play to this day.

Despite seeming to have smashed the instrument beyond repair, the remnants of the bass guitar were collected and hung on to after the incident. Eventually, those broken shards of wood and wire were donated to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, where it currently is displayed in all of its demolished glory.

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(Credit: Press)