When I think about how Nick produced this record I have a mental picture of a big cloud of Senior Service smoke and his arms waving wildly about the tiny control booth. He was emotional, hilarious, incredibly enthusiastic and generous, though I certainly wouldn’t have embarrassed him by saying any of this at the time. He was just being "Nick". Whatever he was doing, it worked.
All of this was pretty new to someone living in the suburbs. I got most of my musical ideas from records. With a young family to provide for, I didn’t have the money for going to clubs. The morning after the Sex Pistols created outrage by swearing on national live television, I was in a commuter train carriage full of scandalized tabloid headlines and high blood pressure.
Something was supposed to be changing. I spent a lot of time with just a big jar of instant coffee and the first Clash album, listening to it over and over. By the time I got down to the last few grains, I had written, "Watching the Detectives". The chorus had these darting figures that I wanted to sound like something from a Bernard Herrmann score. The piano and organ on the recorded version were all we could afford.
Now the process of recruiting a band could begin. I was helped out at the auditions by Steve Goulding and Andrew Bodnar - the rhythm section of The Rumour. We played the same two songs from "My Aim is True" for several hours as the good, the bad and the ugly candidates displayed their talents. Before this drove us to do something rash, we learned a couple of brand new tunes. By the end of the afternoon they sounded good enough for a session at Pathway to be scheduled. One of them, "Watching the Detectives" later became my first serious chart single and was obviously not included on the original U.K. release of "My Aim is True". The newly discovered, Steve Nieve - still going under his family name of "Nason" - added the organ and piano parts at an overdub session a few weeks later.
Although the microphone levels were set very "hot" to create the unique drum sound of "Detectives", we went into a version of "No Action" before any adjustments could be made.
Written after thirty-six hours of drinking coffee and trying to listen to the 1st Clash album in a slumbering block of flats. Recorded a cople of weeks before "turning professional" at the tiny (but mighty) Pathway Studios in Islington, where "My Aim Is True" had been made in a total of 24 hours spread over "sick days" and "holidays" from my lovely "day job." Andrew Bodnar and Steve Goulding from The Rumour played bass and drums, and a little while later Steve Nieve added his low budget tribute to Bernard Herrmann.
I was in my flat in the suburbs of London before I was a professional musician, and I’d been up for thirty-six hours. I was actually listening to another inductee’s record, the Clash’s first album. When I first put it on, I thought it was just terrible. Then I played it again and I liked it better. By the end, I stayed up all night listening to it on headphones, and I thought it was great. Then I wrote “Watching the Detectives.”
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