All that phoney Beatlemania has bitten the dust
March 5, 2012 7:55 PM   Subscribe

Mick Jones, co-founder of seminal punk band The Clash, his hair as thin as the crowd, plays a few solo songs at the opening of the Rock and Roll Public Library, a converted office under a motorway in West London, in between swigs of lager. That is all. But what else do you need?
posted by unSane (50 comments total) 62 users marked this as a favorite
That was charming, thanks for posting this.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 8:08 PM on March 5, 2012

He seems to be having such a great time playing a song that he has likely played thousands of times to such a small crowd.

It's heartwarming to see someone who never seemed to have the desire to be a stereotypical rock-star and never started acting like one.
posted by sendai sleep master at 8:09 PM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Man, the more time goes on the more I love the Clash.
posted by jimmythefish at 8:09 PM on March 5, 2012 [12 favorites]

I've loved The Clash from day one, but it's only recently become apparent to me just how really special they were.
posted by davebush at 8:22 PM on March 5, 2012

Based on what I learned from this Metafilter post, I would advise Mick Jones that 'going' would be his optimal choice.
posted by Flashman at 8:22 PM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

posted by carter at 8:23 PM on March 5, 2012

I need Joe Strummer. Not for the Rock and Roll Public Library. Just in general. We all do, now more than ever.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 8:37 PM on March 5, 2012 [11 favorites]

Aw, this is great. I love seeing Mick Jones having a good time.
posted by Joey Michaels at 8:38 PM on March 5, 2012 [2 favorites]

I read the first line and expected an obituary. Whew.
posted by mr_roboto at 8:40 PM on March 5, 2012 [9 favorites]

Stay Free is a fucking great song.

Somebody once said to me it's the most outstanding heterosexual male-on-male love song, and there is a lot of truth in that. It's a memento of a glorious band, a glorious time and a glorious friendship.
posted by philip-random at 8:48 PM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

That crowd is MUCH thicker than his hair...

Great links, thanks. Mick is the shit, no doubt.
posted by owalt1 at 9:05 PM on March 5, 2012

If you do not think this is awesome, kindly step off this world right now.
posted by dry white toast at 9:14 PM on March 5, 2012

Comical little geezer.
posted by lefty lucky cat at 9:20 PM on March 5, 2012

Mick Jones is a fucking god. Strummer gets a lot of the glory for the Clash -- and rightly so, of course -- but Mick is the reason they existed in the first place and the engine that drove them, musically, into some pretty amazing sonic spaces where I just don't know that they would have necessarily gone otherwise.

He's also one hell of a nice guy. I hung out with him for a few hours when I was in grad school after a B.A.D. show in Iowa City back in the day, and he was absolutely as lovely as he could be -- very gracious and mellow, agreed to take photos with everyone who asked in the old dilapidated photo booth at the back of the dive bar we were at, didn't roll his eyes at all at the fact that everyone kept playing London Calling on the jukebox and asking him about Joe Strummer, etc. At one point he asked what I was studying, and he mentioned that had he not gone on to music, he would have liked to have been a history teacher.

Around last call at the bar, he turns to me and cocks his head back toward the photo booth. "What about it, eh?" he said. I said, nah, nah, I don't want to bother you; you've been taking pictures all night. He grinned and pointed at the booth and said, "come on." So after the photos come out, he said, "right, which half you want?" And I looked at him quizzically, and he said, "I'll keep mine, you keep yours, and if we ever meet up again, we can match."

This put me in a spot: the top two photos were clearly more flattering of me. Should I keep those, so that I looked cute whenever I showed the pictures to my friends? Or should I give those to him, so that I looked cute whenever he looked at them?

So of course I gave him the cute ones on the top half (naturally!). I'm looking at the not-quite-as-cute ones on the bottom half right now (signed "love, Mick"), where I have them framed above my computer.

Coda: during the course of the conversation, he mentioned that they would be going down to St. Louis the next day, and that he would be staying for a week to see his mother (he had been raised mostly by his grandmother back in London; his mother had remarried and moved to the states when he was a kid). I mentioned that I had gone to college there, and he asked for some recommendations for some places to go -- museums, record stores, restaurants, clubs, etc. He wrote down my suggestions in his tour diary, and I thought nothing more of it.

Three days later I got a phone call from a friend of mine in St. Louis. "OH. MY. GOD!" he screamed at me. Um... yes? "Mick Jones showed up at Cicero's last night to see some bands play. HE SAID THAT YOU SENT HIM."

God bless 'im.
posted by scody at 9:25 PM on March 5, 2012 [114 favorites]

"Train In Vain" made me cry. I'm sitting here wiping tears away.

Oh cool, a few solo tunes by Mick Jones and then CLICK and completely blind-sided by tears.

He looks so old but so happy. And the crowd knows all the words. And we smile and sing and try to remember what it felt like. And Joe's never coming back. And all we have are echoes. At least Mick's smiling, I suppose.

"I see all my dreams come tumbling down
I won't be happy
Without you around"
posted by BitterOldPunk at 9:27 PM on March 5, 2012 [14 favorites]

I respected but never loved the Clash -- they were always a little too earnest for me. But that "Train in Vain" was truly one of the loveliest, most charming things I've ever seen. Thanks for this.
posted by neroli at 9:41 PM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

A buzzed, contented, charming, comfortable older Mick Jones totally just made my previously shitty day great. THANK YOU!
posted by littlemanclan at 9:45 PM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

For whatever reason, I've been listening to a lot of B.A.D. the past week or so. Joe Strummer deserves all of the credit he gets, but Mick Jones knew how to take things into the 80s with a lot of invention and pop-craftsmanship, and his legacy should not be denied.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:02 PM on March 5, 2012

Scody, old pals of mine who were based in NOLA around the tour you refer to also ran into Mick there and spoke highly of him ever after, above and beyond his musical contributions to the catalog.
posted by mwhybark at 10:16 PM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

A buzzed, contented, charming, comfortable older Mick Jones totally just made my previously shitty day great. THANK YOU!

Me too.
posted by jimmythefish at 10:23 PM on March 5, 2012

I think this Friday's happyfun beertime will have a Clash soundtrack. It's been too long.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:42 PM on March 5, 2012

Yet another reason I'm in awe of Scody. Fantastic comment, so jealous you got to meet him. We need the photos posting :)
posted by arcticseal at 10:57 PM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

I posted the Should I Stay or Should I Go video on my facebook with a little "God bless em" before reading down to Scody's comment. God bless em, indeed. These clips made my Monday night.
posted by The Hamms Bear at 11:19 PM on March 5, 2012

Worth noting. I met Joe Strummer one night in the early 90s, smoked some dope with him, drank some beer and much as scody said about Mr. Jones, " ... he was absolutely as lovely as he could be -- very gracious and mellow."

No photo booth though or recommendations about St. Louis.
posted by philip-random at 11:34 PM on March 5, 2012 [1 favorite]

Just in case you never had a chance to hear them, Jones and Generation X member Tony James formed a band called Carbon/Silicon and released a number of very good songs. I'm partial to I Loved You, but its worth poking around their catalog if you're a fan.
posted by Joey Michaels at 12:53 AM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

(just watched "Train in Vain" again and he's just so winning in it. The smile, the clapping, the sing along, the playing! I would gladly pay $50 to see him even if I had free Clapton tickets that same night.)
posted by Joey Michaels at 1:00 AM on March 6, 2012 [5 favorites]

This made my day, thanks!

The only vid that matters.
posted by ersatz at 3:56 AM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

I was never a big fan of Train in Vain, it always seems like a transparent bid for a hit single, but this version is wonderful. Watching it it's hard to believe that the old geezer in the casual suit is the same guy from B.A.D. Glad he's still around though.
posted by octothorpe at 4:50 AM on March 6, 2012

Aw christ that was nice.

And Joe's never coming back.

aaaand mortality freight trains it's way into the morning; if art could only save us from this.

No, Joe's never coming back but his voice will be in my head until I die, and I can go hear it whenever I forget what he had to tell me, what gets more poignant and relevant the older I get - how the fuck's it do that?
posted by From Bklyn at 4:59 AM on March 6, 2012

The only band that matters. Still.
posted by tommasz at 5:04 AM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's heartwarming to see someone who never seemed to have the desire to be a stereotypical rock-star and never started acting like one.

Warning-- I'm a huge Clash nerd. I'm not a "music guy," but I love the Clash. In fact, Mick did very much want to be a typical rock star and indeed did start acting like one. He followed Mott the Hoople and started out in a Glam band called "The Delinquents," who were styled after the New York Dolls. He wanted to be a Rock Star starting at least in his early teens. The ideology of punk didn't matter much to him at first, it was just what was hot in 1976/77, when he was ready to have another serious go at starting a band.

And he did indeed act like a rock star. Marcus Gray's The Last Gang in Town (a fantastic bio if you're interested) contains plenty of anecdotes-- Mick held up the band's bus at the US/Canadian border because he wouldn't travel without weed but obviously couldn't go through customs with it. For a time it was the job of Clash roadie The Baker to go and wake up Mick so he'd show up for rehearsals-- Gray said that Baker would bring a tray holding a glass of Ribena and a line of cocaine, "and for the rest of the day Mick wouldn't touch Ribena." It was Mick's disdain of touring and failure to show up on time for rehearsals that led Mick and Paul to kick him out of the band.

You couldn't have it go any other way, though. Mick's interest in being a rock star and the related interest in different musical styles is what made The Clash what they were. He was interested in new techniques and novel arrangements. Jones' ambition to be up on the stage drove his love of music is what made him a great guitarist and a visionary. Without Mick's direction, the band would have released a couple albums of three-chord bang-outs and be barely remembered outside of 70's punk anthologies. "Give 'em Enough Rope" would have been a retread of the first album and if the next three albums had happened they wouldn't have been anything approaching the works that they are. Strummer certainly helped send the band in new directions, but we all know that he was primarily a lyricist.

Mick probably had the right sympathies to start, but social commentary and activism were at least initially secondary to being in a famous band. As for Mick's rock antics, I think that needed to happen to complete the story, too. What if The Clash had turned into U2? I don't want my heroes to devolve into pretense and self-parody. He broke up the band, and if you're willing to entertain the myth that the Jones-less "Cut the Crap" never happened (I certainly am), they went out on top.

I think you can you can look at the personalities and see why The Clash worked so beautifully-- Strummer was the ideologue who embraced the punk ethos gave them the anger and energy, Jones was the musician who made it listenable and kept them from getting stale. Simonon and Headon had their roles too but I've gone on long enough.
posted by Mayor Curley at 5:30 AM on March 6, 2012 [8 favorites]

Any day is better with some Mick Jones in it.

I loved The Clash. I loved Big Audio Dynamite. I loved Joe Strummer, too, but that's life.

Is this the future of Rock'n'Roll? Grey-haired dudes rocking out to small groups of people in libraries? Actually, that's a pretty great combination now that I think about it.
posted by kinnakeet at 5:32 AM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

I was never a big fan of Train in Vain, it always seems like a transparent bid for a hit single

It was actually supposed to be a throwaway distributed as a flexidisc free with purchase of NME (to promote London Calling) and was recorded very quickly. They thought it was too good for that and threw it onto the end of the album. Which is why it didn't appear in the track listing-- the sleeves were already being printed.
posted by Mayor Curley at 5:33 AM on March 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

Ahh, didn't know that about Train. Still it's a kind of weak track on an amazing album.
posted by octothorpe at 5:53 AM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

I disagree about Train in Vain. I always loved their poppier stuff better than the agitpop.
posted by unSane at 6:46 AM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

In my life, there are three gigs I have experienced that totally blew me away and forcibly reminded me why there is nothing, nothing better then hearing truly ferocious guitar-based music at high volume. One of those was The Clash in Leeds in 1978. Lester Bangs described the band that bight as "raw terror". An understatement.

And this made me feel every damned day of my advanced age. Good on yer, Mick.
posted by Decani at 7:04 AM on March 6, 2012

That NIGHT. Bight? Something obviously threw me for a loop.
posted by Decani at 7:04 AM on March 6, 2012

Ahh, didn't know that about Train. Still it's a kind of weak track on an amazing album.
posted by octothorpe

I totally disagree; I think Train elevates London Calling through tension. Most of the album is (awesome) Strummeresque musing about The Big Problems- hell, the first song is literally a list of the Big Problems we'll be talking about. It's global in scale. Then, at the end, the very simple, very plaintive Train kicks in, just a dude complaining about how he feels shitty about a girl, and that adds a hell of a lot of texture. We don't just care about Spanish terrorism and workplace Fascism, we also just feel shitty sometimes because we're human (even songs like "Revolution Rock" feel to me like they have a different scale and agenda, since they're pretty explicitly about "hey, check out these crazy Caribbean beats!"). I always love that turnaround.

Don't get me wrong, London Calling'd be a masterpiece without Train in Vain, but Train turns it up to 11.
posted by COBRA! at 7:18 AM on March 6, 2012 [3 favorites]

Had the Gorillaz not been playing in stadiums I would have seen them when Mick (and Paul Simonon and so many others of course) was playing with them. He credits Albarn and others in the Gorillaz with inspiring him to get out there again and of course reform B.A.D. for a tour.

"Doing Gorillaz helped me come out of myself." Jones said, adding that Gorillaz singer Damon Albarn kept pushing Jones to reform BAD. "They were always saying, 'We love BAD!' Through the second half of the year, everyone was saying, 'You've got to do BAD.' It feels timely."

posted by juiceCake at 7:19 AM on March 6, 2012

Still it's a kind of weak track on an amazing album.

No. No it is not. It gets a lot of radio play, I'll give you that. But in the abstract, I don't see how it can be considered a weak track. The Clash was so great because they were an amalgam of all sorts of musical influences. You might not like the influence of the sort of pure 60's sound that created "Train in Vain" (and "Stay Free" and other stuff), but I would say the albums are better for the big tent approach they took.

I was, and am, a huge Joe Strummer fan in the Craig Finn "Saint Joe Strummer" sense; I never really appreciated Mick until I read Joe's comments about Mick's musical chops and how his brilliance at arranging songs made The Clash what they are. Mick's post-Clash career (B.A.D. and Carbon/ Silicon) have only made me like him more. Completely without pretense or airs, from what I can tell from a million miles away.
posted by yerfatma at 7:27 AM on March 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

Wow, I guess I'm kind of iclasherate, because I didn't realise until now that Destroyer was directly quoting them when he talked about 'phoney Beatlemania' biting the dust in the Sublimation Hour.
posted by Flashman at 8:51 AM on March 6, 2012

Every now and then, when a younger man, I'd wake up on a beautiful spring morning (it was always spring), drink a big cup of coffee, smoke a joint and throw on my c-90 mix cassette of Clash Esssentials. I didn't think of it in such terms (I just felt a powerful URGE to rock out) but it was a celebration ... of rage, injustice, nuclear armageddon, armagideon time, impending war, jackboot paramilitaries wearing blue + black, death or glory, being lost in the supermarket -- all the raw shit that the Clash sang about, the world that inspired it, the world I was stuck in (for better or worse) for all the days of my life, and holy shit, it was a life worth living as long as I remembered to LIVE it! That's the Clash for me, the barely (yet miraculously) articulate rage of Joe Strummer meets the brash, adolescent glow of Mick Jones meets the BEST RHYTHM SECTION EVER this side of Can (and when I say that I see Topper Headon on the stool).

and no, Train In Vain wasn't on the tape but Garageland sure was.
posted by philip-random at 9:56 AM on March 6, 2012

... and Safe European Home
posted by philip-random at 9:58 AM on March 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

scody just made my favorite "brush with fame" comment ever. My favorite brush with fame story is from some friends who came across Adrian Belew at a restaurant where he was eating alone, and ended up driving him around and hanging out with him. Bastards met my guitar hero, and I missed it! scody's experience ranks right up there with that. She got to HANG OUT AND TAKE PICTURES WITH MICK JONES. That shit never happens to me. I got to meet one of my other musical heroes, Richard Thompson, and he was a bit put off by the whole thing of taking a photo with a fan. Whatever, I got the photo...

The Clash are one of the great happenings of Rock. Hell yes everyone of an age wanted to be a rock star. Mick grew out of it and became a good guy. Bono never did, and became a rich insufferable boob (rather than the poor insufferable boob he apparently was before he got famous). I'd much rather hang out with Mick Jones than Bono, plus the Clash's music was better, and they had a greater influence on music. U2 had a greater influence on what Super Bowl half time shows should be like.

Train in Vain might not have been the greatest Clash song ever, but what it did was introduce people to them. Adding that song to the album was brilliant. Maybe someone out there listened to it, and ended up buying Sandanista as well as London Calling. Worse things have happened. Train in Vain is a great pop song. The Clash were one of the greatest pop bands. I mean that in the most reverential sense. They actually had substance. Not a lot of bands can say that, but they did.

I wish I could have a beer with Mick Jones...
posted by Eekacat at 1:25 PM on March 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

In the late 80's there was a rumour in the hotel that I was working at that Mick Jones was staying there. I got very excited then I found it was actually Mick Jones from Foreigner. That was a sad day for me.
posted by Razzle Bathbone at 4:13 PM on March 6, 2012 [3 favorites]

Whenever I hear about this, that, or the other band that I loved from the 80's attending their induction into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame, it always sounded just a little bit off, like that's not what they should be doing.

But I couldn't say what it was they should be doing instead. Now I can just point at that Train in Vain clip.

I originally wrote "X, Y, or Z band", but I was afraid people would thing that X stood for X.
posted by benito.strauss at 4:06 PM on March 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

I have come back here to reread scody's story every day since she posted it. That is all.
posted by Joey Michaels at 12:57 PM on March 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

Since I can't give scody's story more than one favorite, I'm giving one to Joey Michaels' comment one as a proxy.
posted by benito.strauss at 1:54 PM on March 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

It's favorites all the way down.
posted by unSane at 3:18 PM on March 8, 2012

Phone for you, Joe.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:16 AM on March 9, 2012

« Older "It even has miniature owls in the Owlery and...   |   Part time virus hunter Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments