Punk Features

The Clash and Their Musical Influences

Punk Pioneers and Musical Chameleons: Exploring The Clash's Diverse Influences.

Main Photo: ©Steve Rapport. 

Formed in 1976, The Clash quickly became pioneers of British punk and earned the title of “The Only Band That Matters.” Comprised of Joe Strummer, Mick Jones, Paul Simonon, and Nicky Headon, The Clash not only influenced the punk genre but also left a lasting impact on generations of artists across various music styles.

The Clash played a crucial role in bringing the punk movement from America to the UK. While the Sex Pistols may have been the first British punk rock band, The Clash were hailed as the definitive British punk rockers. Their music became a powerful medium for addressing social alienation and protesting against the political climate of the time, particularly the era of Thatcherism.

“We took that from the Clash, because we were very similar in that regard. Public Enemy just did it ten years later.” – Chuck D

The Clash’s sound was a unique blend of various musical genres, including reggae, hip hop, classic rock, ska, and funk. While bands like The Beatles, The Kinks, and The Who are often cited as influences, The Clash drew inspiration from a diverse range of artists beyond the obvious choices. Let’s explore just a few of the bands and artists who shaped The Clash’s musical journey.

Mott the Hoople: The Band That Inspired Mick Jones

Mott the Hoople, an English rock band on the verge of breaking up, received a lifeline when David Bowie wrote the glam rock anthem ‘All the Young Dudes’ for them. Mick Jones, guitarist for The Clash, was an avid fan of Mott the Hoople, traveling across the country to attend their concerts and even bunking train fares to make it to the shows. Jones paid homage to his favourite band by writing the song ‘All the Young Punks’ on The Clash’s album ‘Give ‘Em Enough Rope.’

Lee "Scratch" Perry: Dub Influences and Social Commentary

While Mick Jones found inspiration in Mott the Hoople, bassist Paul Simonon’s musical journey was shaped by the vibrant reggae and dub scene of Brixton, London. Growing up in a neighborhood populated by Afro-Caribbean immigrants, Simonon was exposed to the sounds of reggae from an early age. He found solace in the socially conscious messages and the rhythmic beats of the genre, which resonated with his own rebellious spirit. One of the key figures in the reggae scene was Lee “Scratch” Perry, a legendary producer and artist known for pushing the boundaries of the genre. Simonon’s love for reggae and dub would later influence The Clash’s music, particularly evident in their cover of the Perry and Junior Murvin’s written song ‘Police and Thieves’ and their own ‘Guns of Brixton’. Perry’s impact on The Clash was so profound that he even agreed to produce their single ‘Complete Control.’

Bo Diddley: The Originator of Rock 'n' Roll Rhythm

Bo Diddley, a key player in the transition from blues to rock ‘n’ roll, became a significant influence on The Clash’s sound. Joe Strummer idolised Diddley for his innovative approach to music, using improvised instruments like dried peas-filled ball cocks from abandoned lavatory cisterns. The Clash even invited Diddley to open for them during their 1979 tour in the United States.

Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five: The Intersection of Punk and Hip Hop

During a trip to New York, The Clash fell in love with the revolutionary sound of Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five, a hip-hop group that radically transformed music. The Clash invited the rap group to open for them in 1981, despite the challenges they faced with a predominantly white audience that struggled to grasp the genre. The Clash’s incorporation of hip-hop elements in their album Sandinista! was groundbreaking, with their track ‘The Magnificent Seven’ being one of the first major releases to feature a white person rapping.

The Clash's Legacy: Inspiring Future Artists

The Clash’s wide-ranging influences and boundary-pushing music continue to inspire artists across generations. Bands like IDLES, Franz Ferdinand, and Moby have all expressed their admiration for The Clash and their impact on their own musical journeys. The Clash’s ability to blend genres and tackle social issues through their music left an indelible mark on the music industry, solidifying their status as one of the most influential bands of all time.

the clash london calling

The Clash revolutionised the punk rock scene and left an enduring legacy in the world of music. Drawing inspiration from diverse musical genres and artists, The Clash’s sound was a testament to their innovative spirit and dedication to societal change. Through their powerful music and political activism, The Clash became a beacon for generations of artists, proving that music has the power to transcend boundaries and influence the world.

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