Mick Jones won the break-up of the Clash. While the intense animosity that led to the dissolution of The Only Band That Matters didn’t necessarily last (Jones and Joe Strummer, the primary combatants, were working together again by 1986, a mere three years after the former was fired from the Clash by the latter), it was enough of a defining factor in the band’s end that it felt like there was an obligation to choose sides, in the same way that everyone had to have a favorite Beatle. That comparison might seem a little off, but the band’s masterpiece, London Calling, does bear a shared writing credit for Jones and Strummer that recalls the famous “Lennon/McCartney” tag. Hell, the Clash even had a Yoko Ono analogue of sorts, when Jones’s tempestuous relationship with Ellen Foley occasionally impacted band dynamics (and inspired one of their best songs, so it’s a net win for the listening public). There was no requirement to weigh in on bassist Paul Simonon post-Clash career, but weighing whether Jones or Strummer got the better of the aftermath was a topic for the cool kids to talk about over the last tepid beer at three in the morning.
At least in the late-eighties, I think it was considered cooler to favor Joe Strummer. For one thing, he simply looked the part. For another, Strummer was mostly working on cool movie soundtracks (back when Alex Cox was still considered a vital, up-and-coming director) and even getting the occasional acting gig in films with heady indie cachet. At the time, most of the people who I heard talk about what Jones was simultaneously up to were fairly dismissive of it, at least in comparison. They may have owned the records he was making with his new band, Big Audio Dynamite, but they weren’t all that happy about it.
Thing is, those Big Audio Dynamite albums have aged pretty well. Upon their release, there was often more focus on how far Jones had strayed from the beloved sound of the Clash. Usually, that sort of creative growth and diversity would be viewed as a positive. It’s a little different when the predecessor group looms so large and the dance-driven beats adopted by the later band seem so far removed from the punk legend. Realistically, what Big Audio Dynamite was creating wasn’t so wildly different from the output of the Clash that some lines couldn’t be drawn between the two, wavy as they might be. This is especially true if the line is drawn to the terrific free-for-all of Sandinista! (here I will concede that I have a greater affection for Sandinista! than most). And the best Big Audio Dynamite music fairly bristles with the energy of a group trying out all the rapidly-evolving studio possibilities at their disposal. Strummer’s musical efforts after his time in the Clash are generally muddled and disappointing. While Big Audio Dynamite arguably never put it all together on a single album, they created a lot of material worth celebrating, making them one of the few groups that offer justification for a well-curated “Greatest Hits” release as necessary addition to a record collection.
Listen or download –> Big Audio Dynamite, “The Battle of All Saints Road”
(Disclaimer: As the absolute lack of commentary on the individual track shared might suggest, the song was selected less because of its particular brilliance and more because it’s one of the better offerings from an album that’s out of print. Additionally, to the best of my knowledge it hasn’t been included on one of the many collections to come out under the Big Audio Dynamite name, hence my use of the term “well-curated” in the aspirational recommendation in the last sentence of the proper write-up. So many words in this disclaimer already, and I haven’t even gotten to the obligatory notice of willing removal of the track from the internet if I’m asked to do so by any individual or entity with due authority to make such a request. That’s what happens when the disclaimer has to carry some of the burden of explaining the track because I simply didn’t do a good enough job in the meat of the post. It feels like a mess right now, is what I’m trying to convey. So I’m just going to stop typing. Well, I’ll stop after adding the last parenthesis anyway.)