Last Thursday night, Sony Legacy threw a party to celebrate the release of the brand new, insanely want-able Clash CD box set, Sound System. And when I say “box set,” I should say Massive Slab Set or something, ’cause this thing is a beast, with loads of extra rare tracks, an extensive DVD, stickers, etc., all locked into a box designed after bassist Paul Simonon’s favorite early ’80s-era boombox he carried around! Luckily they also released a more than capable, inexpensive 2-CD, best-of offshoot called Hits Back based on the setlist from an infamous gig at the Brixton Fairdeal, on July 10, 1982, with great liner notes. And while it’s true longtime Clash fans once again debate yet another Clash repackaging, Sound System does offer fairly rare tracks, new words from Clash members, and one hell of a mantle piece monolith that most fans will find worthy.
The party was in a small, pop-up art gallery in the Lower East Side on a still-grubby corner that will soon be demolished for—you guessed it—condos. So there was some mixed excitement in the air, as the Clash’s lefty loudness was celebrated through a load of classic videos and photos on the gallery walls from the likes of Bob Gruen, Pennie Smith, and more. The gallery show opened to the public (for one night only, boo!) around 8, while upstairs there was an invite-only Q&A with longtime rock scribe, David Fricke, querying original Clash founders Mick Jones (guitar/vocals) and Simonon, plus the Clash’s faithful MC/roadie/pal, Kosmo Vinyl. And it was the gregarious Vinyl who got some of the best reactions, as his recollections seemed most detailed and his energy hilarious.
All three were decked out suave as ever, with Mick Jones especially engaging, as his smile and obvious glee at being there in the presence of so much appreciation was infectious as hell. Simonon seemed the most pointed in getting across the band’s musical intentions, and stated quite unobsequiously that this box set is definitive. He said that if someone wanted to know about the Clash, this box set is where they should start.
But mostly it was fun story-telling, with much about their times in NYC, like the infamous Bonds Casino concerts in 1981. Fricke saw the band back in the day, so his questions were informed, and he was able to reign in, when needed, what was mostly a friendly, story-bouncing-around affair. As the chat went on, there were projections on the wall of old newspaper article, fliers, etc. At one point, when a cool flier (John Cale show with the Clash as openers) popped up, Mick Jones interjected, “Oh, and that show never even happened! We just fucked off that gig.” It was little moments like that that made this much more than the usual music industry back-slapping affair, besides the fact that MICK JONES AND PAUL SIMONON WERE HANGING OUT, FOR PETE’S SAKE!