Typed manuscript draft for the liner notes to The Story of the Clash, Volume 1, 8.5 x 11, 15 lined pages, January 24, 1988. Strummer writes on the early days of the band under the pseudonym “Albert Transom,” the band's fictional valet, quoted in part below with spelling and grammar retained. He has added a handwritten notation and a few handwritten spelling and punctuation corrections throughout. It is an autobiographical tour de force—the only time Strummer ever wrote out the story of the Clash—that expounds on the band’s general history, their often violent exploits throughout the world, and their musical and political influences. Creases to lower left corners and a rough left edge due to removal from a notebook, otherwise fine condition.
The lasting legacy of the Clash is their politically charged music—they are credited with pioneering the advocacy of radical politics in punk rock. Their influences—politically, musically, and otherwise—are portrayed in humorous detail throughout the manuscript. Starting out in 1976, the band experienced first hand the economic inequality that drove their lyrics, living in a “filthy squat...down a steep stone stairway into the basement of an old Victorian ruin in West London…they walked across the room by stooping to avoid the dense cloud of flies.” They raided bargain bins for cheap records, and Strummer mentions some of their finds: “Bo Diddley lots of Bo Diddley available, first 2 Stones LP’s all the blues ska rock n roll nobody wanted Howling Wolf, Woody Guthrie, Clarence Gatemouth Brown Leadbelly, Bukka White.” While the blues are not an obvious influence, the Clash had a clear admiration for the old bluesmen—they even had Diddley open for them on their first US tour in 1979.
At one point, Strummer writes about his experience at the Notting Hill Carnival of 1976, where “a line of 20 bobbies came pushing through the crowd…one lonely Coca Cola can come floating over and hit one of the helmets, in half a second there were twenty more cans and the crowd drew back suddenly and the Notting Hill riot of 1976 was sparked...soon there was fighting ten blocks in every direction.” These were the riots that served as inspiration for the band’s first single, ‘White Riot,’ released in 1977. One of the first things Strummer writes about is a rehearsal for a television performance of the song: “The lads were doing this tune White Riot…I could dimly hear a viscious argument breaking out between the band and the director [handwritten addendum: the band were laughing at the idea of miming Whit Riot]…we were ejected and this set the pattern for all later visits—everyone marked by a viscious one to one close combat hand to hand fighting.” If their recording sessions were marked by skirmishes, Clash concerts could turn into all-out street warfare.
Strummer describes an “Open Air Mace Festival” in August 1977, in Liege, Belgium: “Some paranoid looney had erected a twelve foot fence across, between the stage and the audience then employed the local Euro Hells Angels to defend the enclosed strip of mud infront of the stage…spraying mace in peoples eyes as they stormed the fence…The lads told the bikers to split and the crowd crushed the fence down and came swarming up the stage front...Now there were 500 people on stage, they left a small space and the lads continued playing.” Rock historian Mikal Gilmore would later call this the moment that best exemplifies the Clash, and notes that it was Strummer who was enraged by the fence separating the stage from the audience, and instigated its destruction by jumping off the stage and trying to pull it down himself.
On their infamous 1980 show in Hamburg: “There was all these rowdy little punk kids we let em in the gig, the boys came out and it was war from the off forget the music it was plant your feet firmly and swing the mike stand round your head time...Anyway der volkspoltzei come in the dressing room after...they dragged off one of our lads for bushing someone with a guitar but released him later when a test showed he was sober, apparently der chief of police said to our boy ‘Are you zee one assalting zese punks?’ When our boy nodded in the affirmative he bent down and wispered ‘Gut for you!’ and slapped him on the back.” It was, in fact, Strummer who had been arrested for hitting an audience member with his guitar, an incident that had a lasting impact on him—he later said it made him realize that you cannot fight violence with violence.
Strummer’s manuscript is a window into the raucous and renegade lifestyle of the Clash from the start. An account straight from the man that was the soul of one of the most influential bands of the last forty years, it is a truly one-of-a-kind piece that would be a cornerstone of any music collection. RR Auction COA.
Terms and abbreviations used in our descriptions.