BO DIDDLEY & THE CLASH, 1979 US TOUR | EVERY GENERATION HAS THEIR OWN LITTLE BAG OF TRICKS

The Clash Bo Diddley 1979

1979, Cleveland — Bo Diddley opened for The Clash on their US tour — Image by © Bob Gruen. In 1979, Joe Strummer and Paul Simonon of the Clash asked that Diddley open for them on the band’s first American tour. “I can’t look at him without my mouth falling open,” Strummer, starstruck, told a journalist during the tour. For his part, Diddley had no misgivings about facing a skeptical audience. “You cannot say what people are gonna like or not gonna like,” he explained later to the biographer George White. “You have to stick it out there and find out! If they taste it, and they like the way it tastes, you can bet they’ll eat some of it!” via

The Clash where huge fans of Bo Diddley, as many of the formative British bands (and American too) of the ’60s and ’70s were– The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Beatles, The Yardbirds, and many more. Bo Diddley joined The Clash as their opening act on their 1979 US Tour– opening up a radical, young, new crowd to the sound of the man many consider to be one of the most important pioneers of American Rock & Roll music. Bo Diddley himself made no bones about stating that HE was THE beginning of Rock & Roll. Bo Diddley not only influenced sound– he also influenced the attitude, energy, and look of Rock & Roll for decades to come. Look at the pics here, I see the bold plaids that Diddley and other Rockers of the ’50s wore (Plaid was for hipsters, not squares, in the ’50s..), that emerged again strongly in the ’70s through the Sex Pistols (great credit due to Vivienne Westwood), The Clash and others. You can also see and hear where Jack Black got the lion’s share of his game from– no doubt Bo Diddley. The man is a legend and has never gotten his due, and the due that came, came too late. He had a well-earned chip on his shoulder, and even insisted The Clash pay him upfront, as he’d been screwed over so many times before.

“I was the cat that went and opened the door, and everyone else ran through it. And I said– what the heck, you know? …I was left holding the doorknob” –Bo Diddley

Bo Diddley

ca. 1950s — Norma Jean “The Duchess” Wofford in white blouse, Jerome Green squatting in front with maracas, and Bo Diddley with his signature rectangular Gretsch guitar. Bo and his crew were the badasses of their generation, just as The Clash were in theirs. — Image by © Michael Ochs

“If you can play– all you need is one amp, your axe, and you. “ –Bo Diddley explaining his feelings about The Clash’s monstrous wall of sound during their 1979 US tour.

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PEOPLE ALWAYS CALLED ME BLONDIE | AT SOME POINT I BECAME DIRTY HARRY

“Hi, it’s Deb.  You know, when I woke up this morning I had a realization about myself.  I was always Blondie.  People always called me Blondie, ever since I was a little kid. What I realized is that at some point I became Dirty Harry.  I couldn’t be Blondie anymore, so I became Dirty Harry.”

–Debbie Harry

Debbie Harry of Blondie, Coney Island, NY, 1977 — Image © Bob Gruen

“It was in the early ’70s and I was trying to get across town at two or three o’clock in the morning.  This little car kept coming around and offering me a ride.  I kept saying ‘No’ but finally I took the ride because I couldn’t get a cab.”  

“I got in the car and the windows were are rolled up, except for a tiny crack.  This driver had an incredibly bad smell to him. I looked down and there were no door handles.  The inside of the car was stripped. The hairs on the back of my neck just stood up.”  

“I wiggled my arm out of the window and pulled the door handle from the outside.  I don’t know how I did it, but I got out. He tried to stop me by spinning the car but it sort of helped me fling myself out.”

” Afterwards I saw him on the news–  Ted Bundy.”

–Debbie Harry

Debbie Harry, NYC, 1976 —  Image © Bob Gruen

1978 — Debbie Harry of Blondie — Image by © Martyn Goddard/Corbis

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HOW TO CLASH ART, MUSIC & STYLE | TSY STYLE HALL OF FAME ROCKER PAUL SIMONON

“Clothes were where my aesthetic instincts came out then. They helped make the group accessible.”

–Paul Simonon

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Back in 1976, it was the wily manager, Bernie Rhodes, who instructed Mick Jones to recruit Paul Simonon into the group that would soon become The Clash, simply because he looked the part. “I was a bit Bowie, a bit suedehead back then,” says Simonon. “And, more importantly, I was at art college. Mick liked that. He was always big on pop history. He knew all about Stuart Sutcliffe, who was Lennon’s best mate in the early days of the Beatles, and a proper artist. I remember Mick introducing me to all his mates– ‘This is my new bass guitarist, Paul. He can’t play but he’s a painter.'”

The rest, as they say, is rock’n’roll history. Together, at Rhodes’s urging, they recruited Joe Strummer to the cause, and the Clash became the coolest punk group on the planet.  When the London punk scene began, Simonon was a fledgling painter, fresh from Byam Shaw art college which, back then, was just up the road in Notting Hill. In the spirit of the times, he  drip-painted his bass guitar in the style of Jackson Pollock and learned how to play by writing out the chords and sticking them on to the instrument’s neck. His reggae-influenced bass playing soon became integral to the group’s sound.

Simonon’s traditionalist approach to painting is surprising given that, within the often volatile creative dynamic of the Clash, he was the conceptualist, the one who paid most attention to the visuals, the image. He painted the backdrop to the Clash’s rehearsal studio, and designed some of the later stage sets, including the dive-bombing Stukas that echoed their often explosive performances. You could tell the Clash were art-school punks from the start, what with those shirts stencilled with slogans and that paint-splashed bass guitar.

“That was the art student in me trying to find a look that would make us stand apart from the Sex Pistols,” he says, laughing. “The Buzzcocks were very Mondrian, and we were Pollock. As a painter, though, I’m essentially old-fashioned. Conceptualism just doesn’t do it for me. I love Walter Sickert, Samuel Palmer, Rubens and Constable. That’s just the way I am. I love putting paint on canvas, getting lost in the process of painting.”

–Sean O’Hagan

The Clash, 1982– Joe Strummer, Terry Chimes, Mick Jones & Paul Simonon.  –photo by Bob Gruen

The Clash, 1982– Joe Strummer, Terry Chimes, Mick Jones and Paul Simonon.  –photo by Bob Gruen

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LEGENDARY CLASH STYLE | FROM PUNK ROCK ROUGH TO SARTORIAL SMOOTH

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Joe Strummer of The Clash, LA 1983.  (Photo by Ann Summa/Getty Images)

Joe Strummer of The Clash, LA 1983. (Photo by Ann Summa/Getty Images)

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I don’t know if there’s a band that has inspired me over the years in terms of style more than The Clash. The way they could effortlessly mix punk and street style with sartorial flair and make it look so effortless and cool was intoxicating.  The mix of tailored suits with suede creepers, Doc Marten boots (back when they were a symbol of rebellion, rather than conformity) funky accessories and headwear was pure art.

The Clash definitely pioneered rock & roll fashion during the 80s and kept things tasty when the rock and fashion world was getting, well, wierd.  The true master of style in the band,  in my humble opinion, was not Joe Strummer or Mick Jones– it was the cool cat bass player, Paul Simonon.

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The Clash, legends of music and 1980's rocker fashion. Photo by Rex USA ( 88672C )

The Clash, legends of music and 1980's rocker fashion. Photo by Rex USA ( 88672C )

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