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Friday, 22 September 2017

40 Years of Punk & New Wave 1977: Complete Control - The Clash

 Complete Control / City Of The Dead - The Clash
CBS
Produced by Lee "Scratch" Perry and Mickey Foote
Released 23rd September 1977
UK Chart #28


 A-Side

    Joe Strummer - lead vocals, lead guitar
    Mick Jones - lead and rhythm guitars, backing vocals
    Paul Simonon - bass guitar
    Topper Headon - drums


Complete Control
Written by Joe Strummer/Mick Jones

 They said: "Release 'Remote Control'!"
But we didn't want it on the label
They said: "Fly to Amsterdam!"
The people laughed and the press went mad

Oooh
Someone's really smart
Oooh
Complete control, that's a laugh

On the last tour my mates just couldn't get in
I'd open up the back door but they'd get run out again
At every hotel we was met by the law
Come for the party, come to make sure

Oooh
Have we done something wrong?
Oooh
Complete control, even over this song!

You're my guitar hero!

They said we'd be artistically free
When we signed that bit of paper
They meant: "Let's make a-lotsa money!
Worry about it later"

Oooh
I don't understand
Oooh
Complete control, let me see your other hand!

I don't trust you
Why do you trust me?
Huh?

All over news spread fast:
"They're dirty, they're filthy
They ain't a-gonna last!"

(Total) This is Joe Public speaking!
(C-O-N control) I'm controlled in the body, I'm controlled in the mind!
(Total) This is the punk rockers!
(C-O-N control) We're controlled in the price of the first drugs we can find
(Total)
(C-O-N control)
(Total)
Parent control (C-O-N control)

We gotta work it up and bring it up and fight it and write it

(C-O-N control) That means you!
I kick it, I fight it, I get it out, write it
(C-O-N control)
I gotta kick it up
 
B-Side
     Joe Strummer - lead vocal, backing vocal, organ, lead guitar
    Mick Jones - backing vocal, lead guitar
    Paul Simonon - bass guitar
    Topper Headon - drums
    Gary Barnacle - saxophones


The City Of The Dead
Written by Joe Strummer/Mick Jones
 
This is the city of the dead
As we lie side by side in bed
I'd do something else instead
But it is the city of the dead

We went out kickin' around
But you got drunk an' fallen down
An' I wished I could be like you
With the Soho River drinking me down

In the city of the dead
Fall in love an' fall in bed
It wasn't anything you said
Except I know we both lie dead

Don't you know where to cop
That's what New York Johnny said
You should get to know your town
Just like I know mine

While all the windows stare ahead
An' the streets are filled with dread
Every nation in the world
Slinks through the alley after girls

What we wear is dangerous gear
It'll get you picked on anywhere
Though we get beat up we don't care
At least it livens up the air

But someday's we hide inside
All courage gone and paralyzed
Sniff that wind of ugly tension
Today the jerks have got aggression

It is the city of the dead


****************
I think if you ask most fans of The Clash what their Top Three songs are it is pretty much certain that Complete Control would feature among the many answers (the other two I'm guessing would be between White Man in Hammersmith Palais, London Calling and White Riot).

Earlier in 1977 The Clash had earmarked Janie Jones as their second single. Mick Jones had even told Melody Maker that would be the new single but the powers that be at CBS decided whilst The Clash were out on The White Riot Tour that they would be the ones to decide what record was going to be put out and that was Remote Control backed by a live mono recording of London's Burning.

This certainly did not sit well with the band and they were angered that CBS had undermined them by releasing the single without their permission.

"They said, we'd be artistically free
When we signed that bit of paper."

The Clash fought back in the best way they could by making sure their next single would not only be an absolute stone cold classic, but a song to bludgeon those very people who had made such grand promises to them and had betrayed their artistic integrity!

This fight for "Control" was something that The Clash would have to persist at pretty much all their days at CBS because Remote Control was not the first fight and it certainly wouldn't be the last! (Think Bankrobber single, London Calling and Sandinista! albums and probably a few others as well).

Lee "Scratch" Perry was brought on to produce the single (his first non-reggae production). Perry had heard the band's cover of his Junior Murvin hit "Police and Thieves" and was moved enough to have put a picture of the band (the only white artist accorded such an honor) on the walls of his Black Ark Studio in Jamaica. When The Clash learned that Perry was in London producing for Bob Marley and the Wailers, he was invited to produce the single. "Scratch" readily agreed. But the band basically reworked his production by taking out much of the echo that he had put on it and brought the guitars more to front of the track. I have been yearning for years to hear that Lee Perry Mix of the song and 40 years on I have still never tracked a version down (so if anyone out there has a copy get in touch!). 

The other first for this single was that it was the first recording that Topper Headon appeared on as drummer for The Clash. Remember on the Debut Album and the first two singles (White Riot and Remote Control) that had been released Tory Crimes (Terry Chimes) had been behind the kit. His addition to the band certainly completed them and he brought a lot of talent to the table...drumkit!


(Cover of Promo UK CD Single 1999)


A live version of the song was included as part of the From Here To Eternity album in 1999 (recorded at Bonds International Casino, New York on 13th June 1981). A pretty tidy video was put together for it as well featuring the band live in action. City Of The Dead also featured on the album and was recorded at The Lyceum Ballroom, London 28th December 1978 (You can listen to the full show here!).


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