The Rolling Stones – “Some Girls” (1978)

November 4, 2008 at 4:31 pm (Reviews & Articles, The Rolling Stones)

Paul Nelson’s Aug. 10, 1978 Rolling Stone review of Some Girls


Q: Do you think the music of the Rolling Stones has an overall theme?

A: Yeah. Women.

–Keith Richards


With Bob Dylan no longer bringing it all back home, Elvis Presley dead and the Beatles already harmlessly cloned in the wax-museum nostalgia of a Broadway musical, it’s no wonder the Rolling Stones decided to make a serious record. Not particularly ambitious, mind you, but serious. These guys aren’t dumb, and when the handwriting on the wall starts to smell like formaldehyde and that age-old claim, “the greatest rock & roll band in the world,” suddenly sounds less laudatory than laughable–well, if you want to survive the Seventies and enter the Eighties with something more than your bankbook and dignity intact, you’d better dredge up your leftover pride, bite the bullet and try like hell to sweat out some good music. Which is exactly what the Stones have done. Though time may not exactly be on their side, with Some Girls they’ve at least managed to stop the clock for a while.

This is no small accomplishment. It’s not a big one either. Thus far, the critical line claims that Some Girls is the band’s finest LP since its certified masterpiece, Exile on Main Street, and I’ll buy that gladly. What I won’t buy is that the two albums deserve to be mentioned in the same breath. (Listen to “Tumbling Dice” or, better yet, “Let It Loose” from the earlier record, and then to the exemplary “Beast of Burden” or “When the Whip Comes Down” from this year’s model, and tell me that the passion, power and near-awesome completeness of the 1972 performances are in any way matched by the new ones.) Instead, Some Girls is like a marriage of convenience: when it works–which is often–it can be meaningful, memorable and quite moving, but it rarely sends the arrow straight through the heart. “It took me a long time to discover that the key to acting is honesty,” an actor told the anthropologist Edmund Carpenter. “Once you know how to fake that, you’ve got it made.”

For the most part, the Stones “act” superbly on the new LP. They’ve stripped down to the archetypal sound of two or three guitars, bass and drums (and, more importantly, ditched the vacuousness of Billy Preston), and it’s wonderful to hear the group blazing away again with little more than the basics to protect them. Everything’s apparently been recorded as close to live as we’d want it, and the overdubbing and extra musicians have been kept to a minimum. But at their best, the Rolling Stones used to play and sing a brand of rock & rollnoir as moody, smoke-filled and ambiguous as the steamy and harmful atmosphere of such film noir classics as The Maltese Falcon and The Big Sleep. Where Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were once a pair of Humphrey Bogarts (or, in keeping with Some Girls’ imagery, Lauren Bacalls), they’re now more like–who?–Warren Beatty and Robert Blake. Gone is the black and white murk, and the vocals are way up in a nicely messy but pastel mix. While the Stones may have gone back a dozen or more years for the sound and style of the current album, what they’ve really done is to reshoot Rebel without a Cause as a scaled-down, made-for-TV movie. The rebellion–with the exception of Richards’ powerful “Before They Make Me Run”–lacks a certain credibility, and the cause is simply survival. (If you don’t think that credibility is a major issue here, you haven’t seen any of the band’s recent concerts, most of which have been poor.)

With their eerie dual commitment to irony and ecstasy, the Stones, as rock critic Robert Christgau has pointed out, have always been obsessed with distance. On Some Girls, however, the distances are too great, and it would take a far better singer than Mick Jagger to bridge the gap between the notoriety of his jet-set lifestyle and the straightforward, one-man/one-woman sentiments of true love he expresses in “Miss You” and the Temptations’ “Imagination.” Or to make convincing his despair in “Shattered,” a fine, scathing song about New York City–a locale that figures prominently on this record. (Rod Stewart has a similar problem now, and punk rockers like Johnny Rotten and the Clash are correct to bring it to our attention.) Because Jagger is such an excellent singer, he almost makes you believe everything he says, but it’s that “almost”–which wouldn’t matter at all if he weren’t a Rolling Stone, i.e., the best–that keeps Some Girls from going right over the top. Too often, we’re faced with a question that goes well beyond the usual some-tension-within-the-material-is-necessary argument and into the area of, why is this man lying when he’s obviously pleased as punch with himself and is getting roomfuls of satisfaction? After all, if you don’t believe that Jay Gatsby really loves Daisy in his divinely crazy way, what good is it?

That said, Some Girls has more than its share of highs and only one real low (the condescending and silly “Far Away Eyes,” which makes even the country-rock of Firefall seem swell). “Respectable” takes a close look at the peculiar position of the Stones, circa 1978, and boasts lines like these:


We’re talking heroin with the President

Yes it’s a problem sir, but it can be bent…

You’re a rag trade girl, you’re the queen of porn

You’re the easiest lay on the White House lawn…


before it inexplicably begins to lose interest in itself. “When the Whip Comes Down” and “Lies” are a neat combination of white heat and old hat, while “Miss You,” “Imagination” and “Shattered” are a good deal better than that. And the title track is every bit as outrageous (“Black girls just want to get fucked all night/I just don’t have that much jam”) as everyone says. This song may be a sexist and racist horror, but it’s also terrifically funny and strangely desperate in a manner that gets under your skin and makes you care. On “Some Girls,” Mick Jagger sounds like he’s not only singing like Bob Dylan, but about Bob Dylan: “I’ll give ya a house back in Zuma Beach/And give you half of what I owe.”

“Before They Make Me Run” and “Beast of Burden,” Some Girls’ hardest-hitting songs, are sandwiched between “Respectable” and “Shattered” on side two. It’s probably presumptuous to suggest that these four tracks are about the present predicament of this stormy band, but I think they are. When Keith Richards sings, “Well after all is said and done/Gotta move while it’s still fun/But let me walk before they make me run,” there’s no doubt he’s talking about the music, his drug bust and the possible end of the road, about which he writes brilliantly (“Watch my taillights fading/There ain’t a dry eye in the house…”). And when Mick Jagger implores,


Ain’t I rough enough

Ain’t I tough enough

Ain’t I rich enough

In love enough

Oooo, oob please,


he’s got to be thinking about himself and the Rolling Stones, among other things. It’s too bad the answer to all his questions isn’t an unqualified yes. In a better world, it should be.


Paul Nelson

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Willie Nelson – “Red Headed Stranger” (1975)

November 4, 2008 at 10:45 am (Reviews & Articles)

Written by the late Paul Nelson for Rolling Stone, Aug. 28, 1975. This was the album that catapulted Willie into superstardom… 


When Teddy Roosevelt claimed loneliness a quintessential ingredient of our national character, he hit the psychic bull’s-eye, ringing up images of pragmatic pioneers, existential outlaws and a long line of heroes who dreamt of the purity of their youth even as they drew their guns to eliminate it. “There are no second acts in American lives,” someone once said, and a cursory glance at our gods–the cowboy/desperado, the gangster/detective, the movie star/rock & roller–whose lifestyles generally suggest either early and unnatural death or obsolescence, easily reinforces such a statement. To the quiet American, violence, like the perpetual but unreal motion of life on the road, seems to serve as solicitous coin in the realm of the solitary survivor, some kind of necessary stopgap and occupation while a man waits in the sanctified state of loneliness for something to happen, someone to come along or return, his vague search to end.

From Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid to Dirty Harry Callahan, the mythic American hero is a man, almost always womanless, who has somehow been trapped in that curious nether world between comic innocence and tragic experience; unable or unwilling to make a choice, he can at best (or worst) embrace either adjective, neither noun. He has known happiness once, lost it, and now nothing will help. For the sentimental there is Christianity, the “official” solace, itself an uncanny mixture of loneliness and violence, sexlessness and death, its hero a lost and forsaken son slain only to rise again with the promise of a glorious but distant new childhood in exchange for a worn out, hopeless past. It is small wonder that most Americans worship no god except their own lost innocence, have had, in fact, to rely on popular literature, films and music to provide a plausible and workable archetypal “religion,” that is more Jungian than Freudian.

Veteran country singer/songwriter Willie Nelson knows all of this–and much more. His Red Headed Stranger is extraordinarily ambitious, cool, tightly controlled. A phonographic Western movie which brilliantly evokes the mythopoeic imagery of McCabe and Mrs. Miller, Shane and the works of John Ford, the album traces the life of a Montana cowboy who finds his true love with another man, kills both of them and later another woman, then drifts through Denver dance halls into old age, forever unable to cut his early loss but managing in the final years of his life a moving, believable and not unwarranted synthesis of all he has missed. The narrative may not sound especially promising or unusual–like most fables, it is, after all, the same old story: That is its point–but in Nelson’s hands, its hard-won simplicity calls forth the same complex and profound metaphysical responses as those brought about by the matter-of-fact awesomeness of the Rocky Mountains. Hemingway, who perfected an art of sharp outlines and clipped phrases, used to say that the full power of his composition was accessible only between the lines; and Nelson, on this LP, ties precise, evocative lyrics to not quite remembered, never really forgotten folk melodies to create a similar effect, haunting yet utterly unsentimental. That he did not write much of the material makes his accomplishment no less singular.

Red Headed Stranger, not unlike Dylan’s much underrated Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid soundtrack, is concerned with great universals; its heroic songs, somewhat reminiscent in mood of “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” and the magnificent instrumental anthems (particularly “Final Theme”) of the latter album, seem both vulnerable and inevitable, strapped to the lifeline, equally suitable for weddings or funerals. “It was a time of the Preacher,” Stranger begins, and with this life-and-death invocation, the once Edenic West becomes a land populated by fallen innocents (“My eyes filled with tears and I must have aged ten years/I couldn’t believe it was true”) who deal out Biblical revenge (“Now the lesson is over and the killin’s begun”) less in anger than in a state of agonized confusion:


Don’t cross him, don’t boss him
He’s wild in his sorrow
Ridin’ and hidin’ his pain
Don’t fight him, don’t spite him
Just wait till tomorrow
Maybe he’ll ride on again.


When the killing comes, it is quick, hypnotic and terrible in its finality (“And they smiled at each other as he walked through the door/And they died with their smiles on their faces”), the belligerent bullets almost an afterthought, transient, symptomatic explosions in a field of loneliness (“He bought her a drink and gave her some money/He just didn’t seem to care/ … He shot her so quick they had no time to warn her”). The stranger has reached the penultimate point in his journey, but with omniscient irony the century rolls on:


It was the time of the Preacher
In the year of ’01
And just when you think it’s all over
It’s only begun.


On side two, cyclic catharsis begins, its inception again ironic. The wanderer enters a tavern, is drawn to a woman, but this time the lovers dance “with their smiles on their faces.” “Can I sleep in your arms tonight, lady?” the cowboy asks, adding “I assure you I’ll do you no harm.” Life’s verities seem ambiguous (“It’s the same old song–it’s right and it’s wrong/And livin’ is just something I do”) as the hero ages. Stranger ends with an image reminiscent of the final tableau of Bergman’s Wild Strawberries: Time, memory and expectations have magically fused, transitory people have somehow become luminous legends, happiness has been found.


And in the shade of an oak down by the river
Sat an old man and a boy
Settin’ sails, spinnin’ tales and fishin’ for whales
With a lady they both enjoy.


I can’t remember when a record has taken such a hold on me.

Paul Nelson

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Iraq Veterans Against the War

November 4, 2008 at 10:12 am (Life & Politics)

Taken from the website, Something to ponder now that Election Day is upon us and a new administration is about to take office.
Support the troops – not the war!!

Why We’re Against the War

Q: Why are veterans, active duty, and National Guard men and women opposed to the war in Iraq?

A: Here are 10 reasons we oppose this war:

  1. The Iraq war is based on lies and deception.
    The Bush Administration planned for an attack against Iraq before September 11th, 2001. They used the false pretense of an imminent nuclear, chemical and biological weapons threat to deceive Congress into rationalizing this unnecessary conflict. They hide our casualties of war by banning the filming of our fallen’s caskets when they arrive home, and when they refuse to allow the media into Walter Reed Hospital and other Veterans Administration facilities which are overflowing with maimed and traumatized veterans.
    For further reading:
  2. The Iraq war violates international law.
    The United States assaulted and occupied Iraq without the consent of the UN Security Council. In doing so they violated the same body of laws they accused Iraq of breaching.
    For further reading:
  3. Corporate profiteering is driving the war in Iraq.
    From privately contracted soldiers and linguists to no-bid reconstruction contracts and multinational oil negotiations, those who benefit the most in this conflict are those who suffer the least. The United States has chosen a path that directly contradicts President Eisenhower’s farewell warning regarding the military industrial complex. As long as those in power are not held accountable, they will continue… 
    For further reading:
  4. Overwhelming civilian casualties are a daily occurrence in Iraq.
    Despite attempts in training and technological sophistication, large-scale civilian death is both a direct and indirect result of United States aggression in Iraq.  Even the most conservative estimates of Iraqi civilian deaths number over 100,000. Currently over 100 civilians die every day in Baghdad alone.For further reading:,2763,1338749,00.html
  5. Soldiers have the right to refuse illegal war.
    All in service to this country swear an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, both foreign and domestic. However, they are prosecuted if they object to serve in a war they see as illegal under our Constitution. As such, our brothers and sisters are paying the price for political incompetence, forced to fight in a war instead of having been sufficiently trained to carry out the task of nation-building.
    For further reading:
  6. Service members are facing serious health consequences due to our Government’s negligence.
    Many of our troops have already been deployed to Iraq for two, three, and even four tours of duty averaging eleven months each.  Combat stress, exhaustion, and bearing witness to the horrors of war contribute to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a serious set of symptoms that can lead to depression, illness, violent behavior, and even suicide. Additionally, depleted uranium, Lariam, insufficient body armor and infectious diseases are just a few of the health risks which accompany an immorally planned and incompetently executed war. Finally, upon a soldier’s release, the Veterans Administration is far too under-funded to fully deal with the magnitude of veterans in need.
    For further reading:
  7. The war in Iraq is tearing our families apart.
    The use of stop-loss on active duty troops and the unnecessarily lengthy and repeat active tours by Guard and Reserve troops place enough strain on our military families, even without being forced to sacrifice their loved ones for this ongoing political experiment in the Middle East.
    For further reading:,13319,FL_loss_092704,00.html
  8. The Iraq war is robbing us of funding sorely needed here at home.
    $10.3 billion per month is spent on a war which could have aided the victims of Hurricane Katrina, gone to impoverished schools, the construction of hospitals and health care systems, tax cut initiatives, and a host of domestic programs that have all been gutted in the wake of the war in Iraq.
    For further reading:
  9. The war dehumanizes Iraqis and denies them their right to self-determination.
    Iraqis are subjected to humiliating and violent checkpoints, searches and home raids on a daily basis.  The current Iraqi government is in place solely because of the U.S. military occupation.  The Iraqi government doesn’t have the popular support of the Iraqi people, nor does it have power or authority.  For many Iraqis the current government is seen as a puppet regime for the U.S. occupation.  It is undemocratic and in violation of Iraq’s own right to self-governance.
    For further reading:
  10. Our military is being exhausted by repeated deployments, involuntary extensions, and activations of the Reserve and National Guard.
    The majority of troops in Iraq right now are there for at least their second tour.  Deployments to Iraq are becoming longer and many of our service members are facing involuntary extensions and recalls to active duty.  Longstanding policies to limit the duration and frequency of deployments for our part-time National Guard troops are now being overturned to allow for repeated, back-to-back tours in Iraq.  These repeated, extended combat tours are taking a huge toll on our troops, their families, and their communities.
    For further reading:,0,7198945.story?coll=la-home-headlines



Q: Why do Iraq Veterans Against the War call for the immediate withdrawal from Iraq?

A: There are several reasons why immediate withdrawal is the critical first step toward solving the problems in Iraq.

  1. The reasons and rationale given for the invasion were fraudulent.
    There were no Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq during the time of the invasion according to US officials and former chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix. The idea that Al Qeada and the 9/11 terrorist attacks were connected to Saddam Hussein and the Baath party were proven false in the 9/11 Commission Report. Members of the Bush Administration have admitted that they “misspoke” in the run up to the war.
  2. The presence of the US military is not preventing sectarian violence.
    The US occupation of Iraq has proven to be unable to prevent sectarian violence and halt an escalation towards a civil war. Despite having an average of 140,000 troops in country since the occupation began, internal violence and attacks against civilians and Iraqi security forces have been on a steady incline.
  3. The occupation is a primary motivation for the insurgency and global religious extremism.
    The insurgency can be broken down into many individually named factions with various goals, beliefs, and techniques. However, our membership of veterans believe that the occupation of Iraq is the primary thing encouraging the insurgency and giving it legitimacy in the eyes of many Iraqis. Likewise, other people of the Islamic faith are encouraged to resist America ’s policies internationally based on how they perceive our military operations in the Middle East.
  4. We can no longer afford to fight this war of choice.
    The financial burden is destroying our domestic programs that could be used to protect us from natural disasters, provide medical programs, or help improve education. We are jeopardizing the US economy and putting strains on the budgets of important government agencies like the Veterans Affairs Department.
  5. National security is compromised.
    Funds that could be used to protect our ports and transportation are being stripped away while our National Guard units are on constant deployments instead of being used to protect and defend us here at home.
  6. The world is becoming more dangerous.
    International terrorist attacks have increased and it has become more dangerous for Americans to travel abroad. Approval for US policy has decreased and the dislike of Americans has increased.
  7. Our national “moral authority” is being undermined.
    The US has lost credibility to much of the world as the defender of liberty and freedom and our national identity is eroding. We can no longer deploy our armed forces for peace keeping measures with the good faith of the international community. We need to regain the respect and faith of the global community. This begins by withdrawing our troops from Iraq and helping the Iraqi people rebuild their country and society.
  8. The majority of American citizens, Iraqi citizens and US military would like to see an immediate end to the war in Iraq.
    If we are truly a democracy and we aim to create a democracy in Iraq our leaders will represent the will of the citizens and lead according to their wishes.
  9. The military is broken.
    We are abusing the small population of armed service members with multiple deployments while using inadequate vehicles and equipment. Less than one half of a percent of the American population is serving in the active armed forces, which is the least amount in the last century. Only 25% of the troops in Iraq are there for their first tour, while 50% are there on their second tour, and the remaining 25% are there three times or more. We continue to involuntarily extend soldiers with Stop-Loss, recall them repeatedly for additional service using the Individual Ready Reserve, and send soldiers with diagnosed medical problems into combat.


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The Clash – “Live at Shea Stadium” (2008)

November 4, 2008 at 10:02 am (Reviews & Articles)

This review of this recently released live Clash album (taken from a 1982 concert opening up for The Who), was written by Alexander Billet for Slept On magazine, Oct. 29, 2008…

On Enemy Ground

With the sheer over-saturation of Clash related material out there, Sony’s release of Live at Shea Stadium is most definitely a last-ditch effort to squeeze every last drop out of modern-day Clash nostalgia. Coming not too far behind Julien Temple’s “The Future is Unwritten,” Chris Salewicz’s “Redemption Song,” and a veritable mountain of reissues and remasters, it’s hard to think that Live at Shea isn’t just a textbook example of a major record label behaving, well, like a major record label.
Normally such a move would provoke all the derision this writer can muster. Live at Shea is an exception, however, for two reasons. One: this is the Clash! This is the band that politicized punk rock from its very inception, and brought rebellion back to rock ‘n’ roll in a way that still inspires to this very day.
Two: the album is a glimpse into a period in the band’s history that was simultaneously exhalting and tragic–between things begun and ended, between the power of great music and ideas and the power of right-wing fear and reaction.
The Clash’s decision to open up for the Who on the mega-stars’ “farewell” tour of American stadiums in the fall of ’82 was itself an ideological quandary. The Clash were the biggest they had ever been, and were arguably one of the biggest groups in the world. Combat Rock was proving to be their most successful release to date, and was fast on its way to platinum status.
It seemed that the band’s incendiary message was reaching more people than ever before. For a group poised to take over the world, a stadium tour seemed the logical next step. For a group that had always taken an unflinching radical stance, though, stadium tours represented all that was wrong with rock ‘n’ roll. Everything from the flashy stage-shows to the overpriced tickets smacked of how capitalism was ruining music.
Furthermore, as biographer Pat Gilbert puts it, “The group had always preferred the intimacy of medium-size venues. It was this philosophy of being able to see and communicate with their audience that lay behind their week-long residencies at modest venues…” In other words, stadiums were where all the democracy and solidarity of music was crushed by piles of cash and elitism.
The Clash justified the move by figuring (and rightly so) that the tour was a way to reach even more people. Sound logic, no doubt. The America that the Clash were returning to had entered a new and scary era. The rightward drift of official politics in the US mirrored the same in Britain. A year and a half into Reagan’s presidency, he had already crushed the air traffic controllers’ strike, and signaled that he had more of the same in store for women, Blacks, and anyone who dared defy the new Washington consensus.
Combat Rock was filled with impassioned calls-to-arms, urging young people to dig their heels in and resist the upcoming onslaught. In an interview years later, Joe Strummer would recall his thoughts on the advent of Reagan/Thatcher: “[When] Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister of England and Ronald Reagan became President of the U.S….it was hard to tell who would be worse, but we knew that a tremendous struggle was ahead…their tendencies leaned to the far-right if not fascism.”
When the Clash took the stage at Shea on October 13th, rain was coming down in sheets. The prospect of playing in front of 50,000 screaming fans was indeed daunting. Bass player Paul Simonon recalls that “it felt a bit like miming because there were so many people there.”
Yet listening to the album today, one would never guess that the group was so nervous. Footage of the gig shot by documentarian Don Letts shows the four members throwing themselves around the massive stage with the same swagger and confidence that they brought to the countless club dates they had performed in previous years. Strummer even jokes with the audience at one point: “Will you stop talking at the back, please? It’s too loud. It’s putting us off the song, here! We’re trying to concentrate so stop yakking!”
The moments of raw power and vitality are numerous on Live at Shea. The opening notes of “London Calling” are punched out so forcefully they could shatter concrete. “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” possesses a rolling raucousness that can’t even be heard in the studio recording. And “Career Opportunities”—the only song from their first album played that night—carries all the immediacy it had when it was first performed by four unemployed punks in North London five years previously.
By the time the group finish off their set with a blistering version of “I Fought the Law,” they are holding the audience in the palm of their hand.
And yet, it’s also apparent that this is a band not too far from disintegration. Just prior to the tour the group had sacked drummer Topper Headon due to his growing heroin addiction, thus putting an end to the “classic” Clash lineup. Terry Chimes, drummer for the Clash on their first album, had been brought in as a last minute replacement.
The sudden change in personnel is evident on some tracks. While Headon had a background in myriad musical styles, Chimes was much more of a straight rock drummer. While he pulls-off the rap and dub beats in during the group’s medley of “Magnificent Seven” and “Amagideon Time,” his playing is hollow and often sluggish.
Other more prominent schisms within the group are evident too. Those familiar with the group’s version of Eddy Grant’s “Police On My Back” will notice a section of the song when Mick Jones’ lead guitar part is strangely missing. The story here is that Strummer had walked up to Jones and physically grabbed the neck of his guitar to prevent him from playing.
The rift between Jones and the rest of the group had been growing for quite some time. He had disagreed with bringing original manager Bernie Rhodes back on board. He claims to have merely “gone along” with Topper’s sacking. And his original mix of Combat Rock had been shelved in favor of bringing Glynn Johns in to produce the final version.
Chimes was privy to how this bitterness was affecting the daily workings of the Clash: “By then Joe and Mick obviously had a difference of opinions on a range of things… They had devised a system where they didn’t have to confront each other all the time—there was an avoidance going on, which covered up the fact there were deeper issues there.”
Less than a year after the concert at Shea, Jones was kicked out of the Clash. That a founding member whose songwriting and virtuosity on the guitar had been an indispensable part of the group could be kicked out was evidence that their existence had become increasingly rudderless.
Combat Rock‘s defiant protest hadn’t been enough to stave off the consolidation of Reagan/Thatcherism. As the heated struggles of the 70s were pushed into bitter defeat, anyone with the Clash’s firebrand left-wing politics was forced into either abject obscurity or milquetoast compromise.
Compromise was never something the Clash were good at, and they continued to soldier on sans-Jones. But with the movements that had long inspired the Clash—from the anti-racist forces to the Sandinistas—fighting for their very survival, the ground on which they stood became shakier by the day. It didn’t take long for one of rock’s most relevant groups to become a caricature, a music industry parody of what a “left-wing” band is supposed to look like.
“The worst moment was realizing that there was no way forward,” said Strummer some years later, “like the gap between rhetoric and the actuality. For example, talking about all the issues that the Clash raised and what your daily life would have been like if we’d have stayed together… You know, you’d never really have a life that would be real and yet you’d be expected to say something real about life to real people and make some real sense.”
Not long after the release of their universally panned followup to Combat Rock, the group would call it a day. The concert at Shea would simultaneously be their apex and the beginning of the end for the Clash.
One can’t help but listen to Live at Shea Stadium without remembering Strummer’s quip that “rock ‘n’ roll is played on enemy ground.” If a group like the Clash can walk into the belly of the beast and bring the same verve and immediacy that they delivered to anyone who ever listened to them is a testament to the power of truly great music. Knowing that they would be among the many brilliant political acts that imploded in the Reagan 80s makes these fleeting and final moments of greatness all the more prescient. 

Alexander Billet

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