The Wallflowers When The Wallflowers debuted their first single "Reboot the…
- Posted on Apr 22nd 2011 5:00PM by James Sullivan
Peter Still, Redferns
Three years earlier, the Clash was preparing for the release of its fifth studio album, 'Combat Rock.' On the heels of the band's classic double album, 'London Calling,' and its chaotic follow-up, the three-LP outburst 'Sandinista!,' the band was exhausted, both creatively and physically. Though 'Combat Rock' would produce the hits 'Rock the Casbah' and 'Should I Stay or Should I Go,' it was padded with what some considered substandard material.
The band members were cranky, too, and with punk on the wane, ticket sales for their UK tour were slow. Rhodes, the impresario who had worked with Sex Pistols manager Malcolm McLaren, quietly suggested that frontman Joe Strummer go AWOL. The press, he believed, would jump on the story of the missing rocker.
"Joe's personal conflict is, where does the socially concerned rock artist stand in the bubblegum environment of today?" Rhodes told the NME when the tour's opening dates were postponed. "I feel he's probably gone away for a serious rethink."
In fact, Rhodes had suggested that Strummer slip off to Austin, Texas, to stay with his friend Joe Ely, the rootsy songwriter who sang on 'Should I Stay or Should I Go.' But Strummer crossed up his scheming manager, heading instead for Paris. The music papers reported variously that the singer was hiding out in Amsterdam or had been fished from a river in Glasgow. Meanwhile, Rhodes's publicity stunt had backfired in his face. He hired a private detective, whose search for the missing punk came up empty.
Finally, after a month of missed dates, Strummer suddenly reappeared, tracked down in Paris by Kosmo Vinyl, his friend and sometime manager. While on his walkabout he'd run the Paris marathon -- "training" on ten pints of beer the night before, he claimed. He'd disappeared, he told writer Charles Shaar Murray, to prove to himself that he was still alive. "It's very much like being a robot, being in a group," he said, admitting that he may have gone "a bit barmy" on his strange leave of absence.
Immediately upon Strummer's return, drummer Topper Headon was dropped from the group. Though the official announcement cited "political" reasons, it was in fact Headon's drug abuse that led to his firing. Meanwhile, Mick Jones, who was engaged in a power struggle with Strummer and was not eager to tour, had one foot of his own out the door.
After the creative deluge of 1979 and 1980, it would be a long drought before Strummer and the depleted Clash would release their swan song. Theirs was a brief but glorious run. It was time to cut the crap.