An all-star panel – including Mick Jones, Paul Simonon and Terry Chimes – vote for their greatest cuts (from Uncut's December 2003 issue)
27 Career Opportunities
The Clash album track, April 1977
TERRY CHIMES: Big stadiums are never much fun because you can’t see the people you’re playing to. But I can remember playing “Career Opportunities” at Shea Stadium in 1982 (featured on the posthumous live album From Here To Eternity). It was odd, thinking back to when we used to rehearse in a tiny place in Camden and here we are bashing it out in front of tens of thousands. Life’s full of surprises.
PETE SHELLEY: It doesn’t sound as good on record as it did live, but “Career Opportunities” is probably one of my favourite songs. It has a real energy and intensity to it, and the lyrics are about not wasting your life working nine-to-five in a job you hate. That was what Joe was best at really – writing songs that people could relate to on different levels.
GLEN MATLOCK: The first proper gig The Sex Pistols played with The Clash, where people had to pay to get in, was at The Black Swan in Sheffield. I insisted that they supported us to Malcolm [McLaren], and then we did Screen On The Green together in London. There was a bit of rivalry between us by then, and I was a bit annoyed that they nicked the Jackson Pollock/paint-splatter look from me, but they were still a good live band and they played a blinding version of “Career Opportunities”. There wasn’t a lot going for young men in Britain back then, so that song touched a nerve with a lot of people.
26 Tommy Gun
Single A-side from the album Give ’Em Enough Rope, both November 1978
ED HAMELL: I never thought one way or another about this song until I saw Strummer solo a few years ago in NYC. Everybody loved him, was really glad to see him. I saw Joey Ramone out on the street going in. Joe was doing some Clash songs, the crowd was very pumped up, and he did “Tommy Gun”. He was spitting and passionate, all pretty great – but the thing that killed me was when he got to the drum lick, that solo snare marching thing, everybody in the crowd, unprompted, played air-drums. I’d never seen anything like it.
CLINT BOON: What you learn about politics from bands like The Clash is more important than what you learn at school. You didn’t get taught about terrorist factions in school, you learnt about that from records like “Tommy Gun”.
JAKE BURNS: After Joe died, I was asked to write a little tribute. I was trying not to be too gushing a fan, even though I am, and I mentioned the fact that I did find some of his political ideas somewhat naive. I was specifically referring to that terrorist chic, Joe wearing the Brigade Rosse T-shirt and things like that. I find all that dangerous anyway, anyone who does that. I know nobody back home in Northern Ireland was particularly impressed when they came over to Belfast and had their picture taken outside a British Army base. I recall that on that particular trip they didn’t even play, so it was a bit like a cheap holiday in other people’s misery. But everybody’s allowed to make mistakes. “Tommy Gun”, though, is a great record. Just that intro. That’s what a rock band should sound like, y’know.
NORMAN COOK: Bands like The Libertines and The Manics would probably cut off one of their arms to write such a devastating song. I used to leap around my bedroom to it alongside “White Riot” and The Damned’s “New Rose”.
25 I’m So Bored With The USA
The Clash album track, April 1977
RICK MOODY: I loved the USA-bashing of “I’m So Bored…”, and the anti-draft sentiment of “The Call Up” (which came out not long after I had to register for the draft), and those sentiments still seem fresh today. The Clash have aged well, they sound even better now than they did back then, and their variety of commitment is sorely missed. Resquiat in pacem.
MARK PERRY: To me it’s like, “Well keep all your USA, your clichés about American rock’n’roll because we wanna sing about where we come from.” That was another unique thing about The Clash. The Kinks were a great band and they sang about London, but the way The Clash did it was special. That’s why to me they’ll always be the greatest punk band, the most important band ever in my life. And, along with The Who, the most important London band.
LYNDON MORGANS: Mick Jones said the song’s not about being bored with the USA, so – doh! – dumb thing to call it then, eh? And Joe was in total thrall to Americana anyway! But he was a great one for poses, and it’s sometimes when he was chucking his silliest poses that he was at his most endearing, so here’s a case in point – daft lyrics, a tune reminiscent of “Down The Dustpipe”, but a great two-and-a-half minutes anyway, especially for the guitar playing.
STEVE ERICKSON: As an American who insists on still believing America is the best idea for a country anyone’s had, and who’s dismayed by how it’s sold out by its present leaders in the name of patriotism, I feel honour-bound to include this, not only for the original version but the one I heard the band perform the last time I was in London. It was the summer of ’82 and Strummer had just reappeared after his so-called “lost weekend” – I like to think he was off making a secret record with Jane Birkin in the cellar of the Bastille – and in the early days of Reaganism, America was never scarier or more bellicose – until now. The band was playing in Brixton and they sounded anything but bored. Loving the idea of America as much as I, they sounded every bit as betrayed. I coaxed along a pal of mine who wasn’t into either punk or the band. We had seen the Stones in Paris a few months before, and after the Clash show we made our way back to Earl’s Court where he finally broke the silence, admitting what we both knew. “No comparison,” he just said.
THURSTON MOORE: Loved this song straight away, but it wasn’t until I finally saw the lyrics months later that I understood what Strummer was actually singing about. “Suck on Kojak” – strange, yet true!