The Clash were undoubtedly Liverpool’s favourite punk band. While the now infamous Sex Pistol’s gigs at Manchester’s Lesser Free Trade Hall have been rightly acknowledged as the starting point for that city’s punk and post punk scenes, the Clash’s first gig at Eric’s performed a similar magic for Liverpool.
The gig was witnessed by Jayne Casey, Julian Cope, Ian MCCulloch and one Pete Wylie, who approached Mick Jones after the gig to tell him how he was inspired to form a band after seeing the Clash. Jones handed Wylie his guitar and said “Pay me back when you’re famous”
The Clash were everything a band should have been at that particular point and place in music. Young, good looking, well dressed, confused and even contradictory. Their songs combined political thrust with killer riffs, signing about hate, war, being bored and riots. Live they were described as being like “three James Deans coming at you”, as they front line of Mick Jones, Joe Strummer and Paul Simonon charged and attacked, backed up by the mighty Topper Headon.
The Clash were one of the first bands I saw at Eric’s, a few months later on their Tommy Gun tour. As confession is alleged to be good for the soul, I will hold my hand up and say that I was never a massive fan after their initial run of singles, nailing my colours to the Pistol’s mast instead. That said, this was without question one of the most thrilling gigs I have ever seen, The Clash were undoubtedly at their best live, unmarred by the poor production of their first album and the American sheen of their second.
Still to this day I can remember the energy of the gig, along with the heat, the packed crowd and the feeling that, somehow, this was a gig that would stay with you long after we had left the venue.
I had never seen Eric’s so crowded, perhaps the fullest I ever saw it, with the possible exception of Iggy Pop and The Skids. The crowds were such that punters had spilled out from stage front and were coming in to the bar area. The Specials supported them on this tour and, although I tell people I saw them it is probably more honest to say that I glimpsed them, through a doorway and over people’s heads. The crowd looked hot and we didn’t fancy getting caught up in the heat and mess of it, just for a support band. If I had the chance I would tell my teenage self to get in there, I really wish I had seen more of them in with the gift of hindsight.
As the Specials left the stage and people headed to the bar, we saw our chance and pushed our way in. Thankfully we got to within a few people of the front of the stage and the Clash burst forth and blew our teenage minds! Playing their first album and early singles, they already had a catalogue to make most new bands weep with envy. With the Sex Pistols banned from almost everywhere and soon to split up, the Clash were head of the pack at this point, and made a nonsense of the line that punk bands couldn’t play their instruments.
The people inspired by their first Liverpool, gig have achieved much in the years since and have doubtless inspired other people in their turn. Perhaps this is the ultimate compliment for a gig, or even a band – that they create these ripples in a pond to such an extent that they are still being felt. Liverpool and the whole world, would be so much worse without them.
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