Saturday, January 5, 2013

"Alone I Keep The Wolves At Bay" 1979

Friends I'm sitting here en mi casa sipping a Mexican Coke (unlike American Coke, it still has sugar in it, instead of corn syrup, and believe me it makes a difference, thank you Mexico) riding a sweet little sugar high whilst listening to a mix of The Clash, The Undertones, Joe Gibbs productions, The Damned, The Specials and Stiff Little Fingers and reading Route 19 Revisited a book about the making of London Calling. It's as nice a way as any to pass a Saturday afternoon in America. This particular combination of sounds, sights and tastes has set my mind alight thinking about the Undertones supporting the Clash on their Take the Fifth tour of America in 1979, with Barry Myers spinning reggae and rockabilly beforehand and in the case of the Detroit show (see flyer above) David Johansen thrown in for good measure. What a show that must have been!! Oh to have been old enough to have been in attendance.  In the words of aging song and dance man Iggy Pop "Oy vey".

I was also thinking about the pictures in Pennie Smith's Clash photo book Before and After, a book I used to pore over as a wee lad and which really fired my imagination especially with the enigmatic comments from Joe and Mick underneath certain photos, comments that would eventually lead to further discoveries, further passions- that's how things used to work back in the days before the internets, you got your information slow, in bits and pieces, but it meant all the more for it, it was more precious that way, hell I used to get so damn excited over just finding certain tiny little photos of bands I liked, and the connections you made they had time to simmer and develop, you didn't get everything "right" either which actually led to more interesting hybrids/accidents- not to mention all of these pursuits took time, energy and passion which had the added benefit of weeding out people who weren't really interested or just interested in being, ugh, cool. These days with most bands I can't even figure out why the hell they bother to write and record music, do they really have something to say, and I don't mean a "message", but what is driving them to make music, is it a passion? But I digress, albeit rather eloquently, but still let's get back on track.

That Pennie Smith book is probably the first place I heard of the Undertones, there's a picture of  Kosmo Vinyl with a toy gun with a comment underneath that it was a gift from the Undertones and another picture of one of the band members (or might be Micky Gallagher or Barry Myers, all these Englishmen start looking alike after a while) with the "ever open fridge, Undertones party in Toronto". Later, when I got a copy of the Undertones 2nd record Hypnotised the inner sleeve had lots of polaroid pictures of the band "in America" sporting Clash t-shirts and even one with Joe Strummer.

So as my mind drifted affectionately over these old connections (this is what old folks do) I remembered a clip I'd seen on youtube of said tour that features almost all of what I'm speaking on: the Clash, the irrepressible Kosmo Vinyl, the Undertones, Joe's girl Gabby (I think), and even the toy guns, and no one's more funny or charming than the Undertones, good Irish lads, God bless them! The Clash are kind of serious in typical passionate missionary style, but I love how the mood changes and everyone breaks up when the Undertones come on taking the piss out of their own troubled Derry background, refusing to be serious, keeping things light, having FUN!

So lets close with that clip, it's a good un and made all the more amusing by the square TV narration and the interviewer being John Roberts, late of CNN, he's rocking a mean leather vest too, check him in the mirror behind Joe. Oh as a bonus, cause I'm into bonuses, its followed by three clips, two from 1978 of The Clash, the Buzzcocks (back when Joe hopefully still approved btw he later recanted for being hard on the Buzzcocks, a fair man was Joe) and lastly The Mighty Undertones in 1979.

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