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The Clash Live at Shea Stadium
by emily blunt

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Bluntly speaking? The Clash Live at Shea Stadium is a an immediate classic in live concert audio dynamite. Sure, I’m biased, but don’t take my word for it. If your a Clash fan, buy it and give a listen.

It was a stormy night…New York was closing down for the day as a soft rain softly wetted the backs of 50,000 music fans gathered upon Shea Stadium’s hallowed fields. The Who, a rock ‘em sock ‘em group of walking icons (sans their original drummer Keith “Bombastic” Moon) were playing one of their many final tour shows.

Pete Townsend - the soul of The Who - was a Clash fan and had fought to get the band on the bill. Yes The Clash was The Who's back up band. The young group of rabblegobbers had come a long way. And they'd sprung upon the USA with the intensity of mosquitoes who happened upon a girl scout campfire gathering. In a great circle-of-life-way, it was not unlike The Who had done themselves a mere couple of decades before. Once Townsend and the blokes were the rabblegobbers causing mom's to shudder anddad's to fetch their shootin' pistols.

Still, for me, it's a hearty laugh to think of The Clash as back up band; "weddings parties...anything...and bongo jams a specialty."

And, here at Shea, it is said half the audience was there to see the Brixton edged boys, the other half the Shepards Bush geezers (Clash and The Who). David Johansson of the NYC Dolls was also on the bill as the sun set lest we all forget....the whole affair was a great bill of talents really. Like those misty days of old when five really well-known bands (of simular age groups) shared an evening of musical mayhem to the delight of the youngin's.'

On the CD, after an obligatory intro by tour manager (aka a friend along for the wine and frolics) Kosmo Vinyl, Joe welcomes the throngs to the Casbah Club. And without a skip the boys begin with "London Calling." Here's the only hint of promotion manager manipulation to be found. You can pretty much bet some dollar wanker in the background told the band to "play that song every one knows - so they all know you...."

Next they rip into"Police on my Back," by Mick. Immediately after is Paul's "Guns of Brixton."

Then after each has been given a turn at the mic, they wallop with "Tommy Gun," "Armageddon Time," "The Magnificent Seven" has an in-and-out version, "Rock the Casbah," Train in Vain," " Career Opportunities," " Spanish Bombs," "Clampdown," "English Civil War," "Should I Stay or Should I Go," and "I fought the Law." Their usually driving set style - if a couple of hours short.

One thing noticeable in the audio is the crisp annunciation of every word. Every lyric is understandable...not always true on the albums...

The music is pristine. You can also hear every assault of Joe's manic strumming upon his strings, picture Paul's famous erotic bass playing throughout, and be reminded of Mick's way of kind of schoolyard scuffling with his poor guitar - as if to beat the notes out of it. And yes, you are even reminded that Topper was a viable member back there pounding away on the drums.

Whatever the decades-old battle of fanatics' debate of who - ahem, excuse me - which group, had the bigger draw at the time, The Clash rocked it, ahem, out of the park as it were. And until now, the group's love-it-or-leave-it video for “Should I Stay or Should I Go” was all global fans ever saw or heard of this two-day concert stop. The tapes disappeared somewhat like an everlasting gobbstopper without Charlie to surf in and save our day.

The lore behind this wonderful collection of auditory glory says it resurfaced quite by accident as Joe Strummer literally stumbled on to the lost tapes in a box while moving. His widow has since had the kindness to share with the world.

To be fair, live music is always for the fans. This is no exception frankly. But, the quality of recordings takes the works to an A+ level over any bootlegs you may presently have adorning your CD rack.

A subtle clue as to the state of the band behind the scenes may even be gleemed from Joe Strummer's quips. They are often a tad perturbed and pointed. One has to briefly wonder if this was the ghost of band-break-up future eking through. The honeymoon was over between the music mates by this concert date – but their commitment to rock the casbah (sorry) does not relent for a moment.

There’s no way the live sounds capture the residual energy you were volted with while drenched in a Clash show – these things never do for any non-present listeners. Yet you can clearly sense their live presence power. And the group’s runaway train pace was an absolute reflection of the way Clash fans - as a unit - seemed to hold themselves; fast foward blasting toward the future; with really cool beats and surprisingly deep lyrics for the generation. My generation.

Today, I think of Shea as the show that got away…that is until now.

Thank you Joe.

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