The Clash was formed in 1976 by Mick Jones (Real Name: Michael Jones; guitar/vocals), Paul Simonon (bass/vocals), Joe Strummer (Real Name: John Graham Mellor; ex-101ers; the nickname comes from his guitar playing style; vocals/guitar) and Tory Chimes (Real Name: Terry Chimes; drums) (Keith Levene also had a brief stint). After a wild tour with Sex Pistols their manager got them a deal with CBS in early 1977 which subsequently resulted in the release of their debut two minute classic White Riot. The single rocketed up the U.K. charts to 38 to announce the arrival of what would become the second biggest Punk band, second only to the Pistols, the Clash manipulating the Punk sound to express their political views and musical experimentation. This finely balanced style would come to fruition with hooky chorus lines in The Clash (1977). The album featured the classic tracks of I'm So Bored With The U.S.A. and Career Opportunities, not to mention the cover tune of Junior Murvin's Police And Thieves proving to be a brief attempt at dub reggae. The album smashed the U.K. charts at 12 and the follow-up singles (featuring tracks not on the album) of Clash Rockers and White Man In Hammersmith Palais each made 28 and 35 U.K. respectively, never mind the racial connotations.
Needless to say, the band and the record company were eager to introduce themselves to the U.S. market with the next album Give em Enough Rope (1978), now featuring Topper Headon who replaced Chimes. The album, however, failed in its goal for it barely made it slightly higher than the U.S. 100, succeeding only in their home market with a whopping 2, with the spin-off single for Tommy Gun making 19 on its own. While the ears of U.K. fans chewed on their cover of Sonny Curtis' I Fought The Law on an EP the act toured America in late 1979, their sound drifting into a more standard Rock sound.
Indeed, the Clash were adapting to the new world that was evolving, for Punk's classic era was soon for the end and the last classic Punk album would go to the Clash when they unleashed what would become their masterpiece, London Calling, in December of 1979. The double vinyl set sailed up the U.K. charts to 9 and finally broke them in the U.S. at 27! The anthemic title track making the whole 27 in the U.S. on it's own when spawned off as a single. The success motivated the act to release the more complex follow-up of Sandinista! (1980), an album that got them a 19 U.K./24 U.S. to express the arriving of the more popular New Wave Punk movement that the Clash had unknowingly drifted into. But Sandinista! Failed to stand up to repeated listening over time and it's long term sales suffered, forcing g a rethink for the production of the follow-up Combat Rock (1982). Although Combat Rock started to show their sound becoming tired, nonetheless it was a strong seller and their best in the U.S. market, making 7 (2 U.K.) on the strength of the Rock The Casbah track making 8 U.S./30 U.K. on its own when spun off as a single.
Line-up changes were in the plan for before the current album Headon had gone to go solo to be replaced by Terry Chimes, and after the album's release Pete Howard (ex-Cold Fish) replacedChimes who went off to join Hanoi Rocks, not to mention most of the string section being replaced with the addition ofNick Shepherd (ex-Cortinas; guitar) while Vince White replacedJones on the other guitar who went off to form Big Audio Dynamite. The band then struggled with what would become their final effort ofCut The Crap (1985) making 16 U.K./88 U.S. but the band took their own advise and did just that shortly after. The Story Of The Clash Vol. I compilation would sum up their career in 1988.
In 1991 theClash had a brief visit on the charts again when their Should I Stay Or Should I Go made hit status when heard in a Levi jean commercial, a track that was originally heard on Combat Rock way back in 1982, but Strummer unceremoniously quashed rumors of a band reunion.
Footnote: Other names considered for this band: The Psycho Negatives, The Weak Heartdrops, The Outsiders, The Phones, The Negatives. Clash was chosen from a newspaper headline describing a clash with police.