You know, all the talk about the 50th anniversary of The Beatles on Ed Sullivan should make me feel old, since I remember quite well what it was like that night. Yet somehow, I feel even older when I realize that 35 years ago today, The Clash made their first appearance in the USA.
I’ve written about this before, so this may seem familiar. The opening act was the local New Wave group, Pearl Harbor and the Explosions. Lead singer Harbor had previously sang in the band Leila and the Snakes, under the name Pearl E. Gates. “Leila” was Jane Dornacker, who later worked standup, appeared in the film The Right Stuff, and worked as a traffic reporter. She died in a helicopter crash while reporting traffic. Gates/Harbor and her band had a locally-released single, “Drivin’”, that was popular enough to get some wider attention … by the end of 1979 they had released their first major-label album. Their success was short-lived. Harbor was an energetic performer … we saw them a few times, and she was a favorite of my wife. Harbor later married Clash bassist Paul Simonon.
Here they are performing “Drivin’”:
And here is Harbor, touring in Japan with The Clash in 1982. You get the startling moment when a woman named Pearl Harbor sings “Fujiyama Mama” to a Japanese audience. And then, for a bonus, you get “Police on My Back” and “White Riot”:
Next up was the legendary Bo Diddley. As I have mentioned before, as part of his act, Bo played up how old he was compared to all the young punks. He’d bend down, and his guitar would make screaky noises as if his bones were too old. This story seems less funny to me with each passing year, since Bo was only 50 at the time. Here, he talks about what it was like opening for The Clash:
And The Clash? This was the first of the four times I saw them. We had front-row seats, which didn’t mean much one the band started playing, since everyone crushed forward, making the idea of “seats” rather unimportant. They opened with “I’m So Bored of the USA”, and to be honest, I’m not sure what else they played. I know that I loved it, I know that it was loud, that at one point I smacked Paul Simonon’s boot, and did I mention I loved it and it was loud? Joe Strummer is one of the best live performers I’ve ever seen, and that was my introduction to him.
Here they are, about a month before we saw them, with “English Civil War” and “I Fought the Law”: