Friday, 13 March 2009

Rude Boy's Out On Sale!

Here's an interesting piece of pop trivia, which you may or may not be aware of. (But read on regardless!) In 1978, Clash rhythm section Paul Simonon and Topper Headon were convicted for taking potshots with an air rifle at some racing pigeons on the roof of the building where they'd been laying down some tracks (man) in a recording studio. Killed three of the poor creatures, they did, the swines.

Representing the errant pair in court was one David Mellor QC, the oleaginous future Conservative MP and Heritage Minister who resigned from John Major's cabinet in 1992 following a tabloid scandal involving him indulging in some extra-marital how's-your-father with an actress.

The fact that the actress in question, Antonia de Sancha, told the tabloid newspapers that Mellor liked to wear a Chelsea kit during sex, is about the only possible reason I can think of for him somehow managing to land the presenter's job on football phone-in 6-0-6 shortly afterwards. (His stock phrase on said show: "Call in now for some red-hot soccer chat." Thanks. Don't mind if I don't.)

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, the Clash bird butcherers. Now, band leader Joe Strummer's real name, as you may know, was John Graham Mellor; he'd had an older brother called David. David Mellor! No, not that one, thank gawd. Strummer's brother had committed suicide in 1970. Still, though, I'm sure Joe and David Mellor QC must've had many a chuckle about the whole same-name coincidence thing in court while waiting for the verdict on the bang-to-rights pigeon purgerers. Or perhaps not.

Incidentally, the culprits were fined £20 and £30 each and were ordered to pay the owner of the unfortunate birds £750 in compensation (after Mellor managed to get the figure reduced from the £1400 that the judge had originally decided upon).

I learnt all this - at least the stuff about Headon, Simonon and Mellor representing them - while watching the film Rude Boy, a sort of part-rockumentary, part-fiction, part-social history of late-1970s Britain. Anyone else seen it? It's all a bit of a hotch-potch really, and a tad depressing at times.

The titular character, for example, is a bit of a plonker (Stupid Boy would've been a more appropriate title) who leaves his job working in a sex shop to become a roadie for the Clash. He soon starts to grate on, well, everyone's nerves with his ill-informed, borderline racist opinions, constant drunkenness and general all-round fecklessness. He's a crap roadie too.

It's a fascinating historical document viewed from this distance, anyway, and you do get a real sense of the racial tension and potential for volatility in the country at the time that led to the riots of the early eighties. There's footage of rallies ranging from the Anti-Nazi League to the National Front, and (a not-yet-Prime-Minister) Thatcher in full flow at a Tory Party Conference.

There's also a sub-plot involving the police arresting some black blokes who they've been staking out at a bus stop where they'd allegedly been dipping into people's pockets, and bundling them into various meatwagons for interrogation down the nick. This storyline is completely unrelated to anything else happening in the film and so feels a bit incongruous, apart from being in keeping with the racial tension theme. It does feel rather like it's been tacked on almost as an afterthought by the film-makers, though. Who knows, maybe it was!

Actually, what with a recession, a Labour government on the way out and far-right agitators trying to capitalise on people's growing disenchantment, there are quite a few parallels with the Britain back then and that of today, thirty years on. The one big difference is that the music scene's far less radical and, well, anaemic nowadays. Whither the modern-day Clash? Eh?

The band themselves were, unsurprisingly, hugely disappointed with the finished film and attempted to distance themselves from it by wearing badges bearing the legend I don't want Rude Boy Clash film. On the plus side it does at least contain some fantastic live footage of them in their pomp (twenty-one songs in all) and the film as a whole is actually pretty compelling, albeit a tad confusing and infuriating at times.

Anyway, I suppose the obvious thing to do now would be to put up something by the Clash - so here's Junior Murvin's Police & Thieves (which also features in the film)!

Junior Murvin - Police And Thieves mp3

Get Rude Boy on DVD for a snipsome £2.99 here


Davy H said...

I'm reading Don Letts' book 'Culture Clash' at the moment - it's a terrific first hand account of all that, especially the punk/reggae thing. Some crucial vibes over at mine if you and Spike are feeling righteous tonite.

Pete Green said...

"I don't want Rude Boy Clash film" sounds like one of those weird phrases people type into Google just before they end up at TMAP.

Kippers said...

Heheh! So it does!

I'll definitely have to read Culture Clash sometime. Cheers Davy. (Oh, and for the Don Carlos stuff. His name makes him sound like Spanish royalty or something!)

Davy H said...

He was AKA Ervin Spencer...!