The Clash was initially influenced by classic Rock n’ Roll and the emerging direct punk scene. But their impact goes far beyond this style. Keep reading and find out how “The Only Band That Matters” refined their unique style.
What are The Clash’s Influences?
Among The Clash’s immediate influences, we find The Ramones, the New York Dolls, The Who, and the Beach Boys. But also classics like Johnny Cash and Bo Diddley, and Reggae pioneers like Lee “Scratch” Perry, helped shape “The Only Band That Matters.”
One of the first influences we’ll mention here is The Ramones. The New York-born band had a direct impact on the English punk scene in the late seventies, giving impetus to the Sex Pistols and The Clash. Members of both bands followed the New Yorkers in all their performances in English land. We have mentioned this in The Ramones’ influence diagram.
The Beach Boys
The Beach Boys were one of the reasons why The Clash set out to play music. Just as they were crucial for The Beatles, Joe Strummer’s band began seeking a balance between rock and pop, much like this emblematic surf rock band.
Next, we’ll mention one of the figures that inspired the band’s “bad boy” attitude, especially Joe Strummer. Johnny Cash, with his outlaw image, defiant and trouble-seeking, clearly laid the foundation for Joe. Rick Rubin recalls that they once coincided in the recording studio, and since Joe was a big Johnny Cash fan, he frequented the place so he would run into him.
But the influence of classic singers doesn’t end there. Especially when approaching the recording of the classic album “London Calling” (1979), the band drew on many influences from icons like Elvis (notable even on the album cover) and specifically from Bo Diddley. The influence was evident in tracks like “Rudie Can’t Fail,” recorded amidst discussions the band used to have about who was better, Diddley or Chuck Berry. Apart from this, it’s worth adding that Joe Strummer was a fan of Little Richard’s music.
Mott the Hopple
Other influences from different origins. Mick Jones was a big fan of a band called Mott the Hoople. He went to all their concerts, no matter where they were. The band was also praised by David Bowie, who dedicated his song “All the Young Dudes” to them.
Lee “Scratch” Perry + Reggae
Reggae and Dub, at least initially, came more from the bassist Paul Simonon’s side. The key figure is none other than the highly influential Lee “Scratch” Perry, with whom The Clash could work in the studio. These influences would be audible, especially on the ambitious album “Sandinista” (1983), which throughout its two discs explores dub, reggae, jazz, and pop. As a spin-off, legend has it that Bob Marley became a fan of The Clash thanks to Lee “Scratch.” In honor of The Clash, Marley composed the song “Punky Reggae Party.”
As mentioned above, other influences on The Clash include The Who, the Kinks, The Stooges, and Vince Taylor.
Now, let’s check out how The Clash have inspired generations of musicians that came after them.
Which Artists Were Influenced by The Clash?
We will see that The Clash, in turn, influenced diverse bands like Rage Against the Machine, Green Day, Garbage, Massive Attack, and Beastie Boys. The impact of Joe Strummer (vocals, guitar), Mick Jones (guitar, vocals), Paul Simonon (bass), and Topper Headon (drums) has generated multiple facets.
Rage Against the Machine
If there’s a political band, it’s RATM, forged according to The Clash’s legacy. Tom Morello has spoken repeatedly about how much he was influenced by Joe Strummer’s band and even inducted The Clash into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 2003. He has defined them as the best band he has seen live.
According to U2’s guitarist, The Edge, The Clash, along with the Rolling Stones, is the greatest band of all time. U2’s sound, especially in their early days, was marked by the punk explosion that The Clash propelled. Furthermore, the socio-political themes that interested Bono were inspired by Joe Strummer’s lyrics.
Within the trip-hop genre, the major band influenced by The Clash is Massive Attack. In this case, the elements are several: from socio-political themes and climate change awareness to the choice of Reggae singer Horace Andy as a frequent collaborator. It is said that the renowned single by Massive Attack, “Angel,” began as a cover of “Straight to Hell,” a classic by The Clash.
Interested in learning more? Check out Massive Attack’s influences here.
The Clash’s influence on Garbage come especially from drummer and producer Butch Vig. He is the most punk of the members of the band led by Shirley Manson and also mentions “London Calling” among the albums that influenced him the most. It is worth noting, moreover, that Garbage’s hit, “Stupid Girl,” samples The Clash’s song, “Train in Vain.”
Another big fan of The Clash is Chuck D, a member of Public Enemy. The rapper explained, “It’s an honor to headline the new podcast ‘Stay Free: The Story Of The Clash.’ I was and am a big fan of their music. Both they and us address the same social and political issues.” This is another example of how The Clash’s influence transcends various genres to this day but always carries a strong political and resistance message.
Within the punk wave of the nineties, we will include Green Day, who especially from their classic “American Idiot” (2005) took on the reins of political rock. They have covered The Clash on numerous occasions, with “Should I Stay or Should I Go.” Furthermore, producer Rob Cavallo recounts that it was The Clash who inspired him to start broadening Green Day’s musical scope from their album “Nimrod,” released in 1997.
Lastly, another famous follower of The Clash was the Beastie Boys. Especially in their beginnings, the influence of punk rock on the Beastie Boys’ music was evident, but it was certainly The Clash who set the example for mixing genres, textures, and sounds. The Beastie Boys excitedly recounted that they were able to meet Mick Jones and Joe Strummer in London: as they related, even Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys actually reminded Mick Jones how to play “Clash City Rockers.”
Other bands influenced by The Clash include Damon Albarn’s project, Gorillaz, No Doubt, Arctic Monkeys, Moby, Foo Fighters, Nirvana, among many others.