21st Century Boy will not be heard today

While nobody said it publicly, I’m sure after reading last Monday’s post, you were all thinking, “But t, what about Tony?”

Yes, what about Tony? Tony James, the Yin to Billy Idol’s Yang (or vice versa. I’ve hardly the desire to put forth the effort figuring out which is supposed to be which in this instance) during his Generation X days. Well we all know that when Gen X went bust, and Billy stole “Dancing…” Tony was pretty much left without a pot to piss in, creatively speaking. So he decided to form a new band, with a new sound.

Now, Idol must have been a very taxing musician to work with, because when Tony started up his next venture, he hand-picked a band with very little prior musicianship, opting instead to choose individuals who “looked like rock stars” rather than actually being so. He went about it this way, because the whole idea to this new group was to be a total and one hundred percent sell-out, from top to bottom. The songs were constructed in such a fashion as to maximize their chart-ability, the wardrobes and hairstyles were created to garner attention – good or bad, it mattered not. The press – well, the press was almost ridiculous. I recall way back when listening to CFNY (the coolest New Wave radio station ever. Out of Canada, of course. The coolest New Wave nation ever) on my little radio; hearing that they even gone so far as to create a billboard wherein the lead singer was hanging from a cross, touting themselves as the “Second Coming of Rock & Roll” – pretty damned crass, right? But that was the whole point. Long before the world ever knew of Marilyn Manson, Tony James presumably tried to highlight mankind’s sheep like tendencies and gullibility in the knee-jerk reaction department, all while making a boatload of cash at the same time.

Quick side note – how is it, that every time we speak ill of our species, it’s OK to say “mankind,” but when we’re speaking highly of ourselves, we have to use the genderless “humankind?”

Anywho, where was I again? Oh yeah, Tony and the boys were attempting to show us all what sell-outs we were, by being sell-outs themselves (they even went so far as to sell commercial space in between the tracks on their debut album). The problem was, their plan didn’t work. Turns out, merely putting out lots of flash and thunder wasn’t enough to secure you a career. Turns out, we felt you needed some sort of talent as well (odd we felt that way then, when you consider all the talent-less and void “celebrities” we blatantly lust after today).

So in the final analysis, I feel that while Tony may have had a good idea, he applied a little bit too much shtick. The real DJ’s rebelled as a result (God bless you, Chris Sheppard!), and the resulting lack of airplay was deafening. Their second album was merely a plink in a pool already overflowing with 80’s style creativity. And while I believe Sigue Sigue Sputnik (did I even mention the band name yet?)  just recently got back together, the fact that I can’t even find the energy to verify that last tidbit of info, is telling as to how much long-term interest they’ve maintained.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like Mr. Idol faired much better. Why it was only a couple of years ago that he went so far as to release a Christmas album. CHRISTMAS! My brother burned me a copy, but I’ve yet worked up the courage to give it a listen. Hey, I need my ears for the rest of my life, I can’t risk them becoming damaged.

So, why won’t we be listening to “21st Century Boy” today? Well, for two reasons. First off, I can’t find the version I like on Youtube (did I forget to mention? They made – on average – seventeen hundred different mixes of each and every song they recorded). Secondly, as I’m assuming most-to all of you at one point in time have seen “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” the song I chose may be the only one you’ve ever heard from Tony and the boys.

Similar to “Dancing With Myself,” it’s still good for steering wheel beat-downs, just not nearly as heartfelt.

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Now, for a much more informed take on both the band and their first album, I would invite you to jump over to superstition is all we have left‘s bloggie (where I “fleeced” today’s picture from) – in the words of the best Doctor Who ever, Mr. David Tennant, their post on the subject is simply “Brilliant!”

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9/19 why i like The Clash

i know, it should have been The Ramones. They seem to be the natural choice for so many others at any rate. But for me, it was The Clash. Always has been and most likely always will be. If you came up to me (after living for more than thirty and some odd years in a bomb shelter or cave of some sort i suppose) and asked, “what is punk?” i would most likely first shake my head slowly in disbelief. Then i would hand you a copy of “Give ‘Em Enough Rope” and tell you to start there.

best punk album ever?

Mind you, The Clash wasn’t my first experience with this thing called “punk rock”. And they weren’t my second either. In fact, had a high school friend not accidentally given me a mixed tape containing both the Sex Pistols and Generation X, instead of whatever heavy metal bands i had actually requested, i might have never “found” The Clash at all. Needless to say, i’m glad my friend screwed up.

The Sex Pistols were offensive, brash and loud, and unlike any heavy metal band i had previously heard in that they quite frankly didn’t give a damn. It came through with every lyric and every poorly played note. Honestly, i loved their bravado far more than their music, and it was only the unsettling twinge coming from deep in my gut – telling me that i might have had just stumbled upon what i would someday end up calling “tribe” – that kept me intrigued. That being said, it did end up taking me years to truly enjoy The Pistols, and other than the fact that they pretty much gave a “face” to punk, i still don’t have much use for them.

Side B of my mix tape had the somewhat more talented Generation X, fronted by a then unknown Billy Idol. While still punk in brashness and snotty attitude, these kids sounded much more put-together musically. Almost like they were trying hard to sound bad. You could also “hear” that they very much dressed the “Rock Star” part because, well, they very much wanted to be Rock Stars. Just in their own way. And of the four, at least one was successful for a spell. Another was just almost with his little project called Sigue Sigue Sputnik (if you’ve never heard of them, skip it – it’s way too late to check them out now since everything they originated has been re-originated by others at later dates, just more successfully). But i digress. In fact, if digression was an invoice-able service, i would be rather wealthy at this point of my blogging career. But again, i find myself digressing even in my digression. So, moving on. All said, Generation X was good – real good. But much like the Pistols, for me they were missing the mark. What the mark i was hoping they would hit was exactly, i had no idea, but miss it they did. As such, the search for “the band” that could really trip my newly found punk rock trigger continued.

Whoever first told me about the Clash, i’m not sure. No, wait, actually i am. It was well before i even received the eye-opening, ear-popping tape noted above. i first heard of them from both my classmates and advertisers when they opened for The Who on their infamous farewell tour. The first one. At the time i was listening to – well, i’m not sure as to what i actually was listening to at the time. Haven’t the faintest idea now. But i did know that The Clash was no band for me – for the obvious reason that they couldn’t be any sort of good if they didn’t play the type of music (and i really do wish i could figure out what that was now…) that i was involved with at the time. The second time i heard of them, i can’t remember who told me or why. But i do remember that the first disc (of the vinyl variety) i bought to test them out was “Combat Rock“. i won’t tell you i had any sort of “instant audio orgasm” upon first hearing it, because i didn’t. It was OK. Strong A side, but a weird B. Gladly, my impression of the first side won out, because my next purchase was to put the first and last nail in my Clash coffin. That’s right, next up i bought “Sandinista!“. No, no, no, my next purchase was “London Calling” of course. And like everyone else on the planet who has ever heard it (with open ears at any rate), my Clash fandom was solidified. So much so, that i eventually did go out and buy even “Sandinista!“, and after many listens grew to finally understand, and later enjoy, its musical depths as well.

And i believe that’s why i love the Clash so much – it’s because they were Solid. Good. Difficult. In short, i believe they respected their craft, their audience – and music in general – enough as to not make it easy to “get” the first time ’round. In addition, they refused to cut corners in their music or lyrics, and they used both to raise awareness instead of just press. They sang about things that mattered, things that needed changing. Just the other day i was explaining to my youngest what it meant when Joe sang “let me tell you ’bout your blood, bamboo kid – it ain’t Coca Cola, it’s rice…”. Genius in effectively comparing two totally different cultures that once, collided just long enough to start an entirely “new breed” to the human race. A breed that is shunned by both sides of its ancestry. A breed that found a champion in a little punk band from London, U.K. known as The Clash.

As i mentioned before, i know that it should have been the Ramones, but their 2 minute tracks of blister and volume simply serve to bore and annoy me after not too long. With The Clash, i can listen again and again. i know it should have been The Ramones in that without them, you wouldn’t even have The Clash. But in all honesty, without The Clash, we might not have punk rock music at all.

For while the Ramones may have given punk the sound and the fury – and The Pistols gave it the look and the attitude – it took The Clash to provide it with it’s intelligence and it’s Soul, and it has survived thirty and some odd years as a result.

And that is why i like The Clash. Now, why do you?