10.24.08

Friday Afternoon Musical Memories Pt. II: When It Comes To Rock Criticism, Bob Gruen Makes A Great Photographer

Posted in Rock Und Roll at 7:09 pm by

It was important for the band to be in touch with their fans but at Shea the stage was high with a security zone that kept them right back. I was surprised when The Clash broke up a few weeks later but I understood why. They didn’t want to be so big that they couldn’t reach the people. It’s great that we now have this album to remember the power and the intensity that was The Clash live. – Bob Gruen, from the liner notes to The Clash’s ‘Live At Shea Stadium’.

Putting aside Gruen's laughable claim that a 1983 stadium gig supporting The Who --- with ham & egger Terry Chimes on drums no less --- represented "the Clash at their peak", let's consider the legendary rock photographer's insistence the band's breakup had anything to do with becoming inacessable to their fans.   In a portion I've not quoted, Gruen states the Clash allowed non-VIP's into their dressing room on a regular basis, even when the likes of David Bowie and Andy Warhol were propping up the walls. This is true. To their credit, Joe Stummer and Mick Jones had few hangups about associating with drooly fans, even those who weren't passing around class-a drugs. But the "security zone" Gruen speaks of at Shea was not particularly different than any of the hockey arena staging requirements the band had dealt with throught 1982.

There are any number of legit factors that might've contributed to the Clash's breakup.  Musical differences.  Bernard Rhodes' alleged tendency to amplify or create tension within the band. A highly contentious relationship with their record label.  The firing of Topper Headon.   But the notion the quartet split because "they didn't want to be so big they couldn't reach the people" is ridiculous.

None of this is to say 'Live At Shea Stadium' is entirely without merit.  As a document of the Clash at their slickest, most AOR-friendly moment, it's an interesting artifact.  Strummer, fully aware of the absurdity of the situation, is a rather efficient enormodome banterist.  But the CD in question is no more representative of the Clash at their best than 'No Security' captures the Rolling Stones in top form. The canned screams might've made sense, had say, Joel Youngblood hopped onstage and dropped his trousers, but not so much in this setting. Phony Beatlemania still hasn't quite bitten the dust.

18 Responses to “Friday Afternoon Musical Memories Pt. II: When It Comes To Rock Criticism, Bob Gruen Makes A Great Photographer”

  1. Nice action figures . . .

  2. Aaron Ranna says:

    “None of this is to say ‘Live At Shea Stadium’ is entirely without merit. As a document of the Clash at their slickest, most AOR-friendly moment, it’s an interesting artifact.”

    Holy fucking shit. I did not think that you could be any more of a pretentious fucking shit sack, but you actually topped yourself. An “interesting artifact,” don’t forget asshat, you brought us Liz Phucking Phair, (and Dee Lite I think?). Fuck, you probably had something to do with Meat Beat Manifesto.

    It’s self important cocks like you that made me hate the industry. Go back to doing what you do best, calling people you don’t like racists while giving a pass to actual racists that you like.

  3. Interestingly, if you took any one of those actions figures individually you’d be hard pressed to say which band they were from.

    I think there’s a lesson there for all of us.

  4. GC says:

    that’s right, “Aaron”, it’s an interesting artifact, if purely for comparison purposes. it’s a world away from the way they sounded onstage just a couple of years prior., and unlike, say Bob Gruen, I don’t consider it an improvement. If that strikes you as pretentious, so be it. If my association with Liz Phair (ie. I had the temerity to put out a record I liked 15 years ago) precludes me from having anything to say about, well, anything, I can only presume you’ve been involved with some really top flight stuff over the years.

    Sorry, which industry are you banging on about now? The blogging industry or is something not working out at Hampton Business Supplies?

    “Go back to doing what you do best, calling people you don’t like racists while giving a pass to actual racists that you like. ”

    You think you might actually specify who you’re referring to one of these days? Please, I realize we have wildly differing tastes, but it seems very over the top for you to call my close personal friends Dee-Lite racists.

  5. Aaron Ranna says:

    I just produced the latest Green Pyramid’s EP. I know I’m not a hot shot like you “GC”, but at least I’m not the most pretentious fucking asshole on the planet.

    Oh, and I quit Hampton on Friday, so guess what asshole, you don’t know what I do now…you still have my home address, at least I had the balls to do that, even though you won’t give me credit for it.

    Anyway, you lack the sac to put out your home address, either way, fuck off. I know, you made some great records in the past….so did Huey Lewis, but my respect for you could easily fill a thimble, and I love the way you edit my comments so only the ones you like show up. You lack any integrity and you are afraid your sycophant readership will find out, you know what is great? People like me who have a clue don’t care!

    Oh, and my name is “Aaron,” so fuck off. At least I had the balls to post my real address.

  6. Aaron Ranna says:

    I’m starting my own record company. Go ahead and make fun of me….I bet people made fun of you in the beginning….I don’t care…I love good music and will never produce shit, I’ll never produce bands that suck ass, so please…by all means,..tell me how stupid I am.

  7. GC says:

    I think we’ve covered the home address question before quite sufficiently. To wit, uninvited persons like to turn up at my doorstep leaving baskets of fruit, flowers and homemade CDR’s. I would like to discourage this practice because I’m allergic to flowers, the carbs in the fruit make me jittery and if I had to listen to every piece of unsolicited music that turns up, I’d have no time left in the day to edit your comments.

    That was a joke, by the way. For the record, ladies and gentlemen, not one of the comments submitted by The Bard of Tigard, OR has been edited or deleted.

    For the 2nd time, no one has asked for your home address. If you are lonely and desire human contact, I would humbly suggest CSTB is the wrong place to find it.

    Make fun of you for starting a record company? Hardly. To paraphrase the Del Fuegos in their excellent advertisement for Miller Beer, “good luck to all aspiring independent label owners / internet trolls”.

  8. kt says:

    don’t forget asshat, you brought us Liz Phucking Phair,

    wait, so gerard slept with liz phair’s mom?

  9. PB says:

    Well these comments pretty much made my afternoon.

    GC, I was going to compliment you on fair assessment of Joe-Strummer’s-unfortunate-mohawk era Clash. I think you stuck the right tone, mocking Gruen’s (and, by extension, anyone else’s) over-romanticizing of the band while not diminishing their musical accomplishments.

    I’m sometimes slightly embarrassed about my affection for the Clash especially when I read Coley or Hinman’s (two people whose opinions I enormously respect) take on them. That people like Gruen totally bought into the band’s somewhat contrived “rebel rock” pose justly turns off a lot of discriminating folks. Still, the Clash were a pretty potent outfit and to ignore that just to be contrary (to Gruen or Jan Wenner or that annoying rocker kid down the hall who’s actually more into Social D or whoever) is kind of silly.

    I was going to compliment you on all of this but then Aaron called you an “asshat” and I realized you don’t know shit. My eyes are open! I’ll be on the lookout for that Green Pyramid EP! (Too bad googling them only brings me to a website for some kid of Sri Lankian tea.)

  10. GC says:

    cheers, I’m all about the realism.

    anyone who had the misfortune reading my juvenille scribblings about rock’n'roll circa ’78-82 is sadly aware of the high esteem I had for the Clash, up to and including any number of musical/thematic missteps that in retrospect, are impossible to ignore. Some of those gaffes have taken on a charm of their own over the years, and if ‘Sandanista’ was punk’s ‘Tusk’, it wasn’t quite Heaven’s Gate, either.

    Were these guys posey as fuck? Sure. Were several (but not all) of the flirtations with hip hop, reggae, etc. cringeworthy? Absolutely. None of that eliminates the first album, some good to great bits that followed and mostly admirable behavior under intense scrutiny and expectations.

    And I don’t mean to bash the fuck out of Bob Gruen. I’ve loved his photography over the years and I have no doubt he was as big a fan and friend of the Clash as anyone else. I just found his interpretation of the band’s split kinda bogus, nor was the Shea Stadium show — wacky a one-off as it might’ve been — the band’s finest hour. On the other hand, we probably couldn’t have expected Sony to release a CD entitled ‘The Clash – Phoning It In At Shea’

    yep, Byron and Jay figure they suck. That’s ok. Those guys are on the money most of the time.

  11. PB says:

    Without belaboring the point, I’ll just say that I’m pretty much totally simpatico with the above statement.

    At the very least, this release may ensure that we’ll no longer associate The Clash and Shea Stadium with “London Calling” playing while Aaron Heilemann trotted in from the bullpen and whatever carnage and heartbreak followed.

  12. Aaron Ranna says:

    What’s funny as fuck is that the Clash at their worst were still more interesting than a tool’s tool (that’s you, by the way Gerard) opinions about said band.

    (Just to clarify, a tool’s tool is kinda like a pro’s pro)

    Let me take care of your comeback…

    “If my opinion sucks so bad Aaron….duuuuuuude, what are you doing at my awesome, totally kick ass site, so sweeeeeeetly named Can’t Stop the Bleeding (way more fucking chic than Deadspin….Leitch’s cock in my mouth…no way did I just say that!!!!!!!!)

    Anyway, here is the answer to your comeback….Cosloy,Mushnick.Whitlock.

    What’s funny is that after a great run in the 90′s, your label hasn’t turned out anything worth a fuck for years.

    Oh, and the Del Fuegos, I met Dan and Warren back in ’85 at First Avenue (it’s a club in Minneapolis…look it up). A great band if there ever was one, but please, by all means, let me know how shitty they were and how much cooler you are than me cause I like them (you too PB).

    I know I promised to leave, but you are such a fucking predictable cunt that I just can’t stay away. So go ahead, put me in moderation, and maybe one of these days I’ll take the 2 minutes to change my IP address and cookies…or not, fuck off bitch.

  13. GC says:

    “Oh, and the Del Fuegos, I met Dan and Warren back in ’85 at First Avenue (it’s a club in Minneapolis, look it up)”

    Y’know, I’ve waited patiently for you to offer one single interesting idea, opinion or fact to this algonquin roundtable of dick-swinging and we’ve finally got something.

    You’ve met the Del Fuegoes. In 1985. You’ve been to Minneapolis. And….you’ve been to First Avenue.

    Never mind the alleged college degree, those are some heavy credentials you’re toting around.

    I’ll be sure to forward your fascinating views on Matador’s recent output to the company suggestion box. But by all means, change your “cookies”. See if you can rearrange your crackers, chips and flat breads, too. If nothing else, we can rest assured whatever you were doing at the mysterious Hampton Business Industries (which is sounding more and more everyday like Scharpling’s cardboard box factory), you were not head of the IT department.

  14. Aaron Ranna says:

    Okay numbnuts, I told you I quit Hampton….But here is the big question…It’s 11:33 pm in Portland, so, I’m no hot shot record exec, but my math tells me it’s 1:33 am in Austin. If I’m such a loser (and I get it, I probably am), what the fuck are you doing, not only reading and responding to my comments, but getting so worked up about them in the middle of the night?

    Remember, like you said…I’m a troll. Since when do trolls get you so worked up? Unless they expose you for the douche that you are I guess. It’s cool, I won’t hold it against you, but you do look seriously uncool right now. And I know how important looking cool is to you Gerald.

    Are you shitting me?

    “You’ve met the Del Fuegoes. In 1985. You’ve been to Minneapolis. And….you’ve been to First Avenue.

    Never mind the alleged college degree, those are some heavy credentials you’re toting around.”

    What the fuck does that even mean? Frank Caliendo on LSD makes more sense than that strange comment. Heavy credentials? I’ve been to First Ave, fuck, I’ve even played at first ave (new band night…I know, for the love of christ, YOU ARE SO MUCH COOLER THAN ME)….but I still don’t get your weird comment.

    Anyway, I’d have so much more respect for me if you just ignored me, but you won’t. So I guess we’ll just have to keep this going

    BTW, it’s my birthday and I just had a piece of caramel cake…blow me!

  15. Aaron Ranna says:

    *respect for you

    typo means I’m dumb, make sure you let me have it.

  16. Aaron Ranna says:

    Jerome,

    I want to thank you for bringing up my “credentials.”

    You see, over twenty years ago when I saw the Del Fuegos, I just remember seeing a great band play, it never occurred to me that I should add this to my “credentials,” or my “resume.”

    This is the fundamental difference between us, I love music and great bands…you love to try and impress people with your “credentials.”

    Pretty fucking sad. Did you ever really love to go see a good band, or has it always been about being seen seeing a good band?

  17. GC says:

    “You see, over twenty years ago when I saw the Del Fuegos, I just remember seeing a great band play”

    Senility must be kicking in a bit early, then, ’cause by ’85 the Del Fuegos were about as exciting as .38 Special

    “it never occurred to me that I should add this to my ‘credentials,’ or my ‘resume.’”

    Yet you still thought it important enough to remind anyone unlucky enough to be following this that you saw the Del Fuegos in 1985 at First Avenue. My use of the term credentials was meant to be facetious, but clearly I’ve touched a sore spot.

    “Did you ever really love to go see a good band, or has it always been about being seen seeing a good band? ”

    It’s been all downhill after the first couple of Del Fuegos shows.

  18. If you asked me, Matador’s been going downhill ever since they released the second Seven Mary Three album back in 95.

    Aaron, I’ll see you next time I’m at Casa Diablo. My doctors have advised me to go on a vegan diet if I wanted to stop being asked why my impressions are of “fat Al Pacino” or “fat Jerry Seinfeld” etc.