The Clash was formed in 1976 and became one of the earliest London punk groups to catch the wave. Their unique style would develop over the late 1970s into an accessible blend of punk with reggae, dub, funk, and rockabilly, a winning combination that pushed them to the height of punk fame and secured them a place in the history of music.
In their early days, the group did the rounds, playing in any dingey pubs and small music venues around England that would admit an up and coming punk group. On July 4th, 1976, they gave their debut performance in Sheffield, supporting the Sex Pistols. In just a few short weeks over that summer, The Clash had become a prominent force in the punk scene riding in the wake of the Sex Pistols alongside Manchester’s Buzzcocks.
By the spring of 1977, they had recorded most of the material for their eponymous debut album. One of the tracks the group was most excited about in the run-up to the release of the album was ‘Remote Control’. The song served as Mick Jones’ scathing portrayal of the music industry – record companies and civic hall bureaucrats in particular – following the group’s troublesome experience at the Anarchy Tour. The Clash song that inspired one of Bob Marley’s hitsRead More
For the notorious tour in 1976, 19 dates had been booked, but the bands performed only three times, the rest of the shows were canceled by order of the authorities who were, not without reason, fearful of violence breaking out. The lyrics, “they had a meeting in Mayfair,” refers to the meeting of the EMI label shareholders in December 1976, where all financial support for the rest of the tour was pulled.
‘Remote Control’ was a true punk anthem and an ode to the anarchist youth. The song was even one of the first – if not the first – songs to directly mention the punk scene: “They think you’re useless, and so you are – puunnnk!”.
But something occurred in the run-up to the release of The Clash album that tainted ‘Remote Control’ in the band’s eyes forever. At the start of 1977, The Clash released ‘White Riot’ as the first single from the upcoming LP and had revealed plans to release ‘Janie Jones’ as the next. But their label, CBS, had other plans and decided to undermine them by releasing ‘Remote Control’ as a single without consulting them.
The band were upset about this move by CBS as the track had been a symbol of everything they had been fighting against in the music industry. They subsequently became disillusioned with the song and would mostly omit it from their setlists and compilation albums over the coming years. Allegedly, the boys also set about circling the record shops of London and pulled the record from the shelves.
The Clash made a reference to the fiasco in their later single, ‘Complete Control’, which appeared on the 1979 US release of the debut album: “They said, ‘Release ‘Remote Control’, but we didn’t want it on the label”.
Listen to ‘Remote Control’, the early punk anthem by The Clash, below.