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Creator: Andy Rosen
Owner: Andy Rosen
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Date created: 2019-03-26
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Work type: Visual Arts/Photography
Before the Clash's founding, the band's future members were active in different parts of the London music scene.
John Graham Mellor sang and played rhythm guitar in the pub rock act The 101ers, which formed in 1974. By the time the Clash came together two years later, he had already abandoned his original stage name, "Woody" Mellor, in favour of "Joe Strummer", a reference to his rudimentary strumming skills on the ukulele as a busker in the London Underground.
Mick Jones played guitar in protopunk band London SS, which rehearsed for much of 1975 without ever playing a live show and recording only a single demo. London SS were managed by Bernard Rhodes, a sometime associate of impresario Malcolm McLaren and a friend of the members of the McLaren-managed band, the Sex Pistols. Jones and his bandmates became friendly with Sex Pistols Glen Matlock and Steve Jones, who would assist them as they tried out potential new members. Among those who auditioned for London SS without making the cut were Paul Simonon, who tried out as a vocalist, and drummer Terry Chimes. Nicky Headon drummed with the band for a week, then quit.
After London SS broke up in early 1976, Rhodes continued as Jones's manager. In February, Jones saw the Sex Pistols perform for the first time: "You knew straight away that was it, and this was what it was going to be like from now on. It was a new scene, new values—so different from what had happened before. A bit dangerous." At the instigation of Rhodes, Jones contacted Simonon in March, suggesting he learn an instrument so he could join the new band Jones was organising. Soon Jones, Simonon on bass, Keith Levene on guitar and "whoever we could find really to play the drums" were rehearsing. Chimes was asked to audition for the new band and got the job, although he soon quit.
The band was still searching for a lead singer. Chimes recalls one Billy Watts (who "seemed to be, like, nineteen or eighteen then, as we all were") handling the duties for a time.Rhodes had his eye on Strummer, with whom he made exploratory contact. Jones and Levene had both seen him perform and were impressed as well. Strummer, for his part, was primed to make the switch. In April, he had taken in the opening act for one of his band's gigs—the Sex Pistols. Strummer later explained:
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