THE clAsH: somETimEs diRTy,
mos Tly clEAn
Directly influenced by both the Ramones and
the Sex Pistols, the Clash added a healthy
dose of roots music to the punk formula.
While neither as hard as the Ramones nor
as snotty as the Pistols, the Clash created a
sound every bit as iconic. A major component of this was the dual-guitar approach of
Joe Strummer and Mick Jones. In addition,
the fact that the members came from various
rough neighborhoods and squats of London
brought a severe political edge to their music
and, by extension, to the greater punk movement. The pointed lyrics of Joe Strummer,
combined with the mod-influenced music of
Mick Jones, created a sound that appealed
to punks but also to fans of rock and roll.
The Clash’s eponymous 1977 debut was
powered by the driving P-90s of Jones’ Les
Paul Jr. By 1979, when the band was recording its third album, London Calling, the Clash
became the first of the punk bands to break
away from the loud/fast rules and into new
styles such as reggae, R&B, and rockabilly.
Along with this change came new gear and
a new sensibility of how to use it for maximum effect. Jones, the lead guitarist and
primary songwriter, was into creating sound
textures from the band’s earliest days. But
he also participated wholly in the distortion
onslaught that was expected in punk’s formative years. Circa 1976 and 1977, Jones relied
on a Les Paul Jr. with P-90s plugged into an
Ampeg V4 head and 4x12 cabinet. His early
live sound was a boxy, nasal sneer that, while
capable of cutting through the mix, lacked
the depth of tone to carry the band’s newer,
more complex material.
So during sessions for the band’s second
album, Give ’Em Enough Rope, Jones began to
upgrade. First up was a switch to what would
become his signature ax for the rest of his time
with the Clash, the Gibson Les Paul. Jones knew
a good ax and he had many, including a sunburst ’ 58 Standard, a wine-red ’70s Custom, a
white ’70s Custom, and a sunburst ’70s Custom.
On the road in America in 1979, he picked up
a rare all-white Gibson ES-295 that he used for
a short period. In the studio, Jones frequently
played a late-’70s all-black Fender Strat with a
maple fretboard. It and a new Precision for bassist Paul Simonon were gifts from Fender.
During the Rope sessions, Jones was also
hipped to quality tube amplifiers—specifically
Mesa/Boogies—by producer Sandy Pearlman.
Jones favored the 100-watt Mark I in combo
form. He unloaded the speaker and used it
to drive a single Marshall 4x12. For a period
he even used the Boogie to run two 4x12s,
but by the end of 1979 he had added a
blonde 100-watt Mark II to drive one of the
cabinets. That dual half-stack setup would
be his main rig from then on. However, in
early 1979 Jones began moving away from
the straight-ahead punk grind and toward a
wide, panoramic sound that filled the spaces
in the Clash’s music. He added modulation
effects too, specifically the MXR Phase 100
and MXR Flanger. Soon after, Jones also
discovered the Roland RE-201 Space Echo.
Jones used these pieces of gear extensively,