Cut the Crap
October 31, 2019
Todd: Okay, so. Let's just take the standard, music critic line about punk rock.
Clip of The Damned - "New Rose"
Todd (VO): Greatest thing to happen to popular music since the Beatles. [clip of Sex Pistols - Anarchy in the U.K.] Turned rock and roll back to its scrappy, dangerous roots, after years of arena bloat and pretension. Spirit of '77, Sex Pistols, the Ramones. CBGBs, alienation, rage, safety pins as jewelry, all that shit. All part of one of the greatest and most enduring movements in rock history.
Todd: So if we take all that to be true...what happened in the 80s?
Clip of Wham! - "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go"
George Michael: Wake me up before you go-go
Todd (VO): Seriously, what happened? Surely, in the heart of the Reagan and Thatcher era, the rebellious soul of punk rock should've been more vital and necessary than ever, right?
Todd: [beat] And it was!
Todd (VO): Punk music lived on, and thrived in the 80s, and you wouldn't have any problem finding great punk rock.
Todd: You know...if you were into that.
Todd (VO): But if you were not an actual punk, if you were not wearing a mohawk and going to dingy clubs and slam-dancing to bands with names like the Piss Hydrants....
Todd: ...punk might as well have been completely dead to you.
Montage clips of Blondie - "Hanging on the Telephone"; The Sex Pistols - "Anarchy in the U.K."; Ramones - "Blitzkrieg Bop"; Billy Idol - "Mony Mony"; U2 - "Pride (In the Name of Love)"
Todd (VO): The first wave of punks weren't underground, they were actual genuine hitmakers, notorious to the public at large. But by '84, it had fallen back out of the mainstream. Most of the good bands had broken up, or couldn't break through. At best you had cartoon sell-out Billy Idol, or bands like U2 or the Talking Heads, who were barely punk to begin with and left it far behind.
Todd: And then, there's the sad, sad story of The Clash.
Clip of live performance of The Clash - "White Riot"
Todd (VO): If there was any punk band that should've owned that decade, it was The Clash, arguably the greatest punk rock band that ever existed. [clip of "London Calling"] They were the righteous political soul of the genre, and they stormed into the 80s, having just released their greatest album, [album cover appears on screen of...] London Calling. A record so amazing that they picked up the mantle [headline reading...] "The only band that matters."
Clip of "Rock the Casbah"
Joe Strummer: The Shareef don't like it!
Just a couple years later, they released the album [album cover appears on screen of...] Combat Rock, which broke them into the mainstream with massive hit singles. They were selling out giant arenas, headlining festivals.
Todd: And that, as far as most are concerned, is where the story ends.
Clip of live performance of The Clash - "Straight to Hell"
Joe: Go straight to hell boys
Todd (VO): Unable to reconcile their revolutionary ethos with their pop success, the band fell apart. They scattered into the wind, they never reunited. And because band leader, Joe Strummer passed away in 2002, they never will. The legend of The Clash ends there, immaculately and eternally into rock history.
Todd: But that's not exactly how it went down.
Todd (VO): The Clash did lose some key members in 1983. But they put together a new lineup and soldiered on. And as far as Joe Strummer was concerned, this was all a good thing. This was a bold new chapter for the band, [clip of Madonna performing "Dress You Up"] and as the glitz and glamour of MTV took over, the world needed The Clash more than ever.
Clip of interview with...
Joe: The Clash have to come back, in order...to tip the balance. So that a young person isn't going, "Oh, I have to [clips of Mötley Crüe - "Home Sweet Home"...] put make-up on and...[...and Culture Club - "Karma Chameleon] and wear a dress to-to really make it".
Todd: And so, in 1985...
Todd (VO): ...The Clash re-debuted to the world. Ready to bring punk rock's energy back to the masses, with their new record, Cut the Crap.
Todd: And what an unfortunately fitting title that was.
Video for The Clash - "Are You Red...Y?"
Todd (VO): They did indeed "cut the crap", they cut twelve tracks [image of poop emoji] of crap.
Todd: No record has ever teed itself up for the critics like that....
Clip from This is Spinal Tap
Todd (VO): ...since Spinal Tap released Shark Sandwich.
Interviewer: Merely, a two word review that just said "Shit Sandwich."
"Shit Sandwich" was my original name for this series by the way.
Todd: But yeah. Crap.
Footage of early Clash concert
Todd (VO): The reviews were brutal. The fans were disgusted. The band fell apart once and for all. Cut the Crap was supposed to bring the rebel spirit back to the world, but all it did was end the first wave of punk rock for good.
Todd: Should they stay? No, they should go now. The Clash craps out. This is Trainwreckords.
Trainwreckords intro, followed by album cover for Cut the Crap
Todd: Okay, I'll admit, sometimes I slack off doing these episodes, but I wanted to get this one right 'cause...
Todd (VO): …The Clash is one of the greatest bands in history. And there's a wealth of information about them so, I did my research this time around. [images of "We Are The Clash" and "The Clash: All the Albums, All The Songs"...] Bought a bunch of books, [...and "The Clash: Rude Boy: The Movie", "The Essential Clash", and "The Clash: West Way to The World" DVDs] rented a whole lot of documentaries...
Todd: ...and almost, to a one: No one wants to talk about this phase of their career.
Clip from MTV Rockumentary: The Clash
Todd (VO): For example, here's all MTV has to say about it.
Kurt Loder: Finally, Strummer and Simonon parted ways with Mick Jones. The Clash lived on as a logo for a while, but the real band was dead. The music lives though...
[sarcastically] Thanks Kurt Loder! Really useful to my video, glad I watched all of that. [normal] The official band documentary, West Way to the World...
Todd: ...ends right at 1983. No mention of the band existing afterward.
Shot of the The Clash Sound System collector's box set.
Todd (VO): Giant ass box set from 2013...
Todd: ...includes none of the songs from this album.
Screenshot of Rolling Stone article: "Flashback: The Clash says Goodbye at the 1983 US Festival"
Todd (VO): Rolling Stone [Todd highlights paragraph in question] says this lineup doesn't even count.
Todd: [holding the previously mentioned "All The Albums: All The Songs" book] I bought a book, that reviews, literally all the songs. I mean, look at this thing. So thick. [Todd opens the book and turns the page to...] It's got like two full pages of "The Magnificent Seven" alone. [...and...] But when it gets to "Cut The Crap", it'll give, like, a paragraph per song written in a tone of "Ugh! Do we really have to talk about this?"
Todd: Most fans don't even ...
Todd (VO): …call this lineup, "The Clash." They're "The Clash: [text appears next to band name...] Mk II". Apparently, they were such a shadow of themselves they don't even deserve the name.
Todd: You would think the band had been entirely recast like [publicity photo of...] the new Monkees.
Todd: Here's what actually happened. They lost two members.
Todd (VO): Topper Headon, the drummer, was the first to go because of drug problems. Sad but, pretty standard for rock bands. Drummers get replaced.
Todd: The big firing was when they let go...
Todd (VO): …of Mick Jones.
Clip of live performance of "Train In Vain"
Mick Jones: Did you stand by me?
No not at all
Mick Jones and Joe Strummer, were the twin leads of the band. They both sang, wrote most of the songs together.
Todd: They're the Lennon and McCartney of the band basically.
Clip of MTV interview with...
Todd (VO): But Mick, apparently wasn't "punk enough." He was too much a rock star, flashing cash, dating models, just generally being kind of a dick.
Todd: And tensions escalated until he got sacked.
Todd (VO): But it wasn't just his attitude, there was also musical tensions. Mick had a lot of eclectic influences that [clip of "E=MC2 by...] he would bring to his next band, Big Audio Dynamite.
Clip of Big Audio Dynamite - "Rush"
Mick: Situation no win
That was, uh, that was a fun weird group, and they did a lot of hip-hop, dance, sampling.
Todd: But Joe wanted to bring the group back to basics.
Clip of another interview with the band
Joe: I looked at all the people that were making records, and doing shows. And I realized that... [pause] they'd all gone...overproduced, over production. We wanted to strip it down. Back to...back to punk rock roots, and see what's left, and see how it progressed from there.
Todd (VO): Yeah! None of that poncy, overproduced synth garbage. We're [brief English accent] real rock 'n rollers!
Todd: So, why don't we actually take a listen? Let's check out this scrappy, lo-fi DIY album. Here's the opening track, "Dictator"!
Audio for "Dictator" plays over concert footage
Todd: Okay, that's-that's clearly a drum machine.
Joe: Dictator the more guns I got the better
Yes I am the liquidator
Todd: [flabbergasted] Is... [pause] why-why does it sound like that? Is-is the drum track out of sync with the rest of the song? What-what's going on?
Joe: But now I am the voice
Howling from your radio
Todd: [disgusted] What is this?!
Joe: Yes I am that voice...
Todd (VO): The fuck is that synthesizer? Are they-are they playing it with [stock photo of a kid with his head on a piano] their head?!
Todd: Did they pick up the keyboard and point it face forward in front of a [clip of...] softball machine?! This...I...I have never heard production this ugly. And I don't mean [image of a blue-haired...] ugly in the punk way, I mean ugly in the, "We have no idea what we're doing" kind of way!
Todd (VO): I mean you wanna talk about overproduced. [album cover for...] Fucking Asia would tell you to dial it back with all this...
Todd: ...shit! Jeez!
Todd (VO): What is that awful background noise?!
Todd: It sounds like when you're [image of someone tuning a car radio] between radio zones and two stations are trying to share the same frequency.
Todd (VO): Is-is the problem on my end?
Todd: Is it...is it my speakers? [sighs] Hold on. [places a set of headphones over his ears] That's not it, let me try these [puts on another set of headphones].
Todd (VO): No, I seriously did check through several sets of speakers and headphones, trying to make sure this wasn't some kind of hardware issue on my end. No, the mixing is actually that bad. It sounds like there was a four-year old in the production booth playing with the levels.
Todd: But I guess all the noise and the busy production is meant to emphasize the lyrical theme...
Todd (VO): ...about how it feels living in a South American style dictatorship. And how it relates to-
Todd: Oh, who am I kidding?! I-I can't make out a single word. Lyrical theme.
Joe: But I'm never never gonna die
Todd (VO): I almost don't even want to continue. Jeez.
Todd: Well, I did continue, and I can tell you that at the very least, nothing else on the album sounds like that. But that doesn't mean it's ever good.
Audio for "Dirty Punk" plays over more concert footage
Todd (VO): The second song on the album is called "Dirty Punk."
Joe: Gonna be a dirty punk
Gonna rock your neighborhood
Okay, yeah, yeah that's more like it right?
Todd: This sounds like the hardcore record Strummer was talking about making.
Joe: Gonna get me a big, big, big
Big, big car
Then I'm gonna drive, drive, drive
I'll drive so far
Up your boulevard
Todd: There you go. See, he's a dirty punk, and he just wants to drive his car...down the boulevard. [beat] Like punks do? [shrugs]
Joe: I shout I am a dirty punk
Gonna rock your neighborhood
Todd (VO): This is...inane.
Todd: Like, I'm glad the production isn't a mess like the first one but, the lyrics sound like a suburban poser kid trying to sound punk.
Todd (VO): [album cover for Cut the Crap] And the same goes for the album cover, which looks like a Wamart punk T-shirt. [clip of earlier interview with the band] The Clash were supposed to be engaged and righteous. The lyrics to this sound like a doofy hair metal song. When he said he wanted to bring back rawness and danger, is-is that what he meant?
Todd: I watched those interviews, and he's doing his best to be, you know, the sharp-edged, angry young man lashing out at the world.
Clip of earlier interview with Joe Strummer
Joe: Drugs are over! As from, drugs are over from this minute now! Anybody who takes a drug is a hippy! And hippies can shove off!
Todd (VO): [sighs] But...
Todd: ...I don't know. Maybe it's just me, but...this all seems really forced.
Todd (VO): [faux English accent] Ugh! Oi! I'm a punk rocker! Shove it up your arsehole, wanker!
Todd: [shrugs] He doesn't really sound like he believes it.
Todd (VO): Although he does seem legitimately unhappy at least. Like what's going on here? [album track circled in green] Now let's look at the next song, "We Are The..."
Todd: "We Are The Clash."
Clip of live performance of "We Are The Clash"
The Clash: We ain't gonna be treated like trash
We got one thing
We are The Clash (What?!)
We are The Clash (Louder)
Todd: [beat] Are you kidding me?
The Clash: We are The Clash
Todd (VO): [sarcastically] Boy, that's good to know! I was worried that this version of the band couldn't legitimately be The Clash. But now I know they are. Because they told me.
Todd: Look there's no other way to say this. This sounds like the theme for a Clash TV Show.
Audio for "We Are The Clash" plays over clip of interview with band members on a couch
The Clash: We are The Clash
Todd (VO): [shots of logos for the band...] The Clash! Weekdays at 4:30 on [...followed by...] FOX10! We are The Clash.
Todd: [sarcastically] Are ya? Are ya now?
Todd (VO): Who are these new guys anyway? Well, the two new guitarists are Nick Shepard and Vince White. Mick Jones was so important to the band they apparently needed two guys to replace him. Uh, the new drummer was Pete Howard. Honestly, no one was ever particularly impressed with their stint in the band.
Todd: Least of all, themselves.
Clip of The Rise and Fall of The Clash
Todd (VO): There's different theories over why they didn't work. I saw one guy say that they were Clash fanboys so they didn't really bring anything new. They themselves said they were intimidated because they were rookies and they didn't really feel like they could participate. It doesn't really matter because they're not really on this record. Their parts were recorded by session musicians and a [image of...] drum machine, which...I'm guessing no one knew how to operate 'cause the beats on this record sound like trash.
Todd: Anyway, let's get back to that. This is track four, [album track circled in green] "Are You Red"..."Are, Red-Y?" Re-oh, ready! "Are You..." What the hell kind of title is that?
Audio for "Are You Red...Y?" plays over live performance
Todd (VO): Oh my God, just the sound of this album!
Todd: Again, this is the stripped-down punk record you wanted to make? This sounds like a half-assed, Frankie Goes To Hollywood tune! [shot of back album cover with track listing] Red. Ready, Red. Maybe a reference to communism. I [sighs], I don't even care! I can't get past this half-assed, electrofunk sound!
Todd (VO): All this talk about trying to be better than the overdressed, makeup covered, music for the masses. This sounds exactly the same, only worse.
Clip of Kim Wilde - "You Keep Me Hangin' On"
Kim Wilde: Whoa, whoa, whoa
Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa
Barely a difference. Who made this? What...
Todd: ...idiot producer did this to them?! [back of the album cover which shows the words "Produced by Jose Unidos"] Jose Unidos. Who the hell is that? Wikipedia helped me out. [screenshot of the Wikipedia article of the album, showing the words "AKA Bernie Rhodes" next to Jose Unidos; hangs his head] Okay. Let's talk about Bernie Rhodes.
Montage images of Bernie Rhodes with the other band members
Todd (VO): The Clash is Bernie's band basically. It was his idea, he found all the members and put them together, he gave them their look. He made a lot of decisions about their creative direction. He was also minorly involved in The Sex Pistols, but that really wasn't his baby.
Todd: The Clash was.
Todd (VO): He also exerted what some members called a "Stalinist" control over the band. And because of that, he...
Todd: Well, he clashed with some of the band.
Todd (VO): Mick especially, so he was fired in 1979. But Joe really liked Bernie. He was a real Bernie bro if you will. And when their triple album, Sandinista! didn't sell, the band went deep into debt with the record company, so they put Bernie back in to help bail them out. [concert footage] And under his reins they got back on top. So, he's very important to the band and their history. But if you listen to anyone who was there during this phase of the band...
Todd: ...Bernard Rhodes comes off as an extremely sinister figure.
Todd (VO): It was Bernie's idea to fire Mick, and lots of people say now that this was Bernie's evil plan to make an opening...
Todd: ...where he could become part of the band.
Video for Malcom McLaren - "Buffalo Gals"
Todd (VO): See, around this time, The Sex Pistols' manager was having his own hits. So I guess Bernie got jealous...
Todd: ...and he decided he was gonna use The Clash to launch his own musical career.
Video for The Notorious B.I.G. - "Big Poppa"
Todd (VO): Basically, The Clash is Biggie Smalls, and Bernard Rhodes is Puff Daddy. Except Puffy turned out to be a lot more talented.
Todd: [nods his head] Yeah, I went there.
Todd (VO): The stories behind the scenes are way more interesting than the record, which...quite honestly I don't even know what to say about it. These songs just plain aren't finished.
Audio for "Play To Win" plays over another live performance
Joe: I long for the prairie
Pretty much to a one, every track relies on the whole band shouting the chorus.
Brief montage of that exact thing
Todd (VO): Rolling Stone called it the "Oi! choir". And believe me, you will get sick of it real quick.
Todd: And the choruses themselves are just weak!
Todd (VO): The Clash, at their height, were great songwriters. Not just in the punk, "bash and thrash and shout" kind of way. They had genuinely really well-constructed songs. And most of that apparently was Mick's doing, Joe was more of a lyrics guy. [back of the album showing "Written by Strummer and Rhodes" circled in green]. Replacing Mick, with Bernard Rhodes...
Todd: who was again, the manager...
Todd (VO): ...it's what would happen if, like, instead of [images of...] Lennon and McCartney, we had, [...and a mailman superimposed over John Lennon] Lennon's mailman and McCartney. Look Bernie, had almost zero experience as a producer, or a musician, or a writer before this. Yes, he was very important to the band and their success. So were their girlfriends probably, so were their accountants.
Todd: Every bad decision on this album can be traced back to Bernie.
Todd (VO): Fans who heard early versions of the songs in concert said they sounded good. Bernie forced that electronic shit on the band against Joe's wishes. [shot of the original album art, titled Out of Control]. He changed the title at the last second to the one with [album cover for Cut the...] "Crap" in the title, thanks for that.
Todd: He's the one who made the greatest punk band in history sound like every other shit act on MTV!
Clip of live performance of "Life is Wild"
Joe: Has anybody got a cigarette?
Todd: [singing in faux English accent] Oi Mickey you're so fine. You're so fine you blow my mind. Hey Mickey! Hey Mickey!! [single cover for...] Okay, is there anything good on this album? Well, there is one song everyone seems to like in hindsight. And that is the only single, "This is England". It's the only song on the album that wound up on any of the compilation albums. Joe Strummer has called it, "The last good Clash song".
Clip of The Clash - "This is England"
Joe: This is England
This knife of Sheffield steel
This is England
This is how we feel
Todd (VO): Honestly, I can't really say I'm a super fan. Again, it's just a production thing with the synthesizers.
Todd: A Clash song, should sound different from a Phil Collins song is my feeling.
Joe: On a human factory farm
Todd: [singing] Lady in red!
Todd (VO): But I see why it has fans. The song is really sparse so, the lyrics bubble up and they're a pretty bleak portrait of British poverty. Everyone's broke and poor, police violence, no one has a car to drive or anything.
Joe: I got my motorcycle jacket
But I'm walking all the time
Another clip from The Rise and Fall of The Clash
Vince White: Such a tremendous song because, it just represents what's going down, ya know? We don't have a fucking England anymore. Everything is gone, it's down the tubes.
It does really capture something about the bleak misery of the Thatcher era.
Todd: But, that's about it as far as good tunes.
Todd (VO): [album cover for Cut the Crap] Like when people try to defend this album, it's mostly people just saying things like, "Oh, well there's, like, a couple okay songs." But no one can seem to agree on which ones are the good ones.
Todd: For me, uh...
Todd (VO): '[album tracks circled in green] '...I dunno, I guess I like the chorus to "Movers and Shakers." Eh, "North and South" I'm kind of fond of, too. I'm not saying they're great either. They're...
Todd: ...just the ones that aren't completely destroyed by the shitty sound design.
Clip of Joe Strummer interview
Todd (VO): But even for the defenders it was mostly too little, too late. ["Sound of Silence" plays in the background] Midway through the production, Joe says he kind of gave up after realizing what a terrible mistake he made letting Bernie convince him to fire Mick. And he just got really depressed and checked out.
Lyrics for "Fingerpoppin'" stamped over another Clash interview
Joe: Finger point's gonna pop tonight
I'm gonna point at the best girl in sight
Todd: Yeah, I can kind of tell he wasn't giving it his full effort.
Todd (VO): Joe just powered through the end of the sessions and then disappeared. The planned music video for "This is England" got cancelled 'cause...the day of the shoot, no one showed up to be in it. [clips of more concert footage] And that's where the story ends for The Clash. The band ended for real this time. Joe and Mick made up and even made an onstage appearance shortly before he died, but they never officially reunited. Cut the Crap remains a widely despised catastrophe. And where The Clash's great albums are timeless, their....
Todd: ...final album is too dated and cheesy to listen to. [shot of magazine article: "Cutting the Crap with Bernard Rhodes"] Bernie Rhodes blames the album's bad reviews on "censorship" and "anti-punk bias." You know, for a guy leading a revolutionary...
Todd: ...band, he sure sounds like a [screenshot of the Rotten Tomatoes page for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice] DC fan complaining about Rotten Tomatoes. But if you want a silver lining, here's this.
Todd (VO): "We Are The Clash", seems like a misconceived and defensive attempt to establish the new lineup's credibility. But Strummer says that's not how it was intended. It was supposed to be an affirmation to all the fans that they were all The Clash.
Todd: See there's a little Clash in all of us!
Todd (VO): It's almost unpunk how heartwarming that is. But since The Clash's music has proven so enduring, I think it's kind of true.
Todd: We, the fans, are The Clash. [beat] But these guys were not.
The Clash: We are The Clash!
Ending music: Todd plays "This is England" on piano
"Cut the Crap" is owned by Epic Records
This video is owned by me
THANK YOU TO THE LOYAL PATRONS!