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Give ‘Em Enough Rope Turns 35 (Part One)

While hardly a forgotten masterpiece, The Clash's sophomore release is, at the very least, half a great album.

Kathy Shaidle


November 14, 2013 - 11:00 am
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Twenty-five years ago this week, The Clash released their second album, Give ‘Em Enough Rope.

Artistic sophomore efforts always threaten to over-promise and under-deliver.

Inevitably, then, reaction to Rope was decidedly mixed.

Critics were mostly enthralled. Rolling Stone and Time hailed Give ‘Em Enough Rope as 1978′s album of the year.

On The Clash’s home turf, a writer at Sounds (who probably never lived this down) declared it one of the best records in history.

For many fans, however, such critical acclaim bolstered their own disdain.

The iconoclastic punk band had promised their loyal followers that signing their six-figure contract with CBS Records would never turn them into commercial, corporate puppets. One zine famously declared that “punk died” the day that deal was done.

So as far as longtime loyalists were concerned, Give ‘Em Enough Rope represented a blatant betrayal. They called the record slick and overproduced — by the guy behind Blue Oyster Cult, no less!

For less rabid music lovers, Rope simply got lost between the band’s epochal self-titled debut and their third release, the mainstream masterpiece London Calling.

Heck, Fred Armisen even forgot to make fun of it:

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All Comments   (9)
All Comments   (9)
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By my math, it was 35 years ago...
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Yeah, I caught that, too, but since it makes me ten years younger I'm okay with it.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment

Gaslight Anthem tribute to Joe Strummer and The Clash.

You're welcome!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The Clash were, juvenile politics aside and if nothing else, a great rock'n'roll band. Rope, however, is far from their best effort. The first album out Pistols the Pistols and London Calling is indeed a masterpiece. Strummer/Jones wrote some great songs until Strummer fired Jones for, GASP, wanting to be a rock'n'roll star. Heh.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Never got into the Clash. They have only one song that I remember, something about staying and going.

I did get to see the Sex Pistols perform once in Austin. But they were a one album band. It's funny that they protested against corporate music by stealing their equipment from Led Zeppelin.

Of the punk bands, I always thought Gang of Four was the best. I got to see them perform in Austin as well, thought they were excellent. But they were a one album band as well, although Entertainment! is a really good album.

I've always been an old school, underground type of guy. I was listening to Black Sabbath, Kiss and AC/DC back when everyone else was listening to country and disco and calling me a devil worshiper.

But Ms. Shaidle's point about second albums is spot on. They can make or break a band.

Black Sabbath recorded their first album in 12 hours. Think about that, a bunch of teenagers in a studio for the first time. Ozzy Osbourne was barely 19. Tony Iommi had sliced off the tips of his fingers with a buzz saw on his last day of work at a steel factory. He made these plastic tips to cover his fingers so he could play guitar.

Black Sabbath is probably best known for their second album, Paranoid, because it includes the hit Iron Man, which really is a song about the Second Coming of Christ. Yeah, they were all Catholics. The bass player and lyricist, Terrence Butler, had been studying to be a priest, before he became a musician. That's why so many of their songs and albums have religious themes. Black Sabbath is the Judgement Day. It's apocalyptic rock. And it really isn't heavy metal, as everyone calls it; it's really heavy jazz, with distortion.

Their third album, Master of Reality, changed my life. I first heard it in the 7th grade, and it was nothing like I had ever heard before. My best friend's older brother turned us onto it. He came in and said, "Dudes, you have got to listen to this." He was a revolutionary, and we both looked up to him.

After that, Black Sabbath went on a tear, with a series of great albums: Vol. IV, Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, Sabotage, and Technical Ecstacy are defining albums in rock and roll.

That's six extraordinary albums in a row. None of the punk bands ever did anything like that.

Only two bands have sold over a billion records: Elvis and the Memphis Mafia, and the Beatles. Only one band has sold as many gold records as the Beatles, Kiss. Go figure. And the band that sold the first platinum album is the Eagles. Write about them, not some washed up punk band that was popular for a short while.

By the way, anybody who grew up in the 70s that didn't listen to Little Feat and Lynyrd Skynyrd was nobody.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
One of the least talented and overrated bands in the history of rock and roll. Their arrangements are as stale and unoriginal as my analogy of them to day old white bread.

They are the equivalent of a velvet painting of Elvis in his karate suit smiling and waving while sitting on the back of an albino tiger, but with less nuance.

Pearlman must've been a genius.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Ummm...Kathy...1978 to 2013--that's 35 years, sorry. Yeah, I know, I find it hard to believe, too. Seems like yesterday I was in high school buying Give Em Enough Rope at Record Haven in Hollywood FLA.

Great album.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
One Halloween I went to a party as Joe Strummer. Combed my hair in a pomp. Bought some overalls and cut off the sleeves. And made a fake guitar out of cardboard. Only the cool kids knew who I was. To see Jones and Simonen it hits me just how long ago that was. Fun times nevertheless.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Great article Kathy. Still one of my favorite Clash platters....a real transitional, sneak preview of what they were about to do. Thanks again.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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