The distinction between singles and albums is an important one, and those missing it miss out on an integral part of the experience. A properly conceived single couples songs in a uniquely direct context, making a more emotionally direct statement than on an LP where the song becomes part of a (hopefully) more cohesive whole. “London Calling” the single and London Calling the LP convey two different messages even though the latter incorporates the former.
When every official Clash recording was remastered in 1999, the decision was made not to divide their singles into additional tracks to their LPs (preserving the continuity of each LP and keeping the pricing at midline at a time when most catalogue reissues are released at full price). Thus the two single volumes that archive every A-side and nearly every B-side, The Singles and Super Black Market Clash, were updated.
Value For Money predates the Clash in pop terms. British and European record companies traditionally were not usually so driven by avarice as to release for sale a 7" single whose tracks were duplicated in full on a 12" LP (one obvious reason for the long decline of the single in the US, where singles have almost always been redundant). “Non-LP B-side” was to become part of the record collectors lexicon, but it was not uncommon for singles outside of North America to feature non-LP songs on the A-side as well. In this The Only Band That Mattered did not disappoint: “Complete Control,” “Clash City Rockers,” “(White Man) In Hammersmith Palais,” “Bankrobber,” and “This is Radio Clash” were never designed to appear on corresponding LPs, and nearly every Clash single contained a new, non-LP track on its B-side.
The 17 Clash A-sides (including the 7" edit versions of “White Riot” and “The Magnificent Seven”) and “I Fought the Law” (originally the lead track from The Cost of Living EP) make up The Singles (which makes its US debut with the new remastered edition). Like the rest of the Clash remasters the artwork was recreated from the original source material, and the print quality is a considerable improvement over the rather thin, blurry original even though some typographical errors from the 1991 original were overlooked in one of the only flaws in the set: the lyrics for “The Magnificent Seven” were inadvertently truncated from “You be given the same reward/Socrates and Milhous Nixon/both move the same way — through the kitchen” to “You be given then (sic)/same way — through the kitchen.” The picture sleeve collection that adorns the live CD From Here To Eternity probably belongs here as well, minor imperfections are the sound quality is reason alone to upgrade.
Super Black Market Clash has a remarkable consistency, better than a lot of LPs made completely from new tracks (even including a few by the Clash themselves). Unintentionally Super Black Market Clash provides a better retelling of the history of the Clash than either of the retrospectives, a progression from the earliest B-sides (Produced by Micky Foote) to a lively remix of their best-known single.
Inbetween the opening and closing there is a treasure trove including two inspired cover versions: the Booker T and the MGs hit “Time Is Tight” (one of the few unique selections from the original US-only 10" Black Market Clash EP) and the Maytals “Pressure Drop.” The contents of The Cost of Living EP include two of the crucial Clash recordings, “Groovy Times” and “Gates Of The West” as well as the seminal “Capital Radio Two.” The transitional period is represented by dub mixes (“Justice Tonight/Kick It Over” and “Robber Dub”) and instrumental mixes (“The Cool Out,” “The Magnificent Dance” and “Mustapha Dance”). The B-side to the Sandinista! single “Stop The World” updates the theme of “London Calling.” “Radio Clash” is the continuation of “This is Radio Clash” that spilled over to its B-side. “Cool Confusion” and “First Night Back In London” (the B-side to “Know Your Rights” and the last B-side to feature drummer Topper Headon) outstrip most of the contents of Combat Rock. Only “The Prisoner” and “Long Time Jerk” seem like filler in comparison.
©2001 Rodney E Griffith. All rights reserved.