The Clash Mauls a Teddy Bear and Plays Two Songs on The Tom Snyder Show (1981)

The Clash’s San­din­ista!, their fourth and penul­ti­mate stu­dio album (let’s not talk about Cut the Crap) inspired crit­i­cal rhap­sodies and rose to the top of lists every­where in 1981. When I encoun­tered it almost ten years lat­er as a young fan, I didn’t give it much of a chance, except for a song with the same name as my belea­guered hometown’s NBA team. In hind­sight, it was my loss, but it’s also true that near­ly every gen­er­a­tion of Clash fans, includ­ing the very first, has put their fin­ger on the band’s moment of either “sell­ing out” or sharply declin­ing. Maybe for me it was what a Rolling Stone review called San­din­ista!’s “main­stream moves” and “stu­dio sophis­ti­ca­tion.” Maybe it was the “whiff of grandeur” of the triple album. I think it also had to do with what Tom Sny­der, in his 1981 inter­view with the band above, says of them in his intro­duc­tion: they pre­ferred to be iden­ti­fied “not so much as a Rock and Roll group but as a ‘News-giv­ing group.’”

It was hard­ly news when I heard it, and I didn’t much care for top­i­cal songs any­way. But I’ve always admired Joe Strummer’s sin­cer­i­ty and sense of polit­i­cal urgency. I don’t know how seri­ous­ly Strum­mer takes Snyder’s “News-giv­ing” open, but he rolls with it, and the band turns on the charm offen­sive, alter­nate­ly cud­dling and abus­ing a ted­dy bear (against Snyder’s protes­ta­tions), pro­fess­ing their sin­cere loy­al­ty to their fans, and cov­er­ing the host with mer­chan­dise. It’s a fun eight and half min­utes. Then they do two songs, “The Mag­nif­i­cent Sev­en” (above), from San­din­ista!, and “This is Radio Clash” (below), which doesn’t appear on any of their stu­dio albums. Behind Mick Jones’ wall of amps, pio­neer­ing graf­fi­ti artist Futu­ra 2000 spray-paints some uniden­ti­fi­able words, and beneath the whole affair is what Dan­ger­ous Minds calls “an under­cur­rent of con­trolled may­hem.” This kind of TV just doesn’t hap­pen any­more.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Watch Audio Ammu­ni­tion: Google’s New Doc­u­men­tary Series on The Clash and Their Five Clas­sic Albums

Rare Live Footage Doc­u­ments The Clash From Their Raw Debut to the Career-Defin­ing Lon­don Call­ing

Mick Jones Plays Three Clas­sics by The Clash at the Pub­lic Library

The Clash: West­way to the World (The 2002 Gram­my Win­ning Film)

The Clash Live in Tokyo, 1982: Watch the Com­plete Con­cert

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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