From Here To Eternity Live

The Clash

Epic Records, 1999

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


The Clash is one of those bands who have songs you like, even if you don't immediately recognize who performs them. Unless you're a fan of the band, you probably only know Joe Strummer and crew from songs like "Should I Stay Or Should I Go," "Train In Vain" and "Rock The Casbah". I've got most of the group's albums, and even I don't immediately recognize them when I hear them on the radio.

Now, for everyone who's lamented the breakup of the band since they parted ways over a decade ago, comes From Here To Eternity Live, a compilation recorded from a wide portion of the band's timeline. While this disc shows how good The Clash were, the disc also clearly shows The Clash as two distinct bands: one who wanted to be cutting-edge and one who were just going through the motions.

The key to this switch in bands lies in one member: drummer Topper Headon. When he was with the band, it seemed to kick both their sound and their energy levels into areas previously unknown. But when he was replaced by Terry Chimes (as evidenced by the series of tracks from 1982), it's almost like someone let the air out of The Clash's balloon. We'll get back to that momentarily.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

One early complaint I have with this disc is the fact that "Rock The Casbah" is not included - and I really would have liked to have heard what this number sounded like live. Oh, well. At least the other "hits" are included. "Train In Vain" sounds like Strummer and crew are having some fun with it, while "Should I Stay Or Should I Go" is featured in a 1982 version - one of the only two songs I heard with Chimes as drummer that impressed me. Somehow, I think it would be really hard to ruin the formula of this song.

If you have followed The Clash since day one, then From Here To Eternity Live is already sacred to you. For the uninitiated, it's kind of a fun trip to take. Songs like "London's Burning," "Capital Radio" (where a punker does the unthinkable and requests a Sam The Sham & The Pharoahs song - who woulda thunk it?) and "Guns Of Brixton" all show why The Clash were considered one of the greatest bands of their time. They definitely had punk's sneer, but they dared to carry a tune, and even recognize the commercial impact they could make with their music. That took some stones at that time in the world of punk, but they did so without ever looking over their shoulder.

The period featuring Headon behind the traps is the most exciting - it's cool to hear them plow through "I Fought The Law" and "City Of The Dead" - but not everything is perfect. I don't know why I couldn't get into "Armagideon Time," but I found myself watching the CD timer like a child eagerly anticipating the arrival of Christmas, and hoping the end of the wait would come soon.

It almost feels that by the time Chimes took over as drummer, The Clash were tired and wanted to just wind things down with a whimper. That's why even the killer tracks from their studio days like "London Calling" and "Clash City Rockers" just don't have the same zip. That said, the Chimes-era Clash does turn in good performances on "Should I Stay Or Should I Go" and "Straight To Hell" - not surprisingly, they both came from the same show.

I've never developed the same fondness for The Clash as other reviewers, but From Here To Eternity Live is the kind of disc that makes me want to dig through the Pierce Memorial Archives and dust off my Clash albums for a fresh listen. If this disc does anything, it serves not only as a great live album (as well as a nice present for long-time Clash fans), it acts as a perfect place for anyone who doesn't know much about the band to gain a quick, good education about one of punk's most influential bands.

Rating: B

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© 2000 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Epic Records, and is used for informational purposes only.