The greatest rock 'n' roll band in the world? - definitely.
Formed in 1976 they were one of the first punk bands to grace the British music scene, along with others such as The Sex Pistols, The Damned and various others only to willing to exploit a gap in the British music scene.
The original members all came from similar backgrounds in London. Mick Jones[Lead guitar & vocals], was disillusioned with the apathy of the supergroups of the time and a music press telling him what to buy. Paul Simonon [Bass guitar], had earned a council scholarship at an art school but was always more interested in music, in paticular Bluebeat ska and Reggae. Joe Strummer [Lead Vocals and guitar], perhaps the most experienced member had already been in a semi successful pub band, the 101ers who had a large cult following in London and a single released entitled 'Keys To Your Heart'.
Their first single 'White Riot' was released in March 1977 and closely followed by their eponymously titled first album. Perhaps their best album. The whole album can almost be viewed as a historical chronical of the late seventies, covering most of the main themes of the time, from racial and political tension on the streets of London to the ever increasing presence of American cop shows on the TV. Side two of the album also featured the bands first reggae track a cover version of Junior Murvins 'Police & Thieves', reggae and many other styles of music were to heavily influence the bands recorded and live work throughout their career.
After the release of the album the band line up was completed when Nicky 'Topper' Headon joined the band, the group had been drummerless for almost a year - Terry Chimes (aka Tory Crimes) had played drums on the album but was not interested in being in the band full time. Topper met Mick Jones, whom he had known previously, at a Kinks gig in London, and was suitably impressed enough to join the band. A second single followed 'Remote Control', but it was released buy CBS whithout the bands knowledge. The band were furious it was always their intention to give Value For Money (VFM) and not over stretch the pockets of their ever increasing and possibly unemployed fans, buy keeping album tracks released as singles to a minimum. It was possibly the first time the group realised they had a record contract with CBS (now Sony) that was going to dog their careers until the present day. The band reflected on this in their third single fittingly entitled 'Complete Control' which opens with line, "They said release Remote Control but we didn't want it on the label".
There then followed a spate of singles each enjoying moderate chart success including 'Clash City Rockers' and 'White Man In Hammersmith Palais' another Clash reggae song. The second album 'Give Enough Rope' followed but the band were not happy with the record companies choice of producer, the sound is perhaps too polished and over produced yet the lyrics are a sign of the bands broadening horizons and political influence. Almost all of the tracks on the album were best heard live and hopefully this will be borne out later this year with the release of a live album. The album spawned only two singles 'Tommy Gun' and 'English Civil War'.
'London Calling' was released in 1979 and marked a change in musical direction the album has a lot more different styles of music inluding blues and some serious reggae 'Revolution Rock'. This also became the album that was to break America and the band enjoyed phenomenal success in the States, it also produced the bands first top ten hit in the UK with the title track.
The fourth album 'Sandinista'  a triple ablum with 36 tracks saw the group seriously start to experiment with different musical styles, including 'a new genre' from America called Rap music (The Magnificent Seven & Lightening Strikes), they also started using samplers and dubbing to great and often startling effect.
The last album to be released with the original line up was 'Combat Rock' and was a return to more standard format, a single album that was heavily influenced by what they had learned from 'Sandinista'. The last Clash album was the truely awful 'Cut The Crap' which I'm not prepared to even think about.
This a very potted history of the Clash and I will improve it someday, and correct any mistakes which I'm sure will be pointed out to me. In the meantime if you are new to the band then I would strongly recommend you have a listen their albums are all available at reasonble prices, and there are plenty books to buy that will give a more detailed picture of The Greatest Rock 'n' Band in the World.