Rarely in the history of music has so much been packaged so beautifully for so many.
The Clash The Singles box is a glorious collection of the band’s original 19 singles, reissued on individual CDs. Each comes in its own sleeve with the original punkified artwork from the various release countries. Each also includes the B-sides from those original 7″ and 12″ records. Talk about cool! In all, there are 66 songs and 80 minutes of music. And if you’d forgotten that the Clash were once “the only band that matters,” this box set will reaffirm that things haven’t changed even after all these years.
But what really caps the deal is that several of these tracks have been unavailable for years, not included on any of the various other greatest hits collections or box sets. There are alternative takes, dubs, even the famous interview with the band while riding the Circle Line underground around London.
Among the rediscovered jewels are the reggae-esque “Bankrobber” outtake from the London Calling LP, as well as the reggae cover of “Armagideon Time.”
But the best of all may be the Clash’s version of Toots and the Maytals’ “Pressure Drop,” the flipside of “English Civil War” and inspired by the rude-boy blockbuster film, The Harder They Come. The band spits this reggae number back out as a punk-rock anthem.
The music is accompanied by a stylish liner booklet packed with photos and best of all, reminiscences by the band’s contemporaries concerning individual singles. The Pogues’ Shane MacGowan kicks things off with his memories of the release of “White Riot” amid the crazed early days of punk. It’s charged reading.
If you’re a Clash fan, you need this box set. And if you’re really a Clash fan, you may prefer the special limited-edition version released on good old 7″ vinyl.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s May. ’07 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.