Saturday 28 October 2017

The Clash At Trinity

I went with my school friend Rory. The beginning of 5th Year, the ‘77/’78 academic year, post Inter Cert. We were the only punks in the school. He still liked The Rolling Stones, I still liked Bob Dylan. Our classmates were welcome to their Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd albums, as far as I was concerned. I took their ‘punks can’t play’ sneering and condescending jibes as a badge of honour.  They couldn’t go and see their favourite bands in the Exam Hall or Junior Common Room in Trinity. Interestingly, by the time of The Clash’s ’78 gig the same time the following year in The Top Hat, a few of them were in attendance.

I can’t remember what I wore. I was more interested in the music, the phenomenon, than the fashion – even if fashion was part of the phenomenon. Getting the look right came later. Up until then, most info came from the NME, which I’d been reading religiously every week since Christmas ’76. There was also a great Dublin fanzine called Heat – they had a hagiographic review of The Clash’s first album in an issue before the Trinity gig, and an extensive and even more hagiographic feature/live review it.

I’d been to a few concerts previously (how come my parents let me out at night at that young age, when most of my contemporaries would have been safely at home?): the post Wilko, John Mayo Dr. Feelgood at the National Stadium; Gary Glitter at The Carlton cinema; I seem to recall that a nascent Boomtown Rats had even played at our school hall. I still regard The Clash at the Exam Hall, Trinity College, on October 21st, 1977, as my first real gig. Or rather, the night I discovered what all the fuss was about, what rock’n’roll could do to you. There’ve been great gigs since, but you never forget the first time.

Specific memories of the gig? We went to the first show (clearly, I must still have been required to be home by a certain time). I stood in the front row, stage left. All the songs were short, less than three minutes, guitar solos a rarity, Mick Jones and Paul Simenon as active as front men as Joe Strummer, a three pronged attack spearheaded by the singer. The one song longer than three minutes, which had a guitar solo, was the cover of Junior Murvin’s ‘Police and Thieves’.  During the instrumental break Jones and Simenon stood on either side of the drum riser, and then jumped off together: it was the coolest thing I’d ever seen. At the end, I jumped on stage and asked Mick Jones for his plectrum, which he immediately handed to me – before I was unceremoniously pushed back into the crowd by a member of student security.

The thing that struck me most, even much more than the music and the performance, was how there seemed to be no barrier, literal or metaphorical, between band and audience. It seemed to me that there were as many people on stage as in the audience, and the band didn’t mind. No more idols, no more hero-worship. This was the new ethic: we were all in this together. Hence, why so many people in attendance went home and woke up the next morning, thinking about how they could form their own bands.

Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, But to be young was very heaven!

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