1982: The Clash Implode in Bangkok (And That Combat Rock Album Cover).
Above Photo: The Combat Rock album cover photo wasn’t taken in Midwest USA, but in Bangkok, Thailand (© Pennie Smith).
The Clash brought out their album ‘Combat Rock’ back in May 1982. I vividly remember it, for reasons I recount in Bombed Out!, my Punk and New Wave memoir.
All the more interesting then, for me to discover something about the album cover, which I have always assumed was shot in the middle of nowhere in the USA. Not so. In fact the cover photo was shot in Thailand, just outside Bangkok, when the band were falling apart during their 1982 world tour.
In Bangkok, The Clash had commendably played a gig in Bangkok’s famous Thammasat University (the scene of an outrageous and unpunished massacre of up to 100 students in 1976), after which the band made the mistake of taking some R & R time in the city…
That was definitely the wrong move, as Topper Headon’s heroin addiction can’t have been helped by being in Thailand in those days, and he would soon to be kicked out of the band for relapsing, while bass-player Paul Simonon became seriously ill with a tropical disease that left him hospitalised.
Meanwhile lead guitarist Mick Jones disappeared and Joe Strummer went on a bender and hit the go-go bars.
When photographer Pennie Smith, who’d also taken the iconic cover photo for the Clash’s ‘London Calling’ album, took the ‘Combat Rock’ photos in Bangkok, she said it was like watching the end of the line for the band. (Incidentally, Pennie Smith took all the Clash photos illustrating this article).
Mick Jones later said of the Clash’s Thailand visit:
In Thailand we only did one gig, but ended up staying for two weeks after Paul got ill. It was on the photo shoot for the Combat Rock cover, and Paul jumped in what he thought was a puddle but was actually some kind of black mud with loads of flies in it.
He was in an old colonial-style hospital with a tropical disease. Joe and I got friendly with some monks who wore orange robes and we took them to see Paul in hospital, and they were really excited because he had a shower in his hospital room.
Then the monks started coming to the hospital to have showers, loads of them queuing up to get in the shower. We had a nice couple of weeks’ holiday in Thailand and then went home…
The area surrounding the Petchaburi Road and the railway line, shown on the cover photo in 1982, now looks like this (and in fact is even more built up, as I took this a couple of years ago).
And to finish off, You Tube links to two of my favourite tracks from Combat Rock:
Rock The Casbah
Know Your Rights