The new book New York Groove: An Inside Look at the Stars, Shows, and Songs That Make NYC Rock tells more than 200 stories of the artists, writers, DJs, and impresarios who came together in Manhattan to make rock history from the 1950s to today. The Clash's tumultuous performances at a Times Square club are recounted in this excerpt.
In May 1981 the Clash—Joe Strummer, Mick Jones, and Paul Simonon—were in New York City to promote their album Sandinista! The British punk rockers were too popular for a small club like CBGB but were not yet ready to headline an arena like Shea Stadium, where they would open for The Who in 1982. Bond International Casino, which held 3,500 people, was ideal. Eight shows were originally scheduled.
The International Casino, a nightclub without gambling, operated in Times Square at 1526 Broadway in the 1930s until it closed in 1940. That year Bond Clothes, a national chain of retail stores, opened what was called "the cathedral of clothing" in the location. Bond's erected a massive neon sign in 1948 that featured a 27-foot-high waterfall. A portion of the sign remained after the store closed in 1977; that led new owners to rename the large second-floor space Bond International Casino when it reopened as a disco in 1980.
When 10,000 fans lined up in Times Square for Clash tickets, promoters oversold the shows beginning May 28, creating massive overcrowding and pandemonium. Fire marshals closed down a few of the shows. The band condemned the greed of the promoters at a press conference and played 17 shows through June 13 to accommodate everyone who had bought a ticket.
The size of the room and the packed house made for intense performances. The audience joined for boisterous sing-alongs as the band performed songs from their first four albums. The Clash offered opening slots to alternative rock bands like the Dead Kennedys and hip hop groups like Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. Rolling Stone called the shows "one of the finest moments in rock history."
The first mural of Clash singer-songwriter Joe Strummer was painted on the side of Niagara, an East Village dive bar, in 2003. Strummer lived in New York City during the 1990s and frequented Niagara, owned by musician Jesse Malin.
The mural was repainted in 2009, 2013, and 2015. The words "Joe Strummer 1952-2002," "Know Your Rights," and "The Future Is Unwritten" are inscribed with Strummer's image. "Know Your Rights" is the first single from the Clash's 1982 album Combat Rock; "The Future Is Unwritten" is the title of a 2007 documentary about Strummer.
Bond International Casino closed a few years after the Clash shows.
Mastropolo is the author of New York Groove: An Inside Look at the Stars, Shows, and Songs That Make NYC Rock.