The Clash’s 1985 Busking Tour of Britain

Julian Cope directly referenced this little-remembered, hard-to-fathom episode in late Clash history, from the period after Mick Jones had disastrously been removed from the band, with his three-day “Joe Strummer Memorial Busking Tour” in October, 2008. (Check that tour’s impressive itinerary here — then search youtube to see video highlights — there are many). I’d love to know more about The Clash’s tour (are there any videos? etc). For now, though, there’s this…

From Passion Is a Fashion: The Real Story of The Clash by Pat Gilbert (2004), p 352-3:

In May 1985, [Clash manager] Bernie Rhodes, [manager] Kosmo [Vinyl] and Joe [Strummer] devised the Clash’s last hurrah—a busking tour of Britain. The idea was that the group would assemble at [guitarist] Vince’s flat, leave their wallets on the table and hitch to Nottingham with a few acoustic guitars. They’d then see where the wind would take them. Over the next two-and-a-half weeks, Britain’s provincial towns and cities were thus treated to the extraordinary sight of The Clash popping up under railway bridges and in subways to entertain them with Monkees, Chuck Berry, Eddie Cochran and Cramps songs.

The group kipped on fans’ floors and in cheap B&Bs. They survived on the money thrown into their hats. It was a genuinely exiting and unpredictable experience. Joe described it as ‘the best tour we ever did.’

Paul [Simonon] agrees. ‘It was like starting out fresh again,’ he says. ‘It was great. “We’ll meet you in Glasgow in a week’s time,” and the idea was to leave everything behind other than the guitars. You couldn’t take any money with you. We survived by our wits. It was as exciting as the Anarchy tour, you never knew where you were going next. I remember we were in Leeds, it was 2 a.m., and it was outside this black club, and people were coming out and really digging us. There were two white guys and they were shocked it was us. They said, “Where you staying?” And we said, “We’re not staying anywhere,” so they invited us to stay at their mum’s. The money we made from busking meant we could go further, we didn’t have a plan of where to go next. There was no rules. You didn’t have to be on the so-and-so plane at twelve o’clock.’