Flashback: The Clash Say Goodbye at the 1983 US Festival
The Clash came to a rather sad ending in May 1983. The group had every reason to be on the top of the world by this point: their previous LP, Combat Rock, was an enormous hit and their singles “Rock the Casbah” and “Should I Stay or Should I Go” were all over radio and MTV. But drummer Topper Headon was kicked out of the group for drug abuse in 1982, and Mick Jones and Joe Strummer were barely speaking.
They took a six-month break after the Combat Rock tour ended in November 1982, but a $500,000 offer from Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak to headline New Wave Day of the US Festival proved impossible to turn down. To warm up for the huge festival, the group went on a four-date tour of Texas and Arizona. Founding drummer Terry Chimes (who rejoined the band in 1982 after Headon got the boot) was once again out of the group by this point, so they took out an ad in Melody Maker and recruited 23-year-old Pete Howard.
By the time they got to San Bernardino, California for the festival, they were in complete disarray. Things got worse when they learned fans were paying $25 to attend the show. They had been told previously that prices would be set at $17, and shortly before they went onstage, they held a press conference. The band announced they wouldn’t go on unless Apple gave $100,000 to charity. It was chaos. Some later claimed the real cause of their rage was the knowledge that Van Halen were getting a million dollars for their set.
The band eventually went onstage two hours late and played a sloppy, 80-minute set in front of a banner that read “The Clash Not for Sale.” Joe Strummer taunted the audience from the stage and afterward, the band got into a brawl with security. The group still walked away with a half-million dollars; four months later, they announced that Mick Jones was leaving the group. The chaotic US Festival was his final appearance with the band and the final two songs were “Should I Stay or Should I Go” and “Clampdown,” which you can watch above.
Yes, Joe Strummer and bassist Paul Simonon did release Cut the Crap in 1985 and they toured as the Clash that year, but that’s like a Rolling Stones tour without Keith Richards. It doesn’t count, and the whole thing has basically been erased from history. The Clash as we know them ended at the 1983 US Festival.