The Clash seemed to be heading toward a reunion in late 2002. On November 7th, word came down that they were being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Just seven days later Joe Strummer played a benefit concert for striking firefighters at London’s Acton Town Hall, during which he brought out surprise guest Mick Jones for an impromptu three-song encore of Clash songs. It was the first time they had shared a stage since the US Festival in 1983.
Over the next few weeks pressure grew on the band to finally reunite at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony the following March. Strummer, Jones and drummer Topper Headon were all on board, but bassist Paul Simonon wasn’t having it. “I was the one who always said no,” he said in 2008. “In this instance, I really didn’t believe it was the right moment. A big corporate event like that, two grand a seat. Nah, that wasn’t in the spirit of the Clash, was it?”
On December 21st, 2002 Joe Strummer sent Simonon a text. “Come on, Paul,” he wrote. “Give it a try. You might even like it.” Simonon wouldn’t budge and Strummer reportedly considered going ahead with a replacement bassist. The very next day he dropped dead due to an undiagnosed congenital heart defect.
Sadly, the three-song Strummer/Jones set from Acton Hall was as close to a Clash reunion as the world ever got. Backed by Strummer’s band the Mescaleros, the group opened with the 1980 deep cut “Bankrobber” before playing fast and loose versions of “White Riot” and “London’s Burning.” Fittingly, they were two of the Clash’s earliest songs. Thankfully, the event was captured on video. Check out their performance of “White Riot.”