The Clash and Sham 69 frontman Jimmy Pursey rip through “White Riot” in a clip from the upcoming documentary about the 1978 Rock Against Racism concert, also dubbed White Riot.
As noted in the clip, Pursey’s collaboration with the Clash was a savvy attempt to spread the movement’s anti-racism message to a broader audience. But it was also a potentially combustible one, as Sham 69 — despite not sharing these politics — had attracted some fans who were far-right skinheads or members of the fascist National Front party.
“We thought it would be great if Jimmy could get on stage with us to nail his colors to the mast, as well,” remembers Clash drummer Topper Headon. “To say to the Sham 69 fans, ‘I’m not a racist.’ We had no idea how many people were out in front, and my vivid memory of that day is walking up — because it was a very high stage — walked up the stage and saw 100,000 people.”
White Riot was directed by Rubika Shah. Along with chronicling the famous 1978 march and concert, it will explore the origins of Rock Against Racism and the political tensions in Great Britain’s punk scene during the late-Seventies that nearly swung the movement to the far right. The film will arrive via Virtual Cinema on October 16th.