The Clash came together in 1976 with assistance from Malcolm McLaren associate Bernie Rhodes, who was helping McLaren with the Sex Pistols and was also trying to get another band, London SS, off the ground. It was through Rhodes that London SS’ guitarist, Mick Jones, saw the Sex Pistols early in ’76 and realized the punk sound was what he wanted to pursue. He persuaded Paul Simonen to join him on bass (even though, in typical punk fashion, he didn’t yet know how to play), and they started rehearsing with a few different people on drums. Keith Levene also joined on guitar. They needed a singer, though Jones could provide them adequately, but the problem was solved when Rhodes persuaded John Mellor, who performed under the name Joe Strummer (named from his guitar playing style), to jump from the pub-rock band The 101ers. Same as Jones, Joe realized he needed to move to punk after also seeing the Sex Pistols. You have to give Rhodes credit, because he had also discovered Johnny Rotten for The Pistols, so he only found the two most charismatic, identifiable, and iconic lead punk singers of all time.
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Chelsea only lasted a short while before Broad, Towe, and James decided to leave and form their own band, Generation X (more on them in a bit). Gene October continued with Chelsea, and after some of the usual line-up changes, returned to a quartet along with Henry ‘Daze’ Badowski on guitar, James Stevenson on bass, and Carey Fortune on drums. In June 1977 they released their first single, “Right to Work,” on indie label, Step Forward Records, another label formed by Miles Copeland. Like most other punk songs that year it didn’t break through, but over time has been recognized as a worthy contribution to the genre’s formative days. The song had a wonderful, thick, snarling guitar riff that felt like punk but drew from a heavy metal vibe. It rode over a lively beat with multiple, quick fills, creating a liveliness that punk hadn’t yet shown much adeptness. It was such accents that helped expand the idea of what was happening in music, as new sounds were being developed by both expanding the core formats and blending them together.