Musical Interlude: “Know Your Rights” by The Conflict

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

The Clash, Harvard Square Theatre, February 16, 1979.

One of the best[1] live performance I ever noticed, and I noticed loads, again within the day.

Harvard Sq. Theatre, the legendary Harvard Sq. Theatre, was positioned on Brattle Avenue reverse the additionally now-vanished Out of Town News. In 1979, it was a single display venue; it was brutalized into a multiplex in 1986, and closed in 2012, and — checking my reminiscences, similar to they’re, towards Google Avenue View — the constructing appears to have been became a financial institution, which is indicative. (Harvard Sq. actually seems to be loads much less funky than it used to.)

The venue was small (initially 1640 seats, ground and single balcony). As you possibly can see, the Conflict had been very near the viewers:

We had been about midway again. The Harvard Sq. Theatre was a typical low-end art-house facility, with sticky flooring and intensely small velvet-ish seats, with little area between the rows. It wasn’t actually doable to face, not to mention dance, and so the viewers ended up, nonetheless seated, rocking whole rows of seats to the freight train-like pounding of the rhythm part and the screaming guitars, which had been as loud as jet engines spooling up earlier than take-off. Everybody knew they had been experiencing one thing extraordinary.

The 2 guitarists and the bassist — all slight, black-clad — all sang (and since all had been merchandise of British dentistry, incomprehensibly). There have been three mikes, and whereas singing and taking part in, they’d concurrently run from one mike to a different — whereas their guitars trailed these black energy cords you see within the picture. I couldn’t think about why the cords didn’t get tangled, or unplug, and even quick out, however apparently the roadies knew their enterprise.

Describing the music as greatest I can…. This former Useless-head has turned out to love concise songs which have a gritty texture and pack a punch within the lyrics[4]. (After The Conflict, I went on to X.) I need to have the ability to sing them whereas strolling. No drum solos, no prolonged jams, hooks are good however please don’t go all pop on me. Above all, no self-indulgence. The group is the unit, not the star participant. The Conflict exemplifies all these values.[5]

The morning after — I’m not a morning particular person — I received up very early and took the T into Boston so I may very well be on the punk-rock document[2] retailer when it opened, after I purchased all the things accessible: Two LPs (1977’s The Conflict, and 1978’s Give ‘Em Sufficient Rope, plus a single, “(White Man) In Hammersmith Palais”. I don’t keep in mind the identify of the store; all I keep in mind is that the sidewalk in entrance was brick, and shone with skinny snow or ice. Like each different road in downtown Boston on that day!

Right here’s the track I discussed within the title (not performed at Harvard Sq., however of latest relevance). It comes from a late reside album, From Right here to Eternity. I want the liner notes — or no matter we name the printed materials slipped right into a CD’s jewel field[6] — had been accessible on-line, however I can’t discover them. I recall one listener who adopted the Conflict from live performance to live performance, who stated she appreciated them as a result of they made her assume. “Know Your Rights”:

And here is a link to the complete lyrics. I’ve helpfully underlined the salient materials within the first verse:

Know your rights
All three of ’em:

[Verse 1]

Homicide is a criminal offense
Until it was executed
By a Policeman
Or an aristocrat

That actually seems like a good suggestion. Perhaps we should always attempt it!


[1] Amazingly, there’s a bootleg of it. The sound high quality of the recording is terrible, compounded by the badness of the sound system within the corridor.

[2] The Harvard Sq. Theatre also screened The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

[3] A phonograph document, an analog sound storage medium manufactured from vinyl.

[4] I arrived at The Conflict by means of the Trojan-era Wailers, who also exemplify these values. I can forgive Sandinista’s lack of concision given its excessive grittiness.

[5] Figuring out nothing about music technically, I can’t touch upon melody, concord, adjustments, and many others. Musical readers please weigh in.

[6] A Compact Disk (CD), a digital optical disc information storage format produced from plastic. A “jewel case” is the CD’s packaging.

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