Clash Tribute Blends Rock, Rap, Ska Sounds

No Doubt, Third Eye Blind, Rancid, Ice Cube among contributors honoring pioneering English punk band.

It didn't take much wrangling to get Third Eye Blind frontman Stephen Jenkins to honor '70s Brit-punk pioneers the Clash.

Jenkins -- singer for the multimillion-selling pop-rock band Third Eye Blind -- said his group leaped at the chance to record a track for the upcoming project, The Clash Tribute: Burning London.

"The Clash are one of our biggest influences," he said. "We love the raw quality of their playing and the sense of experimentation and lack of pretense in their music. They are one of the only bands I think successfully combined politics and music."

Modern rockers and hip-hoppers from new school punks Rancid to hard-core gangsta-rapper Ice Cube and Mack 10 fell right into line and contributed tracks to the album as well. Among the other acts anxious to sing along to Clash tracks were No Doubt, folk duo the Indigo Girls and rockers Cracker. The album is slated to be released March 12.

"I jumped into this about three years ago and once I did, it was so easy to get people interested," album co-producer Jason Rothberg, 28, said.

Rothberg explained that once ska-pop group 311 signed on to do a cover of the classic Clash track "White Man In Hammersmith Palais" it spurred an offering from No Doubt, which led to a selection from avowed Clash fanatics Rancid.

"[Rancid leaders] Tim [Armstrong] and Lars [Frederiksen] jumped at the chance to do this, in a heartbeat," Rothberg said. As it happens, Rancid -- the San Francisco Bay Area quartet -- have paid homage to the Clash in many of their agit-pop punk tunes.

There were almost too many willing contributors, Rothberg said. He added that the large number of artists eager to pay homage to the Clash -- along with financial reasons tied to publishing issues -- will result in only 12 of the 21 recorded tracks being used on the U.S. version. Nineteen of those will appear on the international edition.

"I think a lot of young musicians are starting to realize how important the Clash were to music," Rothberg said. "And between this and [an upcoming] live album, it will hopefully get the younger fans out there into the Offspring and Rancid to go back and see what the Clash were about."

With tracks from ska-pop groups the Mighty Mighty Bosstones ("Rudie Can't Fail") and the Urge ("Radio Clash"), as well as rock acts Cracker ("White Riot"), Silverchair ("London's Burning") and Third Eye Blind ("Train In Vain [Stand By Me]"), the U.S. version of the album will present an eclectic roster of talent. It's the sort of lineup that befits a ground-breaking, politically active band such as the Clash.

Also slated for the U.S. edition album are: Rancid ("Cheat"); Ice Cube and Mack 10 with members of Korn ("Should I Stay Or Should I Go"); the Indigo Girls ("Clampdown"); electronic artist Moby and singer Heather Nova ("Straight To Hell"); soul-rockers Afghan Whigs ("Lost In The Supermarket"); 311 ("White Man In Hammersmith Palais"); and No Doubt with backing vocals by new-wave icon Billy Idol ("Hateful").

The international edition of the album is expected to include: Three Amoebas -- featuring Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea on vocals, guitarist John Frusciante and ex-Jane's Addiction drummer Stephen Perkins on percussion ("Washington Bullets"); punk bands Unwritten Law ("Guns Of Brixton"), Face to Face ("Tommy Gun"), Frosted ("Garage Band") and, produced by Social Distortion leader Mike Ness, MXPX ("Janie Jones"); and reggae dancehall singer Pato Banton with former English Beat vocalist Rankin Roger ("Rock The Casbah").

The Clash had a relatively short career (1976-1986), which, nevertheless, had a major impact on the rock landscape. The London-spawned band opened the doors for latter-day pop music experimentation with its blending of punk, rap, ska, dub and reggae influences into such politically charged tunes as "White Riot" and "London's Burning" (RealAudio excerpt).

Although they achieved their greatest commercial success later in their career with radio favorites such as "Rock The Casbah" (RealAudio excerpt) and "Should I Stay Or Should I Go" -- off the band's 1982 platinum record, Combat Rock -- the Clash's most critically lauded album was the ambitious double-disc, 1979's London Calling.

In the spirit of the Clash's experimentation, the Afghan Whigs melded two different tracks from the Clash to come up with their contribution to the set. "For [our cover of] 'Lost In The Supermarket,' we took the drum beat from 'Train In Vain' and sampled that and did the song over that," Whigs bassist John Curley explained. "It's a little more ethereal sounding. It's got acoustic guitars ... it's a little quieter, a little moodier, a little more nighttime than the Clash version, but that's a great song."

Curley said he wasn't a huge Clash fan growing up, but he often practiced playing bass by learning songs such as "London's Calling." "I learned 'Magnificent 7,' [and] that was kind of a milestone when I could hack my way through that," Curley said.

A portion of the proceeds from the album will go to Clash vocalist/guitarist Joe Strummer's charity of choice: the Children's Hospital-Los Angeles High Risk Youth Program. Rothberg said the more limited number of songs on the U.S. version was an attempt to ensure the program would get as much of a benefit from the album's sales as possible.

"Joe has given the album his blessing," Rothberg, who is also Strummer's acting manager, said. "And the other members know it's happening, but we wanted this to be punkier [than other tribute albums], so we don't want them out there trying to sell it for us. We just realized that there's a whole new generation out there with an opportunity to rediscover this very important band."

(Contributing Editor Colin Devenish contributed to this report.)