They said release “Remote Control”
But we didn’t want it on the label
They said, “Fly to Amsterdam”
The people laughed but the press went mad
Ooh ooh ooh someone’s really smart
Ooh ooh ooh complete control, that’s a laugh
On the last tour my mates couldn’t get in
I’d open up the back door but they’d get run out again
At every hotel we was met by the Law
Come for the party – come to make sure!
Ooh ooh ooh have we done something wrong?
Ooh ooh ooh complete control, even over this song
They said we’d be artistically free
When we signed that bit of paper
They meant let’s make a lotsa mon-ee
An’ worry about it later
Ooh ooh ooh I’ll never understand
Ooh ooh ooh complete control – lemme see your other hand!
All over the news spread fast
They’re dirty, they’re filthy
They ain’t gonna last!
This is Joe Public speaking
I’m controlled in the body, controlled in the mind
C-o-n control – that means you! [Clash, Complete Control]
JOHN PEEL: Sometimes I go too far, I think, in wanting to cling on to things as long as I possibly can to demonstrate that there is no truth to this accusation [that once an act becomes successful Peel abandons them]: but at the same time, the very process of being successful is terribly corrupting, and I don’t criticise the people who are successful for this, and I don’t really criticise record companies. I always thought it was preposterous for The Clash, for example, to sing that thing, Remote Control, whatever it was, or Complete Control, against CBS Records. [In fact, ‘Remote Control’ was an anti-government tirade on the first album, and ‘Complete Control ‘was an expression of the band’s anger at it being released as a single without their consent. SIG] Either they were being deceitful or quite astonishingly stupid. If you sign to a large record company, quite clearly, they are long-term investment organisations, they’re not charitable trusts, or even in any particular way, artistic organisations. So, to pretend that you assume that, when you got involved with a large record company, you were surprised to find that they were thinking in terms of a long career and so forth, is just complete nonsense, and as I say, deceitful.
I think the main restrictions on bands’ continuing creativity and therefore their continuing ability to be of interest to us, does come from the audience, and the requirements of the audience. As their reputation spreads outwards…their audiences expect them to make the noise that they’ve always made, and this must make it very difficult for them to try anything really different. [Peeling Back The Years, 1987, pt. 4]
When did punk really start for you? For me, it was The Clash and their first album. I had no time for the Stranglers or the Vibrators, which is what the other at school were into. No, I wanted to hear about urban repression (London’s Burning); I wanted a journey into the seamy side of life (Protex Blue); I wanted to hear the anger of boredom and frustration and the sense of something dangerous spilling out of a poisoned can (I’m So Bored With The USA, Career Opportunities, What’s My Name?). Like any other new discovery, it became essential to listen and relisten until I knew every pop in the vinyl, every place where the scratches came up, every spat and mumbled and shouted word until it was part of my system. In particular, White Riot (FF 1977 #27, 1978 #15, 1979 #26, and 1980 #48), complete with its rough and ready sound effects of police sirens and breaking windows, was a call to arms, a renegade reaction to years of educational repression; just the sort of thing to make you not want to do your homework.
Then I started to get the singles; usually warped, sometimes off-centre, but with the crackling vibrancy that the blues records the band loved must have given off when they were first issued. Complete Control (FF 1977 #9, 1978 #2, 1979 #5, 1980 #15, 1981 #18, All-Time FF 1982 #19 and All-Time FF 2000 #33) didn’t sound to me like deceitfulness; it was what the punk attitude demanded. Bite the hand that feeds you up to the elbow, because any publicity is good publicity. Peely must have felt the same way at some point, as he chose Capital Radio (FF 1977 #54), along with the other two songs above, for his one and only self-created chart. Presumably, he identified some solidarity with the song’s attack on the commercial station of the title for playing only mainstream music and little or no punk.
So, that first aggregation of Joe Strummer, Paul Simenon, Mick Jones and Terry Chimes (Keith Levene, later of Public Image Limited, was an early member, but never recorded with the band) seemed to have it all, and I never wanted that train to stop running.