In September 1981, the Clash played a legendary seven-night residency at the Theatre Mogador in Paris (read an amazing article from The Guardian about this series of shows and the influence they had on a whole generation of young French musicians). This was the post-Sandinista!, pre-Combat Rock, version of the band – the one that was obsessed with dub reggae, funk, hip-hop and Latin America. Joining them on the bill was The Beat! Talk about an amazing show!
As one of the few Black punks in Birmingham in the 1970's, Ranking Roger took the unlikely journey of playing the drums for punk band The Dum Dum Boys and toasting with an early incarnation of UB40 (he was offered a chance to join the band) to touring the lengths of the U.K. as a singer with The Beat to suddenly being on stage with the band he admired the most -- The Clash.
Ranking Roger always understood the connection between punk and reggae and he quickly saw that the members of The Clash and Johnny Rotten of The Sex Pistols did too. He discussed this during an interview in 2008:
“When I was 15, I became a punk rocker. And whilst there was an element of racism in punk, this wasn’t what punk stood for. I remember Johnny Rotten going on the radio and telling punks to listen to reggae music because it had the same message as punk: a totally different music but completely the same message.”
“From then, punks started listening to more reggae and bands like the Clash began doing covers of reggae classics such as ‘Police & Thieves’. Despite being four white blokes, they had grown up in multicultural areas and you’d be surprised how many black artists they were involved with – it was phenomenal.”
Joe Strummer and Mick Jones of The Clash admired Ranking Roger so much that they invited him to sit in with them each night of the tour to toast along to their take on Junior Murvin's "Police & Thieves" and Willie Williams' "Armagideon Time". The audio from those performances has been widely bootlegged, but now you can hear Ranking Roger's contribution to musical history. The sound is electric and you can hear the chemistry between The Clash and Ranking Roger as it unfolds in real time.
The friendships forged during these shows extended long after the tour ended. The Clash invited Ranking Roger to toast on a version of "Rock The Casbah" that was never released. Jones later joined an early version of General Public and Ranking Roger returned the favor by joining a later version of Big Audio Dynamite.