August 15, 2020

Midnight to Stevens – The Clash Pay Tribute to an Original


I’m about a quarter of the way through Marcus Gray’s Route 19 Revisited: The Clash and London Calling. It’s a meticulously detailed account of absolutely everything having to do with the landmark 1979 album. Gray also wrote one of the best full biographies of the band, The Clash: Return of the Last Gang in Town.

Needless to say, I’ve been buried pretty deep in Clash music over the last few weeks, listening to the albums, live shows, outtakes, B-sides and the like. This includes listening to my old Clash on Broadway CD collection, and encountering a great song I don’t recall hearing before. Apparently, when I bought the box set back in the 90’s, I didn’t give it the listen it deserved. Shame!.

“Midnight to Stevens” is an outtake from the Combat Rock demo sessions, cut in September of 1981. The subject is music industry/producer Guy Stevens, who produced Procol Harum and Mott the Hoople in the late 60’s and early 70’s – and who, along with the Clash, produced London Calling. From what I’ve read, Guy was wild, unpredictable, and a raging alcoholic. Underneath it all though, he was loved by the musicians he worked with – in spite of the his behavior (he’d pace the studio during takes, throw chairs and ladders, and get in the face of the musicians). Clash guitarist Mick Jones, for one, was a huge Mott the Hoople fan, so would have been excited to have Guy on board for London Calling. Guy was absent for a good portion of the LC sessions, but his eccentric spirit likely helped fuel the creative and unpredictable spirit of the album – inspiring the band to produce a multi-genre masterpiece.

Sadly, on August 28, 1981, Guy Stevens died of an overdose of prescription medication, which he was taking to try and combat the alcoholism. He was only 38 years old. Just three weeks later (Sept 17), at the People’s Hall in London, with the Rolling Stones mobile studio parked outside, the Clash recorded this tribute to Guy.

The song itself is a more subdued, pop-oriented tune than one is used to hearing from the Clash. It’s a sad, beautiful tune if you ask me – and I know you are. It was a nice surprise to discover this after all these years.

So here’s a short clip of the London Calling sessions at Wessex Studios in London, where you can see Guy exhibiting his Guy-ness:

 And here is the song (available on the Clash mega set Sound System). 

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