Joe Strummer, The Clash, Acklam Hall, Portabella Road, London, Xmas ©
The story behind this image
On Boxing Day Christmas 1979, The Clash played a gig at a small school hall like space underneath the Westway flyover off the Portobello Road, London known as Acklam Hall. About fifty people at the most turned up. I was with my mates who owned a T-Shirt company called 5th Column. They were one of the first hand-printed silk-screen printers at the start of the punk era. Many of the T-shirt designs are now an iconic part of punk history. I was a budding photographer working for Sounds and Record Mirror. I would help 5th Column with the photo process of getting images onto the screens. This included the Clash, the Jam, Buzzcocks, Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Damned and many more. As an example, I took the image of the Post Office Tower on the Clash “London Calling” tour T-shirt.
At the time, the Clash was just another punk band better than most but not the rock stars they were about to become. I shot about ten rolls of black and white. I decided only to develop a few rolls. Money was tight in those days, and processing ten rolls of film were expensive. I kept a bag, especially for all my unprocessed film and that’s where about seven rare rolls of the Clash ended up.
Years later, two decades to be exact, I stumbled on the bag of unprocessed film. I excitedly dropped them off at a photo lab in Hollywood where I now live. A few days later, I went to pick them up. I laid them down on a lightbox and grabbed a lupe. Wow! Seven rolls of film nearly lost forever of the Clash playing to fifty people moments before they were to etch themselves into punk history as one of the most iconic punk bands ever.
For a brief moment, as I stood in Hollywood – a million miles away from London and my punk youth – I was right back there at Acklam Hall. It was Xmas 1979; the punk scene was in full swing. The Clash was playing “London’s Burning.” I was with my mates. I felt part of something, not quite sure what but it felt good; the future didn’t matter much. Right then, I had it all. Looking back on it now it was an incredible moment not that I could see it at the time. I was probably stressing about how I would pay for the film processing.
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