30 Years Ago: Mick Jones and Joe Strummer Reunite on Big Audio Dynamite’s ‘No. 10, Upping St.’
Mick Jones channeled his anger over being fired from the Clash into a new band, Big Audio Dynamite. But three years after the split, he and Joe Strummer would reunite for B.A.D.'s second album, No. 10, Upping St., which arrived in October 1986.
Strummer always regretted his decision to fire Jones, blaming both bad management and rock star egos (both his and Mick’s). But, in the press, he mostly blamed his own bad judgement for booting the lead guitarist and co-songwriter, leaving a hampered Clash to soldier on with 1985’s Cut the Crap – an album he quickly disowned
B.A.D., which would feature DJ and Clash associate Don Letts and blend rock with reggae, hip-hop and dance music, began making its first music while Strummer was running the Clash into the ground. Joe would soon terminate the band, around the same time that his parents passed away, which led to an aimless period for him.
“He began trolling the bars of Notting Hill, he’d just be wandering about the pub,” journalist Kris Needs recalled in the Viva Joe Strummer documentary. “I’d see him in the pub just bemoaning the fact that he’d let the greatest band in the world slip through his fingers… Meanwhile, [he watched] Mick going on to achieve with Big Audio Dynamite. I mean, Joe cycled around an island in the Bahamas looking for Mick for two days.”
In Nassau, he found his former bandmate, who agreed to let him hear the first Big Audio Dynamite album. It probably wouldn’t have mattered what it sounded like; Strummer had an agenda.
“‘I’ve never heard such a load of s--- in my life! Let’s get the group back together again!’” was Strummer’s response, according to Jones. “But it was a bit too late. We’d often said, ‘Come on, let’s get it back together again,’ but we never did.”
Excited by his new genre-crossing endeavor, Jones wanted to stay with Big Audio Dynamite. Still, with the friendship patched up, he helped Strummer with “Love Kills” (for the Sid and Nancy soundtrack) and he invited Strummer to co-produce No. 10, Upping St., which also saw the two write together again.
“We cover completely different areas so we’re not [cramping] each other’s style,” Strummer told the Los Angeles Times about writing with Jones. “That’s a good thing, a rare thing and in the last two years I’ve learned just how good and rare that is.”
Strummer and Jones would collaborate on five of the album’s nine songs, including “V. Thirteen,” which recalled the more melodic (i.e. Jones-written) songs by the Clash. Many of the tracks on No. 10, Upping St. had more distinct forms than those on B.A.D.’s debut, with sharper storytelling and samples better integrated into the music. Some reviewers pointed to the Jones-Strummer partnership as the reason for this.
Discussing the recording the album in New York City, Strummer said he was “getting them to roughen up the sound and lose that Radio 2 tendency that Mick has.” But he also claimed he would “step back every once in a while,” because this was Jones’s band.
A play on the British prime minister’s residence on No. 10 Downing St., No. 10, Upping St. received generally positive reviews and the album placed three singles (“V. Thirteen,” “C’Mon Every Beatbox” and “Sightsee M.C!”) on the U.K. charts. B.A.D. remained more of an underground band in the U.S. Jones would have greater success in the States in the ’90s with a new lineup.
There had been speculation that the collaboration between Jones and Strummer on No. 10, Upping St. was a test run for working together in the future. If so, it must have failed. The album was the closest Clash fans would get to a reunion album from the two – although Jones would join Strummer on stage in November 2002 to play a few Clash tunes. Joe died the next month from a heart defect.
In 2011, around the time of B.A.D.’s reunion tour, Jones announced he was preparing to release a deluxe edition of Upping St. that featured unheard collaborations between him and the late Strummer. But the remastered version has yet to become available.
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