Old-school Pittsburgh punks reunite to celebrate the 40th anniversary of The Clash's London Calling | Music | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Old-school Pittsburgh punks reunite to celebrate the 40th anniversary of The Clash's London Calling

click to enlarge The Guns of Brixton
The Guns of Brixton
Remember when the booths at Chief's were red, beers at The Decade were cheap, and Graffiti was the go-to place to see a touring rock show? Get psyched for a step back in time this weekend as old-school Pittsburgh punk and new wave artists reunite — for the second time — as The Guns of Brixton, to perform The Clash's London Calling in its entirety.

Sixteen years ago, back in 2003, Pittsburgh musicians Michael Moran and Daryl Cross came up with the idea of putting together a show in honor of the late Clash singer Joe Strummer, who had passed the year before.

"We all assumed we would be playing that show for just our friends and families, but it didn't matter," Brixton member Rod Schwartz says in a release about the 2003 performance. "We just wanted a chance to pay our respects to Joe, and maybe close the door on a big part of our lives. No one was more surprised than us when we showed up at The Rex that night and found out the show was a sellout with a line going out the door and around the corner."

Their sold-out show at The Rex covering London Calling was such a hit that the guys decided to get the band back together and do it all over again this year on Sat., Dec. 14 at Mr. Smalls Theatre, in honor of the 40th anniversary release of the British band's classic album.

The Guns of Brixton (named after a song on London Calling) include Moran on vocals; Cross, guitar and vocals; Schwartz, bass; Terry Divelbliss, keyboards; Dave Klug, drums and percussion; Steve Morrison, guitars and vocals; Alex Peightal, vocals; Kip Ruefle, drums and percussion; Steve Seel, guitar and vocals; and John Young, vocals.

And if that sounds like a lot, especially considering The Clash was only a four-piece, they're also adding in a horn section, called The Four Hornsmen, featuring musicians Jonny Franks, Joshua George, Jason Munley, and Rocco Pacella.

Pittsburgh City Paper sent some hard-hitting questions to the two men who started it all ahead of this weekend's show:

How does the Clash rank in your list of all-time favorite bands?

DC: Don't make me pick a favorite, please! I love the Clash, especially London Calling, but couldn't argue I prefer them to David Bowie, The Band, XTC, or The Jam. Same with "London Calling." Is it better than "Diamond Dogs"? In some ways, yes; in others, no.
MM: They are in my top three, easily. When we get back into the groove of these songs, and I don't just mean "London Calling," but some of the other Clash songs we do from other releases, they rocket straight up to number one. They brought so much to the table, each one of them. There is no denying how strong their music is. Right now, for me, they are the only band that matters.

Favorite Clash song to play with The Guns of Brixton?

DC: You ask difficult questions! "Brand New Cadillac" has that iconic guitar riff. They manage to throw a decidedly non-punk diminished chord into "Jimmy Jazz," though, so ...
MM: Some of the singing responsibilities have changed or shifted since we first did this 16 years ago. I am now singing our namesake song, "The Guns of Brixton," and like a lot of these tunes, it is so much more complex than you expect. I love singing this song!

Favorite Clash song to sing at karaoke?

DC: "Cry Me a River." Oh wait, that's Julie London. "London Calling."
MM: "Rock the Casbah." It has such a great groove, and those lyrics are just so spot on.

Favorite Clash song to play on the jukebox?

DC: "Straight to Hell." It's Apocalypse Now or The Deer Hunter rendered into five wonderful minutes.
MM: "London Calling." It is a call to arms and means as much today as 40 years ago.

Any surprises planned for this weekend's show that will be different than your 2003 performance?

DC: Just the Go-Go dancers.
MM: Not about our song list, but I think a big surprise is always the looks we get from the audience when our horn section, The Four Hornsmen, play their first notes.

If you could go back in time and perform this set at any dead Pittsburgh venue, which would you choose?

DC: Well, I never played the Civic Arena ...
MM: I would've loved to play this whole set at the Electric Banana.

Which song do you think you guys cover better than the original? (There has got to be one!)

DC: Does there, though? I will say the audience will love the songs that feature the horn section. I wonder if The Clash ever performed live with horns ... anyone?
MM: "The Card Cheat." The big keyboard sound, the horn section, John Young and I doubling up on the vocals. It's tops!

When they kick at your front door, how you gonna come?

DC: I don't own a gun, so ...
MM: Depending on my mood, either with my hands on my head or on the trigger of my gun.

Any plans for other tribute shows?

DC: These are so much work, each of them has been the "absolute last." Of the other tribute shows we've performed, I've enjoyed Bowie just a wee bit more ... such a wealth of incredible material (and lots of fun guitar bits to enjoy. For me, at least.)
MM: As Joe Strummer said, "The Future is unwritten ..."

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