Sidetrips: The Clash – “Midnight to Six” (1978)

49-minute mp3 folder here

  • English Civil War
  • White Man in Hammersmith Palais
  • Tommy Gun
  • I Fought the Law
  • Groovy Times
  • Julie’s Been Working for the Drug Squad
  • Guns on the Roof
  • Gates of the West
  • Last Gang in Town
  • Pressure Drop
  • Safe European Home
  • Stay Free
  • Time is Tight
  • Capital Radio 2

This mix aims to be the absolutely fantastic second Clash album that might have been. At least as good as “The Clash” and “London Calling.”  It might even have been the one you would have given to a friend to try to convert them to the band – far more mature than the first album, shinier and less shaggy than the third one. 

The main problems with “Give 'Em Enough Rope” are that all of the 1978 songs that sound most alike are on it, some of them are the weakest of the year, and there are only 10, total. Tempo and mood keep coming back to the same place. It feels like a heavy slab and an insubstantial album at the same time.

However, the band was simultaneously writing, covering, and recording a wonderfully diverse range of music, pointing quite directly toward “London Calling.” Most of the year’s color and variety, and the band’s most mature music up that point, went onto singles, "The Cost of Living" e.p., and the "Black Market Clash" 10-inch mini LP – leaving the character and accomplishment of the 1978 Clash difficult to hear, because of the permanent distraction of the “disappointing second album.” In fact, the band didn’t break stride that year; they just should have waited until their whole pile of new songs was complete to decide what to compile into their second album.

This mix does just that: It pulls from everything The Clash recorded from early '78 through early '79, prior to undertaking entirely new work for "London Calling." Shuffling it all together gives you something dramatically different and more dynamic than "Rope," even though half the songs come from the album. I sourced all tracks from the "Sound System" box, which lends the whole an album-like sonic uniformity.

How legit is this combination of songs? Nearly everything here was completed or begun during the “Give ‘Em Enough Rope” sessions, produced by Sandy Pearlman, which began in March 1978 and finished with overdubs in October, with additional tracks finished by early 1979 without Pearlman's involvement. With the exception of "White Man in Hammersmith Palais," I don't believe that any of the non-album songs actually contain anything taped during the album sessions, but the songs themselves were almost all part of the sessions. Demos of what would become "Groovy Times," "Gates of the West," plus "Time is Tight" were recorded then. "I Fought the Law" was apparently recorded immediately after the overdubs for "Rope" (late '78) and "Pressure Drop" was probably recorded then, too. (It appeared on a b-side in January '79).

To the best of my recollection, the only finished songs from the sessions that I didn’t include are “1-2 Crush on You,” “Cheapskates,” “Drug Stabbing Time,” and “All the Young Punks,” three of those constituting 30% of the disappointing second album, and the other being a very old tune, dusted off.