So this is how it went: in late 1978, I bought Give ‘Em Enough Rope, and almost instantly I bought the U.K. version of The Clash and whichever import singles I could find at Tower Records. Which, as I recall, were “(White Man) In Hammersmith Palais” and “Complete Control”.
So what that means is that The Cost of Living EP was the first piece of brand-new music The Clash released after I became a rabidly crazed Clash fan. And as such, it holds a special place in my heart, as it proved definitively that The Clash were going to continue to move their music forward at a dizzying pace.
For example, the folk-rocker “Groovy Times,” where the acoustic guitar that bubbled up during “Stay Free” stuck around to dominate the whole song. Opening with a Bob Dylan harmonica and a Phil Spector beat, “Groovy Times” features some of my favorite St. Joe Strummer lyrics ever:
They discovered one black Saturday
That mobs don’t march they run (they runnnn)
So you can excuse the nervous triggerman
Just this once for jumping the gun
As they were picking up the dead
Out of the broken glass
Yes it’s number one, the radio said
Groovy times have come to pass!
It goes without saying that Joe Strummer sounds as completely at home singing “Groo-ooooo-vy times” over and over again as he did screaming “White riot, wanna riot!”
Nevertheless, with its acoustic guitar solo (with Joe’s aside “Hey groovy!) and the coda featuring Mick Jones’ echoing harmonica over thundering Topper Headon drum rolls,”Groovy Times” seemed like a pleasant anomaly. In fact it was such an anomaly that Epic didn’t even bother to fit it in with the rest of the U.S. version of The Clash (though I believe they included it as a bonus single) as it would have stuck out even more than the reggae songs.
But now, of course, we can see that it was basically a trial balloon for the wholesale genre-mashing that was going to comprise the rest of their career. They wanted to see if they could get away with ratcheting up the sophistication without compromising their essential power. “Groovy Times” was proof positive that they could. So in a weird way, their entire career can be seen as pre-“Groovy Times” and post-“Groovy Times.”
Fan-made video for “Groovy Times”