Happy Birthday, Mick Jones! With Love, Liz & LJ


I don't ever want to objectify the Clash, but I can't talk about why I love Mick Jones without talking about his body, his face, his teeth, his hair. I love Mick Jones and I love the way he looks, the kind of skinny that I bet feels bad on his bones, his pasty bug-eyed face, his snarly black hair-cloud, his mouth that's usually hanging open, like he's some goofy kid whose mom or grandmom should have told him a long time ago: Close your mouth, Michael; we are not a codfish.*

By and large, codfish-mouthed is not a great look for a man, or for anyone: it's unbecoming. But for Mick Jones it really works, it suits him. From Viv Albertine's book Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys and from the Slits song "Ping Pong Affair," we know that teenage/just-past-teenage Mick Jones loved glam rock and comic books and got picked on by other boys for his weird clothes and weird hair. And while I know that glam rock and comic books probably weren't very unique things for odd boys to escape into back in the mid-1970s, I like the idea of Mick's codfish mouth having lots to do with his dreaming other worlds, hearing songs in his head, semi-forgetting everything around him. He's happily lost in himself but also looking out for anyone who might mess with him; he's fanciful but scrappy, a Dickensian orphan who bought a lot of Who and Yardbirds records and got really good at guitar. So to me the codfish mouth gives Mick kind of grace and magic power.

It's totally hokey and disgustingly romantic, but I love the idea that the thing that makes you a misfit can also make you lovely. And I think Mick Jones is lovely. I think it's so cool, in an almost completely uncool way, the way he moves around. The way Mick Jones "comports himself." So much of what I love about him is encapsulated in that video of the Clash in Munich in 1977:

Everything about Mick in Munich is perfect to me, but I'm especially passionate about:

-his dance move of marching/stomping up and down the stage, sometimes while making his shoulders shimmy

-that goofball stag-jump he does on the last note of "London's Burning"

-awkward finger-snapping mid-"Police and Thieves"

-stupid Pete Townshend-y whatever-y windmill thing

-every single second of the backstage scenes, which mostly involve Mick complaining about hating Germany, just bitching away in his cute quacky voice. He looks so good drinking his Coke, lighting his cigarette, messing with his hair, handing out plastic forks. Holding up his own plastic fork and staring into the camera, hatefully. I don't relate to having lots of important points to make and being really tough and fastidious about making them, and I don't relate to being one of the best-looking people in all of world history, and I definitely don't relate to being a drummer with a crazy name like "Topper" - but I do relate to being the kind of person who smiles easily but also has total bitch tendencies, so I guess that's a huge part of why Mick's always been and always will be my very favorite.

More than that, I love Mick for writing lots of songs that I would rather die than live without and for singing in what Viv Albertine always calls his "sweet, soft voice," for being one of those boys who sings without ever losing his accent.

My favorite Mick-sung Clash song is probably "The Card Cheat": the melodrama of it all speaks right to my heart. "Up in Heaven" and "Hate and War" are runners-up, though they both come in after "Should I Stay or Should I Go" and "Lost in the Supermarket," which I've loved since I was a cutely and luckily Clash-aware child so they automatically beat out everything else. And a few months ago I changed my alarm clock to wake me up to "Jail Guitar Doors," because I really liked the idea of Mick Jones counting off the start of my day - but then it turned out to be way too aggressive, and so now I wake up to "Strawberry Letter 23."

And "Train in Vain" is somewhere in my "Mick Jones-Clash top 10" too: I think it's fantastic that Mick Jones responded to the lyric "Typical girls stand by their man" in a way that ignores the joke and takes on this sulky attitude that's saved from being repellent by virtue of the fact that it's Mick and he's not sulky, he's sensitive. He's a Cancer and a cute dad and when I was 13 I bought a tape of The Globe by Big Audio Dynamite and it was the first weird music I ever loved. Mick Jones was such a nice ambassador into loving weird shit; because of him I knew that you could get into something different and strange and sometimes dark and still be a goof, an easy smiler. The awareness of that still means everything to me today.

*This is actually a line from the movie Mary Poppins, but it works because Mick Jones's name is Michael! I love at the beginning of "Rudie Can't Fail" when Joe Strummer says, "Sing, Michael, sing," and then Mick Jones sings. Do you think Joe called Mick "Michael" a lot, but only in certain important moments, and no one else ever called Mick that, and it was this cool special thing about them? I hope so. I hope that's true. I really get so romantic about the Clash.

LJ: Unlike Liz, I relate very much to having lots of important points to make and being really tough and fastidious about making them, and I even kind of relate to being a drummer with a crazy name like "Topper"- I mean, obviously I'm not a drummer with a crazy name like "Topper," but if I woke up tomorrow and was, it wouldn't really surprise me. I relate to Mick Jones only slightly more than I relate to being one of the best-looking people of all world history, but that has ever stopped me from deeply appreciating Mick Jones. You can't only love people you relate to. That would be so boring. 

It was my thirtieth birthday two days ago, and I decided to spend my birthday afternoon wandering around my neighbourhood and listening to music on headphones (because what else really is there). I made myself a birthday playlist named "dirty thirty," which included: every single Buddy Holly song, Zanzibar by Kritty, Miss O'Dell by George Harrison, and all the Mick Jones-i-est Clash songs I love best. I put Magnificent Seven on my mix, which isn't very Mick Jones-y as far as Clash songs go, which helped me have the very important thirtieth birthday revelation that my new life concept for being thirty is to be the human embodiment of the part in Magnificent Seven where Joe Strummer yells out "What have we got?" and then the rest of the Clash yell back, "MAGNIFICENCE!"- actually, I think it's Joe Strummer himself who yells back "MAGNIFICENCE," but in my head I like to imagine that it's Mick. I think if I could make up any dream relationship for myself and Mick Jones to share, it would be the two of us existing in an eternal state of me asking him what we've got and him yelling back "MAGNIFICENCE!" 

(Awww! It fills my heart with joy just imagining it.)

A few months ago, when my boyfriend (who is definitely A Mick) and I were looking for a new flat (but mostly I was looking for a new flat, because looking for a new flat's the exact kind of thing I live to be a control freak about), I thought we were going to move to south London, which is where Mick Jones is from. My first flat in London was near Holloway, which is sort of close to where Ray Davies grew up, and while I was living there I felt like every moment of my life was imbued with a really Ray Davies-y spirit, which was cool but sort of dismal, really, since The Ray Davies-y Spirit falls dangerously close to the most depressing aspect of The Laura Jane Faulds Spirit on the A Given Person's Spirit scale. So I had this idea in my head that when I moved to south London my life would become very Mick Jones-y, very boppy and pragmatic and positive, and I was really excited about that. I looked at a flat on a street called Adelaide Avenue in Brockley, across from a gorgeous sprawling park, and in my head I wrote a song called Adelaide Avenue from the made-up perspective of the main character in my novel, and felt really stoked about how cool my new Mick Jones-y life on Adelaide Avenue was going to be. But then we never moved to Adelaide Avenue, because the flat was dingy and out of the way and not very good value for money. "Cute street name" and "reasonably close to the neighbourhood where Mick Jones grew up" are just not solid enough reasons to justify moving into an expensive shithole. 

Around that time, I too read Viv Albertine's memoir, which I didn't like very much. There was this really excruciating part set in, like, 2004 (such an unromantic year!) about how she almost cheated on her husband with Vincent Gallo but then didn't; it made me feel like the world was a really terrible place. I was only really in it for the Mick Jones anecdotes, which were plentiful, and beautiful. My favourite Mick Jones part of Clothes Clothes Clothes Blah Blah Blah Etc. goes 

"Mick is that person in a band- and there's always one- who does all the organising, who takes the pain and the losses of the band to heart, who lives, breathes, and would die for the band."

Viv then goes on to describe Mick Jones as being "in the hall, on the phone for hours and hours every day"- she thinks that he's "having relationship problems, probably breaking up with someone," but it turns out he's just, like, sorting out gigs for his band. I really, really love that detail. It's very Paul McCartney-y of Mick Jones. I love Mick Jones so much for being the Paul McCartney of the Clash, because where would the Clash even be if they hadn't've had a Paul McCartney? Certainly not world-famous, that's for sure. 

All in all, I fucking love Mick Jones. I guess if I had to pick one Mick Jones song to be my Mick Jones song to end all Mick Jones songs, I'd have to go with Stay Free; it's so sentimental, and I love sentimental art. The other night I was Skyping with my Dad and drinking the most gorgeous Mercurey Blanc in the world as it turned into my thirtieth birthday, and I was talking about how I'd recently read and loved Boyhood by J.M Coetzee, which is one of the least sentimental books I've ever read. It impressed the hell out of me, but I definitely resent J.M Coetzee for being too cool to be sentimental about his childhood, which is exactly the opposite of how I feel about Stay Free by the Clash. There is nothing in the entire world that I resent less than Mick Jones' romanticisation of smoking mentholated cigarettes as a young teen. Literally nothing. 

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