I probably saw more concerts at the Palladium than any other place in my life. Some were memorable, some were not. Others were probably memorable but for reasons I choose not to go into right now, I have no memory of them. But one concert there stands out for the way it ended, and for the iconic album cover that resulted.
Perhaps you’ve seen it. It is, after all, one of the most famous album covers in rock history. London Calling, the great 2-LP set by The Clash, sports a picture of the band’s bassist, Paul Simonon, smashing his instrument into the floor.
It was, I’ve read, the night of September 21, 1979. I don’t actually remember that myself, but I’d seen the Clash on their earlier US tour, playing the Palladium on East 14th Street, and they rocked. Hard. So I was there for the second tour, which also brought them to the Palladium.
Again, the band was awesome. But during the last song (was it supposed to be the last song? Well, it turned out to be…), someone rushed the stage. Security was quickly grappling with the intruder – onstage, in full view of everyone – but then another person leaped onstage. And another. Pandemonium ensued. The band stopped, someone – Mick Jones or Joe Strummer – walked off, and Paul Simonon, who frankly always had this “out of it” look anyway, seemed to stagger drunkenly towards stage left (my right as I sat gaping in awe), with his bass guitar in hand. He took maybe two steps and stopped, grabbed the bass neck with both hands, and began to swing the instrument over his head and pound it into the stage floor, repeatedly.
My recollection is that the instrument was still plugged in, so that the first smash against the floor produced a brief blip of feedback and then the audible static-y sound of a huge concert amplifier suddenly amplifying nothing. Of course, I had no way of knowing that there was someone in the wings, watching Simonon advance with a crazed look and a heavy instrument in his hands, who thought to take a picture before scrambling out of the way. That would have to wait for the next album, London Calling, with its memorable cover.
What’s your favorite memory of the old Palladium? Leave a comment.