Why the first Clash LP was not released in the U.S.

Ok, I was nuts about the first Clash LP and p*ssed off when I discovered it would not be released in the U.S. in 1977.  So filled with righteous punk-rock indignation I wrote Epic records and incredibly got this thoughtful reply from A&R Man Bruce Harris.  Really amazing letter and amazing that he wrote back at all.  Hat’s off to you Bruce, The Clash did well in the USA and thanks for writing back to a young punk:)  CLICK LETTER IMAGE TO SEE FULL SIZE

CBS Epic Clash letter p1

CBS Epic Clash letter p2


(This is a postscript added 6/17/15.) In 1977 I was bitterly critical of Epic Records (from whom I received this reply) for not releasing the 1st Clash LP.  I was struck by recent commentary and reactions to this letter that ridiculed the author. I’m adding this PS to suggest this ridicule is a form of 20/20 hindsight to some extent. Today we all know that “punk” won, but it happened slowly.  The powers that be (in 1977) such as Rolling Stone and FM Radio willfully ignored punk.  Here is a WPLJ full page ad from Fall 1977, the playlist is hopelessly retro. For most 1977 was *not* the year of punk!


Can you imagine what people aligned to this playlist, thought of this Clash LP (image)?


So in Bruce’ Harris’s defense… he wanted a powerfully produced recording that could not be written off as garage or lo-fi, a reception that would blunt the US debut of the Clash. Today these tags are badges of honor to some extent, but to the gatekeepers of 1977, they would be grounds for dismissal. The upshot is that Epic successfully “broke” the Clash in the US.



15 thoughts on “Why the first Clash LP was not released in the U.S.

  1. Marion Harris

    It has been a long time since I saw this letter. Love it!

    Best Regards,

    Marion Harris (wife of the late Bruce Harris)

  2. Pingback: Read an incredible 1977 letter from Epic Records on why the Clash's debut LP was not released in the US - Vanyaland

  3. Dennis Collopy

    Despite Bruce Harris’ views about the first Clash Album, it was CBS UK biggest ever export almost entirely into the USA. His comments about improving their production were laughable and led to the disappointing “Give Em Enough Rope” – the bad fought Epic all the way even when it came down to titles of the records with Epic wanting to retitle “Train In Vain” as “Stand By Me”

    1. daithis

      Which explains why we have two different versions of the 1st LP, both of which I consider essential despite the UK version usually being seen as the more favored one.

  4. Bryan Eldridge Hürst

    The very first I heard of the Clash was when I found “Give `Em Enough Rope” at a local record store, bought it, dropped the needle and heard that initial snare shot and E chord of “Safe European Home.” I was immediately floored. I think that album doesn’t get the respect it deserves. Production and all. Powerful.

    1. Al

      I agree… people seem to dismiss that album but songs like “Safe European Home” and “Tommy Gun” are anthems.

      Masterswtich? Who?

  5. Trash Flow Radio

    I’m getting cognitive dissonance from the disjunction between how thoughtful and considerate it was for Bruce Harris to write this letter to you in which he thoroughly explained his reasoning, versus how idiotic his reasoning plainly was (even by the standards of 1977). Don’t forget, by the time this letter was written major US labels had already released great records by Wire, Patti Smith, The Ramones, The New York Dolls, Iggy Pop (with and without The Stooges), and The MC5, as well as The Sex Pistols, Talking Heads, and The Dead Boys whom he mentions.

  6. rockvilleraven

    The problem with Give Them Enough Rope was Sandy Pearlman’s production, he was good with Blue Oyster Cult, a Long Island metal band but shouldn’t have been near the Clash. Still a good second album, that could have been better.


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