They were saddled with the burden of being "The only band that matters," in the late seventies and despite being shackled with such exaggerated expectations, darned if The Clash didn't manage to live up to that grandiose tag.
Especially on a rainy Oct. 13, 1982 night, thousands of miles from their native England home.
Playing to an audience in excess of 70,000 in support of the final leg of The Who's (first, but not last) Farewell Tour in New York City's famed Shea Stadium, The Clash proved once and for all that they were indeed punk rock's greatest band ever.
And thankfully, now there is a sonic document to support this.
Live at Shea Stadium (released Oct. 7 on Sony Legacy), is The Clash in all its revolutionary glory; on the stage, no holds barred, in front of its people.
The band was about to unravel at its seams, with drummer Topper Headon being replaced by original drummer Terry Chimes just after Combat Rock was finished, and in September of the next year, after The Clash had played in front of a half a million people at the US Festival, Mick Jones was fired. But one sure couldn't tell the band was struggling for its very existence by the performance The Clash turned in during their two-night Shea Stadium run.
The Clash don't pull any punches on Live at Shea Stadium, opening its 16-song set with three politically-charged numbers, delivered with force and fury by its three vocalists.
Guitarist Joe Strummer leads off with what has become a classic rock staple nearly 30 years after its release, "London Calling," followed by Jones' "Police On My Back" and bassist Paul Simonon's call-to-arms "The Guns of Brixton."
And after that trifecta, The Clash, who were certainly kindred spirits with the headlining act that night, never slow down or let up.
Sprinkling newer numbers like "Rock The Casbah" and "Should I Stay Or Should I Go," a couple of the group's two highest charting singles, along with warhorses like "Career Opportunities" and their stirring version of "I Fought The Law," The Clash are hitting on all cylinders at Shea.
The superb sound quality of Live at Shea Stadium owes a great deal to the ears of legendary engineer Glyn Johns (Bob Dylan, Beatles, Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin) who, despite the cavernous baseball stadium that it was recorded in, makes The Clash's fiery set feel intimate, like it went down in some West End pub in front of a few hundred people. And much of the credit, too, goes to The Who's Pete Townsend, who requested his crew to give The Clash all the juice they needed. "They (The Clash) were on fire. I told our sound guys to keep their level high," Townsend said.
And though prime-mover Joe Strummer is no longer around (he died of a heart defect in 2002), the legacy of the group he founded in the mid-seventies is secure, thanks to the blistering Live at Shea Stadium.