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One Girls Night With the Clash… 1, 2, Crush On You Taken Too Far by Helen Bach

Helen Bach tells of being a twelve year old girl at a Clash Concert in 1980 in this thrilling look back at the day Joe Strummer saved Janie’s life…
In the early 1980s and actually even long before then I was just a mixed up kid who never really belonged. I wasn’t a prep, or a jock, and I didn’t exactly come from a Leave it to Beaver family. But I had college radio. How and why of I turned my back on the mainstream music scene is a whole other story.

Our local band hall was located on the ‘bad side ‘ of a posh suburb. It was an icon of a building. Having gone through numerous name changes the relic stood firm. Two stages on ‘large’ for big named bands and one ‘small’ for those who couldn’t fill the big stage. The place was disgusting, dark, musty and reeked of old beer and smoke the floor not only was sticky……..but at times moved. The bathrooms were multi-i purpose, if ya know what I mean………it was repulsive……and it was Utopia to me. First is the fact that at the tender age of 12 they actually let me in without ID.. I was so bad ass it was unreal. Woo hooo 12yrs old and in bars……..yeah……anyway, lets move it up to topic shall we?

Rock the Casbah finally made it to the radio. NOW people knew who I was talking about. The Clash!! Although I hated this release, it actually made what I was ranting about for years palatable to the drones….Im a bitch, I know. As a teenager outsider in a catholic school who went by the nickname Strummer and wore combat boots with her uniform, I had a dilemma…I need to be there. I not only had to be there I had to BE there. By god I was going to meet the band get signature , a hug, an kiss, maybe even get..Strummer.

It took weeks of unauthorized withdrawls from my parents wallets to stash up enough dough for 2 tickets. One for me and one for my friend with a car….did it.

As a hardcore vegetarian I came well prepared that day with 2 cheese sandwiches and 2 diet pepsis. Wearing my torn knee levis’, combat boots (like Joes!) and the sleevless military jacket… below the tres chic bustier, I meant business. (for authenticity here.. I was picked up from school and shimmied out of my uniform in the back of a 73 Nova to get into that garb.. no time to stop and change!, good times.. good times…)

By 2pm I was on the steps of the club munchin a warm cheese sandwich and chugging a diet coke waiting.. but I was FIRST in line! Woooooop!! I kicked back with the Weekly World News and waited……and waited…….and as I did so my friend became more and more stoned.. More people showed. I did not indulge. Are you kidding me? I go to shows to see bands not get fucked up. But then….a bus went buy. It turned to the side of the building…. Dilemma.

Do I lose the first in line to bus hop or stay the course for front row and work on meeting them after as originally planned? My friend Stoney was making blood shot googley eyes at the mullet sporting hash head behind us. Fucking hell I couldn’t count on her as a line place holder, if ya catch my drift. I stayed #1. I had too it was too risky the line was snaking the building. So in a cloud of dime bag reefer I sat ..and then.. The doors open.

YAhoooo it was on the big stage I BOLTED to the right and TA DAAAA front row center Baby! Yuuuuus! And there I stood firmly until they hit the stage.

K here where it gets grey. The band did come out in glory.. holy shit there he was. I was literally at Joes feet. Now for clarity and mental picture I offer you the following, I am standing in front of a metal crowd barrier its about 3ft from the stage and to my 5’4 1/2” frame it is literally rib height. The crowd was pushing forward and I was surrounded by hardcore bullyboys who did their best to push back. But as the show progressed the crowds movement became more intense. It was white light pain at times, with a side dish of getting wind knocked out of me. I was being tossed about like a rag doll the only constant was the barricade that I would slam against. It was a series of rhythmic contractions.

I heard screaming and then I heard Joe stop. And I distinctly heard him screaming ‘step back you assholes’ ‘youre killing this little girl’ and then I just remember the roar of the crowd and the constant thrashing. I couldn’t really get out I was center I couldn’t go forward and I couldn’t go back. I hear Joe but at this point I have no idea what hes saying.

A friend of a former friend sent me the bootleg of this event. It sounds terrible. The show literally stops. Joe was pissed.

At the time I knew a few things, I knew I was in pain, I knew I was bleeding, and I knew I was sweating like a fat kid in purgatories spin class. But I also remember Joes boots.. holy shit they were JUST like mine! The Security guards finally removed that barricade, which at one point I was wedged between 2 sections of. But finally there was stepping room and a hand.

My God it was his “cmon love ya gotta get up’’

Huh?

‘’Ya gotta cmon!’’

Huh?

Dilema 2. What the HELL do I do?? Take his hand? Stage WUT? I mean was it really that bad? I mean Ive been here for hours. Do I take the offer and find out why my hands are covered in blood? (who the hell is bleeding) or do I give him the thumbs up and Rock that Casbah as planned?

Basically Joe didn’t allow me the option and in a fell swoop there I was face down on the stage looking at his boots. Perspective here.. I am FACE down feet to the crowd flat on the stage. Again the hand that I take and Joe brings me to my feet. Im then whisked off to my left….and the music begins

‘need a medic?’ huh? ‘need a medic? Huh? AMBULANCE?

Uh no no Im fine thanks….

And I looked back and saw the crowd. There was a whole new front row. Who the fuck are those people? A HUGE sea of people extending all the way back.

Y’ok?

Yeah Im good, Im gonna go.

And I did. I shimmied down the stairs and walked toward the back. I heard the music I saw the oblivious singing along. I was crying but discreetly. I twisted and turned and slithered up the crowd to the back and I saw them. That same old group of older boys of the scene. The ones who guarded me from mosh pits and hid me when cops raided the punk clubs Id frequented. My heroes my big brothers. They were older they were cooler and they were there.

I stepped up to one and that was it-my tears poured. They threw there arms around me and let me cry ‘its ok Strum, your famous!’

I used the rest room and when I came out was handed an ice cold soda and a papertowel. It was so much cooler back there and I could breathe. I stood in the way back for the rest of the show (which went on without a hitch). I head the crowd singing along I vaguely remember the songs but no not really. I remember my friends. Not the Stoner girl who I lost in that crowd….but those punk rock boys. The bad ass tough guys who couldn’t save me but could make sure it didn’t happen again.

As a post script I did meet up with Joe years later as a grown up able to speak in full sentences to him. Hold intelligent conversation even. I had the glorious opportunity of holding his hand (which were soft as can be and really rather small) I kissed his cheek and he mine. He will always be my hero for so many reasons.

Hell, I had fr
ont row, I touched Joe Strummer, and can now say straight faced and proud. Joe Strummer saved my life.

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