While 1982’s Combat Rock is justifiably known as a classic record, it would be interesting to view an alternate dimension in which the original Mick Jones-overseen mixes for the album had been released – would classic status have also been accorded? As the story goes, the band had spent the tail end of 1981 at NYC’s Electric Lady studios with Jones having the major hand in matters from a leadership and musical director point of view. Upon returning to London and reviewing the tapes, however, it was determined that Jones’ mixes didn’t quite cut it, so they hired ubiquitous Brit-producer Glyn Johns to come in and play cleanup. Remixing and rerecording ensued. Several songs were jettisoned. Others became B-sides. And the rest is history.
But Rat Patrol from Fort Bragg, as Combat Rock was originally called, deserves another look, and thanks to Clash specialist Snotty Snail (cheekily deploying a new imprint, the “Nicaragua” label) it’s a massively appealing look. Below I’ll copy some general information about the material as published on several Clash fan sites. Meanwhile, you should know that almost all of Disc 1 has seen prior booting on such titles as Combat Out Rock and The Rat Patrol (not to mention even earlier during the vinyl boot era), and it doesn’t appear that SS found a lower generation tape. However, the label definitely did some sonic scrubbing upon what was already available, so hat’s off to SS for that. (The studio quality sound is outstanding, by the way.) I haven’t seen all the material on Disc 2 before but odds are most of it has surfaced in the past, at least in piecemeal form – but I could be wrong, as SS continues to pull surprises out of its Clash hat. At any rate, I can’t recommend this collection highly enough if you’re a Clash collector; not only is it fascinating to compare the Jones material to the officially released versions (not even counting mix differences, some songs are much longer versions than on Combat Rock), the whole vibe is different – looser, more groove-oriented, with aural ghosts of the rootsier/dubbier Sandinista! floating around in the machine. (Speaking of Sandinista!, pay close attention to the comments below on “Walk Evil Talk.”)
Okay, here’s an enlightening pair of reviews from a Clash fan site located at www.sharoma.com/clash. Comments on the Combat Out Rock boot, followed by some for The Rat Patrol, are included, and while quite long, the reviews go into great crucial detail outlining song-by-song differences as well as how the latter boot was an upgrade. The Snotty Snail version, presumably, should now be deemed as the definitive edition, however. No doubt the same fan site will be weighing in shortly on the merits of Rat Patrol from Fort Bragg.
COMBAT OUT ROCK: “This was intended to be a double album entitled 'Rat Patrol From Fort Bragg'. The rest of the band dismissed it, and called in producer Glyn Johns to cut it down to size for a single LP. All songs became shorter, and a lot tighter, with more pronounced vocals, a much 'tighter' mix musically, and less vague sound effects and extended rapping. Also, four tracks (Cool Confusion, First Night Back In London, Beautiful People and Kill Time) were cut. Overall, all the songs sound very similar to each other, with a significant emphasize on studio sound effects. The whole thing also has a 'muggy' sound to it, if you know what I mean. Sort of slightly muffled, like sounding as if it was coming from under a thick blanket. Track 7 from Combat Rock, Overpowered By Funk, is not present here and was apparently added to Combat Rock at the last minute (an instrumental version exists on Clash On Broadway Outtakes and an extended remix is on Golden Bullets). Each song varies in some way to the official ones on Combat Rock, so here is a track by track review:
Know Your Rights
This is a basic but extended version, and seems to be a bit slower. Joe is talking rather than singing and the lyrics are different in places. Know Your Rights has a few incarnations besides the official one. This being one, and another one is on Clash On Broadway Outtakes. This is a good version of the song, and in ways works better, with the message of the song being delivered more effectively by Joe's voice.
Again, this is a more basic version but is very similar to the official one. There are extra sound effects in places and it's extended.
Rock The Casbah
Different intro, then once it kicks in it is very similar to the official album version. There's extra sound effects in places and it's also maybe a touch slower.
Red Angel Dragnet
Paul's vocals seem a bit more present in the song as the volume of the music is lower. Some instrumentation found in the official version is increased in volume a little - such as the electronic organ effect. Also, there is some faint talking in the background, possibly Joe? There are also extra background vocals from Joe and Mick. Towards the end, there are extra lyrics, as this is an extended version.
Should I Stay Or Should I Go
Lots of Spanish dialogue at times, along with extra vocals, possibly just Mick's dubbed over twice. Also some extra vocals from Joe it sounds like. Extended, and with extra instrumentation, including brass?
Allen Ginsberg's lead vocals are different at times, and sometimes appear in a different place to where they do in the official version. There is extra instrumentation. Joe's singing is also very different. The lyrics in the song are different, and this is an extended version. It also fades off quite nicely at the end.
Straight To Hell
This is the same as the official unedited version found on Clash On Broadway disc 3. An extended mix, slightly altered drum effect, also fades away nicely at the end.
A more pronounced opening that works well. An extended version, with extra vocals that again just sounds like Mick's dubbed on twice. In this song in particular there are studio sound effects not found in the official version. The toilet cleaner ad - '2000 Flushes' - (with the American housewife) is a bit longer too. This is a better version of this song (the official one is too short really) and the extended playing is welcome. There's also faint voices, chatter and laughing in the background at times, which get louder as the song nears its end.
Seems a touch slower, and has slightly different lyrics in places but otherwise is very similar to the official version.
Same as the version on Super Black Market Clash and Clash On Broadway disc 3. Here it cuts off a second or so too soon though. This song is mostly made up of sound effects and strange, but effective vocals. (An alternate mix of this song can be found on the D.O.A. compilation.)
A different, and quite spooky, intro to this song, then it kicks in as normal. The sound quality throughout this song varies a bit - there is the odd drop out. Some instrumentation is more pronounced and there are extra sound effects. An extended version but on the whole very similar to the official one. This is a welcome track - Sean Flynn is an excellent song and this version lasts nearly 8 minutes.
Death Is A Star
Very similar to the official version, just some extra lyrics and talking in places. It's clever how, as in the official version as well, Mick and Joe's voices unnoticeably blend into each other at the beginning and throughout.
First Night Back In London
As with Cool Confusion, this is the same as the official version and appears on Super Black Market Clash. It's obvious this song came from this mix, with the big emphasis on sound effects and that particular drumming sound and style.
The Beautiful People Are Ugly Too
A great song, and it's good to have it here with very good sound quality. I especially like the tune to this song, it's very catchy, and Joe and Mick's singing on it works very well. In keeping with the style of the rest of the album, there are the familiar sound effects. This was also known as 'Fulham Connection W11', and has also been known as 'Man In A Box'.
Again, a great song. Very reggae styled (true to Clash form). Also, excellent sound quality which is very welcome from an unreleased studio track. Good to have a complete version of it as well, as it appears on Pier Pressure but is cut short and misses out a drumbeat or two in the intro and is missing quite a bit near the end. The Pier Pressure version also uses a vinyl as its source, whereas this does not. Sometimes known as (License To) Kill Time and 'Idle In the Kangaroo Court' which was the song's working title.
It's a great shame official releases of Beautiful People and Kill Time haven't appeared. They should have made it onto the Clash On Broadway box set (the Straight To Hell unedited version is there) in favor of material that was already available anyway. Other unreleased tracks made it (such as One Emotion) so why not these? If not then, they should almost certainly have made it onto Super Black Market Clash, along with Cool Confusion and First Night Back In London from the very same mix.
Overall, the sound quality is a bit dulled and there is background hiss present all the time (but it's only really noticeable in between songs). However, it is still very good, and the quality of some of the tracks, particularly the last two funnily enough, is excellent. The songs are interesting alternatives and make an enjoyable listen. Extended versions are welcome for some of these classic Clash songs. As mentioned throughout, all the songs are extended versions. And mostly, it's just the last verse which has been cut out in the versions on Combat Rock. They also seem to be a bit slower as well, but only a touch, and that may have something to do with the mix of the song that just affects how fast it seems to go, and not simply faster playing. Or perhaps for Combat Rock the tapes were speeded up slightly? That's highly unlikely though.”
THE RAT PATROL: “This is the original version of 'Combat Rock' as produced by Mick Jones in 1981, with newly discovered instrumental track titled 'Walk Evil Talk'.
Without doubt, it is the best Clash find of recent years. Essentially an upgrade for Combat Out Rock, this comes from a much cleaner source, apparently a tape that was floating around an RCA office back in the early 1980s. Needless to say, it is a joy to listen to. The opening two numbers sounding superb in almost faultless audio quality. Crystal clear in fact -- The Beautiful People Are Ugly Too, Kill Time
The quality in general is an improvement for every track on Combat Out Rock, with the first two being the most noticeable. A few of the songs sound as they did in the previous collection but I think on the whole the sound quality is a lot better. You can certainly hear more instrumentation and even extra vocals in parts. The versions are the same, with the exception of the extra track Walk Evil Talk, and the extra version of Inoculated City, and also the Atom Tan incident.
So what of this new song, Walk Evil Talk? You're probably dying to hear it if you haven't already. Apparently a leftover from the Sandinista! sessions (you'd never guess that huh?) it's an ambling seven minute affair much in the style of other dub induced classics such as Shepherds Delight and If Music Could Talk. It has a more up tempo style, with piano, and at times sounds like the soundtrack to a western. It's percussion led, leading me to suspect Mick and Topper were in the studio jamming when it came about. The song threatens and threatens to get going with bursts of drumming from Topper (by the way it has been confirmed that Tops is the drummer on this CD). Aside from some excellent drumming (the sound quality really shows it off) there's just the piano, so the song doesn't suffocate you with sound like some instrumentals can. The song reminds me a bit of 'Trojans', an instrumental by The Damned that appeared on Phantasmagoria, though that suffered from added saxophone. Thankfully, there's nothing to muddy the mix in Walk Evil Talk. A very moody song, the music speaks for itself. On the whole, I'd say it's very good. As for its origins, I doubt it's an offspring of the Sandinista! sessions. Its sound is in keeping with the rest of the album. It fits very well here. As mentioned in the Combat Out Rock review, they wanted the album to fit on two sides of vinyl, not four. So there was obviously no room for an apparently aimless 7 minute instrumental.
The Atom Tan edit suffers a dip in quality nearing the two minute mark, with the left channel seeming to drop out a bit. It picks up after 30 seconds or so as the song dies away. Perhaps the Inoculated City debacle needs some explaining. It all relates to a lesser known advert known as the "2000 Flushes" commercial. 2000 Flushes was something you put in your toilet to ostensibly keep it clean. The ad clip was actually on the first released copies of Combat Rock, but the company threatened legal action, so they had to remove the it. I guess they figured being associated with the Clash would 'soil' their image! It was on the very first releases, taken off for the remainder of the LPs, and restored on the reissues- I guess the 2000 Flushes company was no longer a going concern by then.
Cool Confusion (not the version with the drums) seems to me to be the best version of the non-drum versions. Even superior to the Super Black Market Clash mix. As I stated in the COR review, the extended intro to Sean Flynn is the spookiest bit of playing you'll ever hear. Sheer class. This album is certainly superior to Combat Rock. Far more interesting and diverse, and the improved sound quality makes it a must-have item for any Clash fan. A great listen, and the first two tracks are unreleased gems.”
So there you have it regarding the Mick Jones mixes. Packaging-wise, the artwork is derived from – and in places rips off – the military motif of Combat Rock. (This extends to the picture labels on the discs themselves, too.) The 12-page foldout booklet includes credits and song lyrics, and it’s interesting to note that while the lyrics seem to be reproduced from the actual Combat Rock booklet, they are slightly larger and therefore more readable than the officially published ones! All in all, an ace production from Snotty Snail. We can only hope that Sandinista! sessions are in the works someday soon for the label. -- OSWALD