Students form on-stage mob during The Clash’s 1984 concert
By Varun Bhuchar And Anisha Mohin, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Wednesday, May 23, 2012
Editor’s Note: This is the third installment in a four-part series profiling popular music concerts at Dartmouth over the last four decades.
At the height of their popularity and before the release of their final album, The Clash performed a sold-out concert at Thompson Arena on April 19, 1984 to a “raucous” Dartmouth crowd comprised of students that had not seen a major concert since The Allman Brothers band in 1981, according to an article in The Dartmouth written by Nick Armington ’84.
“Pandemonium isn’t a bad word for it,” Armington wrote. “Riot might be better.”
The Clash, which had already released the album “London Calling” and the single “Rock the Casbah,” was far from being an unknown band in 1984. Because of their popularity, The Clash’s decision to come to small, remote Hanover elicited surprise from the student body, according to Chip Kelly ’84.
“We received a call from one of the agents we had regular contact with saying The Clash had an opening Saturday night to be up in Hanover,” Kelly said. “We were stunned. We thought an act like that would go to Boston or something.”
As news of the booking spread, the campus was abuzz with excitement that such a well-known group was coming to perform, according to Bruce Cullen ’84.
“We had been blasting The Clash from the basement of Alpha Delta [fraternity] for a good part of the last four years, so we were thrilled to learn that they would be coming to Hanover,” Cullen said. “It was a little bittersweet, though, as if our little secret was now out and becoming mainstream.”
The Clash’s music represented something “uniquely Dartmouth,” Cullen said.
“To put it in Dartmouth speak, I believe that [front man] Joe Strummer was a ‘vox clamantis in deserto’ on issues like social justice, Nicaragua, Vietnam, capitalism, racial issues and human rights,” he said. “You may not have agreed with all that he was saying, but he certainly forced you to think about it.”
Although she was not as big a fan as Cullen, Kim Ogden ’84 was nevertheless still excited to see the concert her freshman spring, she said.
“I went to The Clash concert because I definitely knew the band and loved them,” Ogden said. “It would have been hard not to know the band at the time. Their songs were very popular.”
Formed in 1976, the band is credited with contributing to the rise of punk rock alongside punk peers The Ramones and Iggy Pop. Although slow in gaining popularity, The Clash became well known beyond the underground club scene in London, after the release of “London Calling” in 1979. The band later became known across the United States.
Apart from a “lukewarm opening band” and terrible sound problems in Thompson Arena, the concert was widely acclaimed by those who attended, Armington wrote.
“The concert was loud and excellent,” Cullen said.
Ogden said she was struck by the authentic experience of the live event.
“I remember that it felt like a real concert because it was in a big space and the lights were professional,” Ogden said. “We danced the whole time and shouted all the words to the songs.”
Despite the concert taking place on a college campus, there was no shortage of rock star antics during the show. In the beginning, Strummer introduced himself as George Washington to the crowd, according to Armington. The real fun, however, occurred during the second encore, when a teenager managed to evade security “and ran on stage, doing an impressive backflip in the process,” Armington said. This set off a chain reaction that led to a large mob rushing the stage.
Although some people were thrown off stage, the crowd was too big for security to handle, and the band finished their show in the middle of an impromptu mosh pit, according to Armington. The scene made the final song of the night, “White Riot,” all the more appropriate.
Despite their punk-rock image, The Clash did not indulge in Dartmouth’s notorious social life after the show, Kelly said.
“To my knowledge, they did not hit any of the fraternities,” he said. “They just got back on the bus and took off to their next gig.”
The Clash broke up two years after the concert at Dartmouth, but their music continues to be played and experienced by new generations, Cullen said.
“I still love The Clash and listen to their music regularly,” he said. “I would hazard to say that it is about the only thing my 17-year-old daughter Celine finds cool about me.”