“I don’t think Joe would’ve been happy retreading any steps he’d made already”: Paul Simonon on why The Clash never reunited

The Clash in 1979
(Image credit: Michael Putland/Getty Images)

The various members of The Clash did not sit still after the dissolution of the punk trailblazers in the mid-80s. Joe Strummer embarked on a career that took in solo material, collaborations and soundtrack work, Mick Jones formed Big Audio Dynamite, Paul Simonon formed Havana3am and made an album with Bob Dylan, whilst Topper Headon played in various groups, eventually overcoming the heroin addiction that got him fired from The Clash in the first place.

Despite the fallings out that brought the band to a close, though, The Clash members would often cross paths in the years after their split, working together, recording together, hanging out. But there was never a Clash reunion, something that was forever put to rest with the death of Strummer in 2002. In an interview last year, Simonon said it never really came up between them and he had no regrets that The Clash had never played together one more time. “I felt we’d done our job in a way,” he said. “B.A.D. were so groundbreaking I didn’t feel there was any need for Mick to do it and I don’t think Joe would have been happy retreading steps that he’d made already. I didn’t really see much point. Obviously, it meant a lot to so many people and it meant a lot to us, but I think we were always more concerned with protecting The Clash’s legacy rather than squandering it. Move on, make something new. It’s healthy to do that.”

Simonon said he still keeps in touch with his remaining bandmates. “I see Mick Jones about once a year,” the bassist revealed. “I see Topper as well. It depends if someone is working on different projects or is out of the country but we’re all still in contact.”

In recent years, Simonon has become a regular foil for Damon Albarn, playing on Gorillaz’s 2010 album Plastic Beach as well as being a member of The Good, The Bad & The Queen. Albarn also played on last year’s Can We Do Tomorrow Another Day?, a collaborative album by Simonon and singer-songwriter Galen Ayers.

Niall Doherty

Niall Doherty is a writer and editor whose work can be found in Classic Rock, The Guardian, Music Week, FourFourTwo, on Apple Music and more. Formerly the Deputy Editor of Q magazine, he co-runs the music Substack letter The New Cue with fellow former Q colleagues Ted Kessler and Chris Catchpole. He is also Reviews Editor at Record Collector. Over the years, he's interviewed some of the world's biggest stars, including Elton John, Coldplay, Arctic Monkeys, Muse, Pearl Jam, Radiohead, Depeche Mode, Robert Plant and more. Radiohead was only for eight minutes but he still counts it.