Forty years ago, October 1977, I watched The Clash play two shows in one night in the Exam Hall of Trinity College.
Joe Strummer was bleeding. The house was heaving in a blur of body sweat, smoke and saliva. An entire row of venue security, volunteer students, lined the stagefront, soaked by waves of gob and now a spray of blood from The Clash singer’s bloody mouth.
It was the second of two shows the London band promised to play in one night in the student venue, an 18th century structure with a pillared entrance and inside, a large single vaulted chamber. We were gobsmacked and just a little subdued when we saw it. Seeing the band we all loved in such a venue made it a sweet occasion.
We ran amok, as much as we could, pogoing and gobbing and singing along with bleeding Strummer who bust his lip and tooth off the mike, singing White Riot. Legend.
In all the frenetic and joyous turmoil, no-one noticed as Peadar slipped backstage.
Liberating Mick Jones’ trousers was never a problem. It was a chaotic night, as they all were in those punk days. Chaos was built into the system or at least, so we believed. The music was ours and the lifestyle, our invention, between dole queues and £5 hash deals.
We struck on the notion of Mick Jones’s strides when we saw them on the cover of the band’s seminal and eponymous 1977 album, The Clash and there he was, all brooding menace and fuck you attitude in those trousers.
No-one felt any guilt about stealing them – we all contributed to the theory of ‘liberating, not stealing’ – no, the biggest problem was who would wear them and when.
Stella’s mother always told her she was ‘big boned’ but she knew she had a wide pelvic girdle and, as she stated bluntly, ‘a big arse.’ Peadar, her best mate, was, by complete contrast, a bag of bones and very small bones at that. He stood five foot three in his stockings and was so skinny, Stella joked, if he stood sideways and stuck his tongue out, you’d mistake him for a zipper.
The rest of us, me, Jimmy and Sandra, were of average height and size, in our compact, if malnourished, working class way, all in our late teens and all of us unemployed. Most of us were from big families, except Jimmy, an orphan.
In the end we drew straws to decide who got them first and then a roster was drawn up so we each got a day in Mick Jones’s trousers before they were washed. Then it all began again.
Peadar drew the straw to give him first dibs and it was only fair since he’d been the liberator. He was lost in them but for that day it was fun. Stella had to grease her own hips and thighs to get them on but even then, she failed.
She was gutted and so were we, for her sake, but secretly delighted since the trousers – heavy duty black cotton parachute strides with narrow legs and a plethora of zips – might not have survived the strain.
All of us, with the exception of Stella, got our day to walk in Mick Jones’s strides and after that they disappeared, probably liberated.