In celebration of Pazz & Jop 2010, we are more than happy to explore the sinister reality that most of us rock critics are completely ill-equipped to do our jobs properly. Our ongoing column “Are You Smarter Than a Rock Critic?” peels away the layer of illusion and puts a measurable number on just how often we Ask Jeeves to write our articles for us. Last week, we saw how completely ignorant we were about legendary pop sensation New Edition. We’ve gotten some complaints from our panelists about how the first two iterations of the column seems to resort to “gotcha journalism” regarding how little our Arcade Fire-championing field knows about African-American artists. So this week, we simply hit ’em in their rockist core. This week’s question:
How many members of The Clash can you name?
Should be easy, right? Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame inductees, heroes to politicos and punks everywhere, and — if we recall correctly — the only band that matters. We once again cobbled a panel of 15 professional and semi-professional rock critics, all given the usual rules:
1. I will not identify you AT ALL, so it is OK to be wrong. [We will say that our esteemed panel edits magazines, websites, and alt-weeklies. They have written for pretty much every outlet you’ve ever heard of, from Rolling Stone, Spin, and Billboard on down to random Tweets.]
2. You can’t use Google.
So, did these experts have “Complete Control” of the subject? Or did they send their credibility “Straight to Hell”? The answer — and possibly more puns — below!
The correct answer: Joe Strummer, Mick Jones, Paul Simonon and Nicky “Topper” Headon
Out of 15 polled:
Number of critics that answered correctly and got all four members: only 4
Number of critics that got three members: 7
Number of critics that got two members: 3
Number of critics that got only Joe Strummer: 1 (Of Mick Jones, the critic in question at least said, “I can see his face and his awful teeth.”)
Most unguessed member: Topper Headon
Number of critics still complaining about last week’s New Edition question: 4
Number of bona fide rap critics who did a clean sweep: 1
Number of critics who went for unsolicited Keith Levene bonus points: 2
Number of critics who guessed “Steve Mason,” who is apparently a goaltender for the Columbus Blue Jackets: 1
Number of critics who referred to Topper Headon as “Tony. Fuck. I watched that documentary… That druggie that they hated”: 1
Showoffs who guessed all four, then proceeded to name all the Big Audio Dynamite and Joe Strummer albums for some reason: 1
Number of critics who tempered their wrong answers with “The Clash kind of sucks”: 1
Of the 11 critics that couldn’t name all four (uh, let’s make that 12 if we’re including myself), 100 percent of the panel totally spaced on drummer Topper Headon. Here is a quick primer, so we never make this mistake again:
The jazz-fueled Headon (that’s his real last name — pretty punk rock!) played on the Clash’s legendary run of records starting with 1978’s Give ‘Em Enough Rope, through London Calling, Sandanista!, and Combat Rock. His relationship with the band dissolved while he battled an addiction to heroin, but ultimately it meant he dodged the bullet of having to play on Cut the Crap.
Here is his batshit insane cover of Gene Krupa’s “Drumming Man,” recorded around the time of his unheralded 1986 solo album, Waking Up. Now, don’t forget him, or we’ll play it again.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 21, 2011