‘The Strange Case of Dr Terry & Mr Chimes’ by Terry Chimes : 7/10′

The two sterling stints served on the Clash’s drum stool by the titular Terry, or as Joe Strummer renamed him in the worthy and politicised mid-70’s: ‘Tory Crimes’, bookended the career of the Clash in some respects; that’s the Clash as a fully functioning & creatively sharp unit of course…

His first stint was when the pre-CBS Clash had three guitarists (Keith Levene was soon to be jettisoned somewhat ruthlessly and with & indecent haste) and as such can thus lay claim to being a genuine punk-progenitor.

His second stint was as Topper’s replacement during the Combat Rock era, although in a bid to assuage the guilt he felt the band told him that Topper would be returning after he’d given his crippling heroin addiction the heave-ho. At the time the band had never been bigger, however shortly they would be becalmed and then fatally rent asunder in September 1983.

Technically speaking the Clash hobbled on for another album with just Joe and Paul remaining from the original line up, but witness the ‘just back from ‘Nam’ demeanour adopted by said ex-members at the time , and then the execrable Cut the Crap (with Bernie as co-producer and co-songwriter!) and that particular chapter and indeed record should be swept under Rehearsal Rehearsals’ toxic carpet…

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves……

Chimes starts positively and details with a refreshingly ‘matey’ bonhomie about being born into a typical, loving East End of London family. It was as a child that he developed a somewhat worrisome obsession with dissecting animals, which he now puts down to a lifelong obsession with all things medical. This would actually all make sense a couple of decades later.

When Chimes joined the Clash, he was both surprised and impressed by their intense work ethic. When, for example, rehearsing in Chalk Farm at the pragmatically named Rehearsal Rehearsals, on one of the rare breaks they took from playing, there would be a lecture from manager and agent provocateur Bernie Rhodes, followed by a discussion on cultural Marxism or Situationism – riveting stuff no doubt. After one particularly heavy debate Chimes tried to lighten the mood by declaring that he really wanted a sports car out of his efforts, and; well if looks could kill…. Over the years this was something that would be used as a stick with which to beat him with, but Joe Strummer a few years later would inform  him that he’d secretly wanted a VW Camper Van at the same time, but he knew it wouldn’t sit well with the then prevalent punk ethos of anti-materialism.

After several violent gigs, when bottles had rearranged his cymbals and he’d been accosted and physically attacked outside the 100 Club, Chimes told the band he’d had enough and was leaving. This did not go down well with the rest of the band : they’d just opted to take the CBS shilling and were halfway through recording their eponymous debut album. Bernie Rhodes, almost unbelievably, called Chime’s father without Terry’s knowledge instructing him to convince his son to stay with the group, but it was all in vain –  Terry wouldn’t be dissuaded otherwise ; his mind was made up. After completing the album and welcoming his replacement Topper; Terry was on his toes…

He would resume Clash duties in 1982/3 of course, but in the interim he kept his ‘chops’ and fitness by providing rhythms for Johnny Thunders and Generation X. He would also have to take a string of low-paying jobs.

So it was a timely & fortuitous bolt out of the blue when in 1982, Chimes took a call from a vague Bernie asking him to help out on the upcoming US tour due to Topper’s incapacity through substance abuse. Terry expressed doubts initially however as it was at this time that Strummer had gone AWOL. Eventually he surfaced in Paris, so Bernie called Chimes again with instructions to learn the 60 or so songs, bleach his hair and to buy some army fatigues.

terry-book

His second tenure with the Clash is in some respects a lot less interesting than his first. Schisms and internal politics were now very much to the fore. The band were now playing 10,000 seat venues under their own steam, but after landing the prestigious support slot with the Who, which was apparently at Pete Townsend’s insistence, they were now regularly playing 50,000 100,000 seater venues. This was a long way from Ladbroke Grove and their first gig, supporting the Sex Pistols at the Black Swan in Sheffield to all of 20 people.

In some respects the Clash were a bad fit for this superstardom. They seemed slightly uncomfortable ‘playing the game’ and breathing in the rarified air. At one show they reluctantly allowed Mick Jagger to enter their inner sanctum (dressing room)bet Jones but Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top was told that he couldn’t meet the band unless he shaved off his beard! Even after all the time that’s elapsed since this particularly awkward episode, Chimes seems embarrassed and not a little contrite.

It was also around this time that Chimes made several major lifestyle changes : he became a vegetarian, kicked the booze and began to meditate. More worryingly for the Clash’s immediate future, and for Mick Jones specifically, it was also around this time that Joe & Paul were talking openly & seriously about ousting Mick. Chimes says he tried to dissuade them but it soon became apparent that the topic was not up for debate. Chimes left the band at the end of the Combat Rock & Who tours, and subsequently and without ceremony, Mick was indeed fired.

Chimes would now go on to drum with Hanoi Rocks, and then fulfilled a boyhood dream by being invited to complete a huge tour with Black Sabbath.

Some have been less than complementary about Chimes ‘style’, which especially came under scrutiny when he had to follow the peerless, fearless one-take Topper; indeed one wag described Chimes ‘chops’ as being not unlike which the sound of a drum kit being pushed down several flight of stairs.

After completing these tours Chimes decided he’d had enough of rock & roll and would do something completely unexpected to challenge himself. He decided after reminiscing about his childhood and Mengele-like animal experiments to become, of all things; a chiropractor.

With the same steely determination that had seen him become a successful drummer, he completed all the required training, rented an appropriate building; and started a successful practice. Clearly this kind of clean & healthy ‘practice’ is about as far as one can get from a musician’s definition of ‘practice’; which usually revolves around cigarettes, booze and ego problems.

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L to R : Terry Chimes, Mick Jones & Paul Simonon

This might sound a tad unfair, but If I’m being brutally honest, apart from the untimely death of Comrade Joe, there’s not much more to entertain or recommend for the rest of Tel’s tome; unless your core interests run to chiropractic-related anecdotes and positivism (quotes from the Dalai Lama and, err, Saint Augustine) – I’m a fan of neither, funnily enough.

With regards to Joe’s passing it was shortly after he’d been informed that the band were to be inducted into the ‘Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’ in December 2002, that Chimes heard that Joe had passed. Of the funeral he recounts that, amongst the many eulogies, it was Paul Simmonon’s that stood out. ‘Simmo’ recounted that In the early days of the band, he & Joe once passed a shop that had two very cool pairs of sunglasses in the window. They realised after pooling their meagre resources that they only had enough money for one pair, so they tossed a coin, Joe proceeded to win; and duly went into the shop. Joe came out triumphantly with his shades in situ, preened himself for a minute then took a second  pair out of his pocket and and gave them to Paul. Paul later learned that Joe didn’t eat for the rest of the week….

Let’s be honest, the vast majority of people buying this book will be doing so for the Clash- related stories and anecdotes and that’s the way in which I’m recommending it. If like me you have trouble retaining plots and subplots long after a book has been read, think of Terry Chime’s book in these terms: the Clash-related stories will stay, but the non-Clash-related stories will probably go….

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