The Clash: It happened here

The Clash get busted for avicide

  • In the 1970s, sus laws meant a stop-and-search was a regular inconvenience for punk rockers, but The Clash went out of their way to get nicked on March 30 1978. The band was holed up in their rehearsal space, Rehearsal Rehearsal, situated in the Gin House at Stables Market on Chalk Farm Road, working on the ‘Give ’Em Enough Rope’ album. Bassist Paul Simonon and drummer Topper Headon took a break on the roof to play with Headon’s air rifle, relieving the tedium of being left-wing firebrands by taking pot shots at passing pigeons. Sadly, the befuddled rhythm section didn’t realise the birds they were capping were actually racing pigeons stretching their wings.

    Alerted by the birds’ eagle-eyed owner, the police raced down to the scene in four cars and a helicopter. The three dead pigeons were private property, elevating the charges against the pair to criminal damage, and they were transported to Brixton Prison to await bail. Eventually, the avicidal duo were summonsed to Clerkenwell Magistrates Court, where they pleaded guilty and were fined £30 each, and ordered to recompense the bereaved pigeon fancier to the tune of £700. The ramshackle procession of the band and their hangers-on to court were immortalised in the 1980 Clash docu-drama ‘Rude Boy’, which is worth checking out if only to enjoy the look of utter bewilderment in Simonon’s eyes. The episode was also the inspiration for The Clash track ‘Guns On The Roof’, which would have been much better if it was called ‘Pigeons in the Street’.

    Rehearsal Rehearsal, part of a converted horse hospital, has undergone several facelifts since The Clash split in 1982, and is now the home of Proud Gallery Camden, making it an ideal pilgrimage destination for art lovers and pigeon-haters alike.

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