Mick Jones: interview

From the Clash to Big Audio Dynamite to recent garage rock project Carbon/Silicon, Mick Jones is a London punk icon, and one of Time Out’s 40th birthday London heroes

  • Mick Jones: interview

    Mick Jones: 'Out of many nations comes one great nation'

  • See all Time Out's 40th birthday London heroes

    How has London defined your character?

    ‘I’ve never moved. I’ve never ever wanted to. I’m born and bred here. Never wanted to move, even for tax reasons. My old school, Strand Grammar, was in Brixton, although it was originally in King’s College in the Strand, years ago. It was a grammar school, but it was originally the school that everyone who went there used to go straight into the civil service, in like the 1900s. And the school song used to go [sings] “Child of the capital, linked with the life of it/Reared where its riverside palaces stand/Playing her part in the stress and the strife of it/Here’s to the school that was born in the Strand/Servants of state to be/That’s the high hope for me”… it was really old-fashioned, you know. All the teachers had mortar boards, and they all seemed to have been tortured by the Japs in World War II. They had deep psychological scars which they took out on the pupils! Ha ha ha! It was all about London, it really connected – “Now we’re all going to sing our school songs, ‘London Calling’” ha ha! Or something like that, it was connected. It must have instilled something in me, in between slipperings and being hung in the fives court.’

    Biggest thing to happen in London music in 40 years?

    ‘Maybe it was punk that changed the most things musically. Or maybe the internet, because that’s really changed things. But as far as the social thing is concerned, it’s probably the all-change at the end of 1976, because that really made things completely different from what they were before. And now with the internet, it’s changed things in the same way. The thing was about that [1976], in retrospect, is that it made people believe that they could do anything, whoever you were.’

    Favourite London place or thing?

    ‘One of my favourites is the penguin house at London Zoo in Regent’s Park. Lubetkin, the architect of that, he did very many other great buildings, but I’m standing by the penguin house. There’s something ’30s about it. It connects with many things I like, the Penguin in the "Batman" comics as well.’

    Personal favourite moment in London?

    ‘Well, one of them was the Rolling Stones in Hyde Park. I was quite young, and I wormed my way the whole day through the crowd to get to the barrier just before they came on. It was like a great trek or odyssey. I was like “Excuse me, coming through… Oh, sorry…” treading on people all the way through Hyde Park. I wormed my way through and then the Hell’s Angels came through the crowd on their motorbikes! Everyone was going “Oh my god!”. It was a wonderful moment. They only came to do the security, which sort of led to Altamont. It was interesting the way they tried to self-police, but the flipside of that other side of the coin was… Altamont! Because our English rockers weren’t really up to it in the same way as Sonny Barger. I shouldn’t say that, but they must have been more interested in style, you know what I mean? That German helmet, denim waistcoat look. All our English rockers were doing this dance where you put your thumbs into your belt-loops. They were cool too, but it was like polar opposites. I also remember going to the London Rock ‘n’ Roll Concert at Wembley, which was the big show with Little Richard and Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis and Bill Haley and Bo Diddley. And Lord Sutch made an appearance. It was this fantastic day and evening of one rock ‘n’ roll legend after another. It was really wonderful.’

    What’s the future for London music?

    ‘I think what’s gonna happen is that all the scenes are gonna come together into one massive scene. I really do think that’s gonna happen. Because they’re massively diverse… so they can’t help but come together. Because with unity, comes a great future. I think we are where it mixes best. I don’t see many places where it’s multi-cultural like this. And we all grew up with that as well. But that always keeps changing as well. The mix of people – my grandparents were Jews in the East End and now it’s more Polish and will change again in the future. In the States and that, each group had their own area, so they never really had to mix. They mix much more here, they grew up with each other and it becomes a part of them. I think that it’s an example of how out of many nations comes one great nation.’

    Complete the sentence: London is…

    ‘…a soup bowl.’ See all Time Out's 40th birthday London heroes

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