Few musical movements have had a look as memorable as punk. For the Clash it was their charismatic, art student bass player, Paul Simonon. His love of leathers, military gear and stenciled slogans gave the Clash a political edge: they weren’t just a band – they were guerrillas.
The photograph of Simonon smashing his bass into the stage on the cover of their 1979 album London Calling is one of the most potent in music history. Today the shattered instrument sits in a glass case in the west London studio where the 59-year-old devotes his time to his first love: painting.
Un-punk the cast-iron cooker may be, but its utter Englishness is in keeping with Simonon’s artistic tastes. The romantic Suffolk landscapes of John Constable; the seamy London nudes of Walter Sickert; the gritty Kitchen Sink painters of 1950s Britain. These are the reference points for the oils and lino-cuts that he works on every morning. There’s a hint of Jackson Pollock, too, in his white t-shirt and jeans, and the DIY splatter paint-job visible on that splintered bass.
“As you get older you learn to control your temper, although I have punched paintings across the room,” reflects Simonon during his day spent with filmmaker Baillie Walsh.
Baillie Walsh is a music video and film director. He spent a day with Paul Simonon and produced a video worth watching