Big Audio Dynamite was in the midst of completing a brief U.S. tour in celebration of its recent reunion, yet it was Mick Jones' pre-Big Audio Dynamite band, British punk forebears the Clash, that was referenced in a current events joke on "The Daily Show." In an effort to make sense of this month's riots in England, comedian Jon Stewart superimposed an image of the chaos over an imagined Clash album cover and joked, "Please tell me the Clash reunited and they're shooting a new album cover."
Jones didn't see the clip, but he's well- ware that the music he wrote with the late Joe Strummer has a tendency to be tied to civil unrest in Britain. Early Clash staples in the late '70s included the two minutes of bravado that is "White Riot," as well as the snarling stomp of "London's Burning." Though often lighter in tone, Big Audio Dynamite wasn't immune to violent imagery itself. Check, for instance, the band's mid-'80s, synth-pop crawl "Sightsee M.C.," in which London is taken from the aristocrats by the rioting youth.
Jones performed the song in Los Angeles last week, and acknowledged its sudden topicality. The singer, however, let the song, which was also written with his former Clash co-hort Strummer, stand on its own. "I ain't going to say anything about it because I don't know anything about it," Jones said from the stage of the chaos that was sweeping London.
The topic at hand is the still-new reunion of Big Audio Dynamite, whose original lineup split around 1990. Well-received festival dates at Coachella, Lollapalooza and Outside Lands have left the door open for more Big Audio Dynamite collaborations. Dates are scheduled through the fall, and then there's talk, perhaps, of a new album and reissues.
Pre-concert, however, Jones is on the prowl backstage for the BBC, as he noted he's been trying to watch as much of the network as possible in order to get a handle on what's going on back home. It also inspired a line of questioning that Jones knows he can't avoid.
Of course, it's unfair to expect Jones to answer to every bottle thrown through a window in London, yet Jones still knows he'll be asked how today's violence makes the older Jones reflect on songs such as "London's Burning" or "Sightsee M.C.," if at all.
"People just seem really fed up, but I won’t have a better idea until I’m at home," Jones said. "The [budget] cuts have been very bad. They’re closing down libraries. That’s crazy. The way people are reading now is changing, true, but if you can’t afford a computer, where are you? So they’re almost destroying the community, but I am not going to go too far commenting on this."
Yet he's said enough to indicate that he's at least willing to revisit the concept of rock 'n' roll as social commentary. A new song from Big Audio Dynamite, the swift rocker "Rob Peter, Pay Paul," fits comfortably with the traditions of both of Jones' best known bands.
"We tried to simplify the economic meltdown," Jones said. "That song is the meltdown explained."