On September 21st, 1979, at a Clash show at New York's Palladium, Paul Simonon's frustration led to one of the most iconic images of rock and roll history. After getting upset about the security guards not allowing the crowd to get up out of their chairs, Simonon finally hit a breaking point and smashed his Fender Precision bass after the band's final song. Photographer Pennie Smith happened to be in the right place at the right time to take the iconic photo:
"The show had gone quite well," says Simonon, "but for me inside, it just wasn't working well, so I suppose I took it out on the bass. If I was smart, I would have got the spare bass and used that one, because it wasn't as good as the one I smashed up."
The smashed Fender Precision bass immortalized on the cover of The Clash's "London Calling" album was a white early 70's model with a maple neck. Simonon had placed a skull and crossbones sticker on the body, done some drip painting on the pick guard and had handwritten the word "PRESSURE" on the top body horn. Although the body and neck of the bass were damaged beyond repair, the smashed remnants were deemed important enough to be displayed in the permanent collection of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.
Fender Bass Player Reports: "Simonon started out playing a Rickenbacker but found it's sound too thin. He then quickly switched to a mid 70's Fender Precision Bass, which offered more bottom end and a stronger tone. He preferred using heavier model Precisions that he believed sounded better and could take all the abuse he dished out on them night after night. His P-Basses were usually white and he often adorned them with stickers, abstract paint jobs and roughed them up a bit to give them some individuality. He also reasoned that no one would want to steal his basses if they were bashed up and hand painted."
"He frequently swung the instrument around onstage, and after a two hour show would often have serious problems with his shoulder. Strung low by his knees, he normally played with a pick, sometimes using his fingers for reggae style tunes. His style evolved from simple root-fifth punk lines to a more complex and intricate style, incorporating rock, reggae, ska, pop, funk and other elements that set him apart from most other punk bassists of the day."
Read more about Paul Simonon: HERE