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Paul Simonon

Not to be confused with Paul Simon.

Paul Simonon
File:Paul Simonon mg 6692 crop.jpg
Paul Simonon at the Eurockéennes 2007 with The Good, the Bad and the Queen
Background information
Birth name Paul Gustave Simonon
Born (1955-12-15) 15 December 1955 (age 60)
Thornton Heath, South London, England
Genres Punk rock, reggae, alternative rock, rock n roll
Occupation(s) Bass guitarist, visual artist, vocalist, songwriter
Instruments Bass guitar, guitar, vocals, harmonica
Years active 1976–1993, 2006–present
Labels CBS, Capitol, Parlophone
Associated acts The Clash, Havana 3am, The Good, the Bad and the Queen, Gorillaz
Notable instruments
Fender Precision Bass
Rickenbacker 4001

Paul Gustave Simonon (born 15 December 1955) is an English musician and artist best known as the bass guitarist for punk rock band the Clash. More recent work includes his involvement in the project The Good, the Bad & the Queen in 2007 with Damon Albarn, Simon Tong and Tony Allen and the Gorillaz album, Plastic Beach in 2010, which along with Albarn saw him reunite with Mick Jones.


Simonon was born in Thornton Heath, South London. His father, Gustave, was a Sunday painter and his mother, Elaine, was a librarian. He grew up in both the South London area of Brixton and Ladbroke Grove in West London, spending around a year in Siena and Rome, Italy with his mother and stepfather. Before joining the Clash, he had planned to become an artist and attended the Byam Shaw School of Art, then based in Campden St, Kensington.[1]

In 1976, he met Mick Jones and six months later the Clash was formed when Joe Strummer joined, with Jones on lead guitar. Simonon learned his bass parts by rote from Jones in the early days of The Clash and still did not know how to play the bass when the group first recorded. He is credited with coming up with the name of the band and was mainly responsible for the visual aspects such as clothing and stage backdrops.[2] He was also immortalised on the front cover of the band's double album London Calling: Pennie Smith's image of him smashing his bass has become one of the iconic pictures of the punk era.[1][3][4][5][6]

Simonon played bass on almost all of the Clash's songs. Recordings that he did not play on include: "The Magnificent Seven" and "Lightning Strikes (Not Once but Twice)" on Sandinista! (played by Norman Watt-Roy), "Rock the Casbah" on Combat Rock (played by Topper Headon), and 10 of the 12 tracks on Cut the Crap (played by Norman Watt-Roy). Sandinista! featured bass played by Jones or Strummer, some but possibly not all of which Simonon later re-recorded once he rejoined the sessions after filming Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains.[3][7]

Simonon's contrapuntal reggae/ska-influenced lines set him apart from the bulk of other punk rock bassists of the era in their complexity and the role of the bass guitar within the band.[8]

File:Paul- Simonon.jpg
Simonon promoting the band Havana 3am in Tokyo, Japan

After the Clash dissolved in 1986, Simonon started a band called Havana 3am. They recorded one album in Japan before breaking up. He also participated in a Bob Dylan session along with the Sex Pistols' Steve Jones that became part of the Dylan album Down in the Groove. Also, Simonon works as an artist – his first passion before joining the Clash. He has had several gallery shows, and designed the cover for Big Audio Dynamite's album, Tighten Up, Vol. 88, as well as the cover for "Herculean" from the album The Good, the Bad and the Queen, a project with Damon Albarn on which Simonon plays bass. In 2008, after a seven-year gap, Simonon began exhibiting paintings again with an exhibition at Thomas Williams Fine Art, London.[9] One of his paintings was bought by British singer Lily Allen for £23,500, according to the Telegraph newspaper.[10] Paul reunited with Damon Albarn and Mick Jones on the Gorillaz album Plastic Beach, and was also the bassist of the Gorillaz live band supporting Plastic Beach, along with Mick Jones on guitar. The band headlined the 2010 Coachella Festival, and took up residence at the Camden roundhouse for two nights in late April 2010.

In 2011, Simonon spent time aboard the Greenpeace vessel Esperanza incognito under the guise of "Paul the assistant cook" in response to Arctic oil drilling in Greenland by Cairn oil. He joined other Greenpeace activists in illegally boarding one of Cairn's oil rigs; an action which earned him two weeks in a Greenland jail. His identity was revealed to other crew members after the voyage, and he joined Damon Albarn and the other members of the Good, the Bad, and the Queen for a performance in London celebrating Greenpeace's 40th anniversary.[11]

Musical equipment

Paul started off playing through a small Sunn head-amplifier and a pink 4×10 cab, but in 1978 he began using Ampeg cabinets and amps and has since used Ampegs.[amp 1] His first bass was a "cheap knock-off", as he called it himself, that he used through 1976 and early 1977, which he splattered in paint.[bass 1] In 1977, during the recording of The Clash, he received a black Rickenbacker from Patti Smith, which he also decorated in paint - but he disliked the instrument's sound (which he considered thin), and its light weight (he has stated that he prefers heavy basses, as he considers them resonant and robust).[bass 2] After that he got hold of[vague] a white Fender Precision Bass in 1978, and since has only played white Fenders live.[bass 3]

Later he received a new Fender from CBS which he has used for many years. CBS used to present him with a new bass occasionally. It was another P-Bass, and this one is known for having "Paul" scratched into the body. The pick-ups were black on all of his Fenders, but he changed the ones on this bass to white.[bass 4] This bass was used mainly throughout 1978 and used as a backup in 1979. He played a Wal JG Custom Bass during the recording session for Give 'Em Enough Rope in 1978, because the producer Sandy Pearlman suggested it, but Paul disliked it because it had too many switches.[bass 5]

In 1979, he got a new Fender, which was the one he smashed on the cover of London Calling. He strongly regretted that move, because it was his best sounding bass. After it was smashed, it was back to the old Fender,[bass 4] which he used until he got a new bass in 1980[bass 6] (there is a small possibility that this is the same bass as Bass,[bass 7] before it eventually got modified).

However, in 1981, he acquired a Fender Fretless Precision with a rosewood fingerboard.[bass 8] He played this through 1981, but went back to using fretted Fenders in 1982. He then got hold of a Fender Precision with a black headstock, rosewood fingerboard, and white pick-ups.[bass 7] He then also changed the neck on his PAUL-bass to a neck with black headstock and rosewood fretboard.[bass 4]

The last two electric bass guitars[bass 7][bass 8] were mainly used as backup basses, and still are to this day, and the Fender Precision Bass,[bass 4] showed on the picture of him at the top of this section, is still his main bass, heavily worn and beaten up. He had a sunburst Precision in the last years of the Clash, but this one was only used as a backup and by Joe Strummer during the song "The Guns of Brixton".[bass 9]

He had a sunburst Epiphone Rivoli, which can be seen in the videos for "The Call Up" and "London Calling", but he was also seen with it in the earliest days of the Clash.[bass 10]

Lists of Paul Simonon musical equipment

  1. ^ Cheap Brand Bass: Black w. paint-mess, (also had "POSITIVE" on its upper horn for a short while), Rosewood fretboard (used during the early days and during the recording of "The Clash")
  2. ^ Rickenbacker Bass: Black w. paint-mess and "POSITIVE" on upper horn, Rosewood fretboard (used during the recording of "The Clash" and for touring in support of "The Clash" album)
  3. ^ Fender Precision Bass: White w. paint-mess and "POSITIVE" on upper horn, Black pickguard, Maple neck (rarely seen, but used on the first concerts in 1978 and BBC TV Something Else Live 1978)
  4. ^ a b c d Fender Precision Bass: White w. "PAUL" carved on body (which was once covered up by stickers, which are now removed), Black pickguard (formerly with paint-mess), Rosewood fretboard (formerly maple neck) (used all the way from touring in support of the "Give'Em Enough Rope" album, both as main bass and backup bass, both live and recording, still used as main bass)
  5. ^ Wal JG Custom Bass (Serial No. JG1126): Cherry Red, Black pickguard, Rosewood fretboard (used for recording the "Give'Em Enough Rope" album). Now owned by Leigh Gorman of Bow Wow Wow.
  6. ^ Fender Precision Bass: White, Black pickguard, Maple neck (used as both backup and main bass during tours between "London Calling" and "Sandinista")
  7. ^ a b c Fender Precision Bass: White, Black pickguard, Rosewood fretboard (used as both main and backup bass for touring in support of the "Sandinista" album, "Combat Rock" album, and "Cut The Crap" album, still used as backup)
  8. ^ a b Fender Fretless Precision Bass: White, Black pickguard, Rosewood fretboard (used as main bass for both recording and touring in support of the "Sandinista" album, "Combat Rock" album and "Cut The Crap" album, still used as backup)
  9. ^ Fender Precision Bass: Sunburst, Tortoise pickguard, Rosewood fretboard (used as backup during the "Cut The Crap" album and tour)
  10. ^ Epiphone Rivoli bass: Sunburst w. Black duct tape, Rosewood fretboard (used during the early days and the recording of "London Calling" and "Sandinista")
Amplification, effects, and strings
  1. ^ Ampeg Bass Amps: Ampeg Classic Series SVT-CL Head and Classic Cabinet.


With the Clash

With Havana 3 am

With the Good, the Bad & the Queen

With Gorillaz


  1. ^ a b Letts Don; Joe Strummer, Mick Jones, Paul Simonon, Topper Headon, Terry Chimes, Rick Elgood, the Clash (2001). The Clash, Westway to the World (Documentary). New York, NY: Sony Music Entertainment; Dorismo; Uptown Films. Event occurs at 3:50–4:50; 19:30–55:00. ISBN 0-7389-0082-6. OCLC 49798077. 
  2. ^ Interviewer: Unknown; Presenter: Kurt Loder. "MTV Rockumentary". MTV.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
    Related news articles:
    • "MTV Rockumentary Part 1". Retrieved 6 December 2007. Mick Jones: One of the names that we had before we had the Clash was the Weak Heartdrops from the Big Youth song. Another I think was the Psychotic Negatives, but now neither of those worked.
      Paul Simonon: It really came to my head when I start reading the newspapers and a word that kept recurring was the word "clash", so I thought "the Clash, what about that," to the others. And they and Bernard they went for it.
  3. ^ a b Gilbert, Pat (2005) [2004]. Passion Is a Fashion: The Real Story of the Clash (4th ed.). London: Aurum Press. ISBN 1-84513-113-4. OCLC 61177239. 
  4. ^ Topping 2004, p.12.
  5. ^ Green 2003, pp.195–196.
  6. ^ Sweeting, Adam. "Death or Glory". Uncut. October 2004. p.70.
  7. ^ Deeth, John. "Turning Rebellion Into Money: The Story of the Clash". Retrieved 18 February 2008. 
  8. ^ Prato, Greg. [[[:Template:Allmusic]] Paul Simonon Biography]. Retrieved on 24 February 2008.
  9. ^ "Paul Simonon". Thomas Williams Fine Art Ltd. Retrieved 24 February 2008. 
  10. ^ Walker, Tim (2008-04-17). "Lily Allen seeking solace in retail therapy Telegraph 17 April 2008". Retrieved 2011-08-10. 
  11. ^ Fitzgerald, Brian. "Stories from the Rainbow Warrior: Jailhouse Rockstar". Greenpeace International. Retrieved 14 November 2011. 

Further reading


External links

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