|Birth name||Bernard Rhodes|
|Occupation(s)||Record producer, designer, manager, songwriter|
|Associated acts||The Clash
Dexys Midnight Runners
Bernard Rhodes is a fashion designer, record producer, songwriter, manager and impressario who was implemental in the development of the punk rock scene in the United Kingdom during the middle 1970s. He is most associated with two of the UK's best known punk bands, the Sex Pistols and The Clash. Fellow designer Malcolm McLaren was working on putting together a band of his own that would later become the Sex Pistols, it was Rhodes who was responsible for introducing John Lydon to McLaren and creating the original lineup of the Sex Pistols. He also managed future Clash guitarist Mick Jones's band London SS. When London SS broke up in early 1976, Jones and Rhodes auditioned members for a new band, which would become The Clash. Rhodes was an important force behind The Clash, not only managing their business, but also handling marketing and creative direction of the band. He left the band from 1979-1981 to pursue other opportunities, but tensions in the band led to singer-guitarist Joe Strummer demanding (and getting) his return in 1981.
Rhodes built and then operated out of his Camden studio Rehearsal Rehearsals in what is now Camden Market. The area around the studio rapidly became a well known hangout for punks and contributed to the growth of Camden as a hip area.
Since the break-up of The Clash, Rhodes has continued to be involved in fashion design and the music industry, as well as various political and social causes.
- 1 Biography and career
- 2 Management
- 3 Present day
- 4 Notes
- 5 References
- 6 Sources
- 7 Web, journals and magazines
- 8 Further reading
- 9 External links
Biography and career
His mother was a Russian-Jewish evacuee. She worked for Huntsman's in Saville Row making suits for Cary Grant and later Hawes & Curtis where John Pearse of the legendary 1960s boutique Granny Takes a Trip was her apprentice.
In the early 1960s Rhodes and Pearse shared a flat at 68 Hamilton Terrace, St Johns Wood. It soon became a hangout for a cool London crowd. Mick Jagger, Marc Bolan, musician Mickey Finn, the Small Faces, Guy Stevens (who Rhodes later brought in to produce The Clash) were regular visitors.
During this time he became re-acquainted with previous friend Malcolm McLaren and his girlfriend Vivienne Westwood, who were operating out of SEX boutique at 430 King's Road. Finding they shared a similar philosophy, Rhodes and McLaren went into business together collaborating on several T-shirts which were then sold in SEX.
The legendary T-shirt 'You're Gonna Wake Up One Morning and Know What Side of the Bed You've Been Lying On' was created and printed by Rhodes in his handwriting for the Sex boutique. Vivienne Westwood wanted to expand the sleeveless T-shirt clothing line. Bernard Rhodes was an ideal colleague. He had the practical skill of printing and his 'complex, meandering discourse threw up many new ideas.' 'Wake Up One Morning' was one of those ideas. Rhodes has referred to it as a 'visual rap'.
Rhodes has described the difference between Malcolm McLaren and himself: 'Malcolm likes to titillate but I get down to substance'
By 1975, SEX had become a hangout for a bunch of teenagers from which the Sex Pistols would emerge. Rhodes took the group under his wing while McLaren was in New York looking after the New York Dolls.
John Lydon recalls wearing his 'I Hate Pink Floyd' T-shirt and being spotted by Rhodes on the Kings Road who insisted he meet Malcolm McLaren, Steve Jones and Paul Cook in the local Roebuck pub that evening. After this get together, Rhodes had John come back to the shop to audition for the role of singer.
Lydon: He (Rhodes) was important to me in so many ways...He would indicate to me where the problems with the Pistols would be in the future. He would sow a seed and then wait to see if I would pick up on it.
Mark Helfond recalls that Glen Matlock introduced him to his friend and manager of his group, Bernard Rhodes. Rhodes used to bring the artwork he designed to college for Glen to produce screen prints. These designs ended up on the T-shirts the band (Sex Pistols) eventually wore on stage and were sold in Malcolm McLaren's shop.
After his offer to co-manage Sex Pistols was rejected by McLaren, Rhodes was instrumental in The Clash's formation in 1976.
Mick Jones was wearing one of Rhodes' Wake Up T-shirts when he approached Rhodes after a Sex Pistols gig thinking he was a keyboard player. They started talking about groups and the relationship was the starting point for what would eventually become The Clash.
Joe Strummer credits Rhodes as his mentor: 'He constructed The Clash and focused our energies and we repaid him by being really good at what we did'. Rhodes told them to write about social issues occurring at the time, i.e., the housing problems, lack of education, dead-end futures.
Strummer said that Rhodes was the only one who understood how one should go about getting known.
Rhodes called his friend Guy Stevens in to produce the Polydor recordings in 1977. The group later used Stevens to produce London Calling. He also sought out Lee 'Scratch' Perry to produce the single 'Complete Control'.
On 25 January 1977, he signed The Clash to CBS Records and Maurice Oberstein who promised to allow the group to do what they wanted on record and CBS would promote it. After a couple of albums, including their first, which Rhodes helped produce with Mickey Foote, he felt the group were drifting away from their street ideals and they parted company in late 1978.
1979-1981 Outside The Clash
This period was very productive for Rhodes. From his Rehearsal Rehearsal studio he nurtured and managed groups Subway Sect, The Specials, Dexys Midnight Runners, The Black Arabs and other musical projects.
The intro to The Specials' version of "Gangsters" begins with the line: "Bernie Rhodes knows: don't argue!"
Dexys Midnight Runners' single 'Dance Stance' was released in 1979 on the Oddball Productions label owned by Rhodes . Rhodes later signed the group to EMI Records.
The first album by Subway Sect, the influential What's the Matter Boy was also released by Oddball in 1980.
During the early 1980s Rhodes opened the infamous Club Left in Wardour Street Soho with the phrase 'Cool, Bop & Swing'.
On this, Rhodes says: 'I was interested in creating a space away from the music industry. Club Left dealt with deep ideas, fun, art, graphics and romance. It created an alternative to what the music industry had to offer.'
Club Left was presenting people like Dig Wayne, Tom Cat, Lady Blue, Johnny Britton, Sade, Bananarama who played their first live gig there. Plus Georgie Fame and Slim Gaillard, who featured in the Jack Kerouac novel "On the Road". The regular house band was Vic Godard and the Subway Sect.
Sean McLusky recalls that Rhodes gave him a break at Club Left in 1981 and then got a deal and success for his band JoBoxers, who enjoyed mainstream success on both sides of the Atlantic with their single Just Got Lucky. McLusky says:'Bernard never got the credit for things that were his. He has been the undefined force'.
Joe said if Rhodes did not come back and manage The Clash he would quit.
Once back, Rhodes decided to remix 'Magnificent 7'. A 12" single dance remix, 'Magnificent Dance' was released on 12 April 1981. Production was credited to 'Pepe Unidos', a pseudonym for Strummer, Rhodes and Paul Simonon. The record became the soundtrack for New York that summer. 'Pepe Unidos' also produced 'The Call Out', a re-mix of 'The Call Up'.
Mick: 'Bernie came back on the scene because people thought that we'd gotten out of control and the first thing he wanted to do was book us for seven nights in New York'.
The residency at Bonds NYC in the first two weeks of June 1981 was organised by Rhodes on his return as manager of The Clash. Support acts included Grandmaster Flash, The Sugarhill Gang, Dead Kennedys, Bad Brains, Texan bad boy Joe Ely, Lee Perry and Funkapolitan.
Rhodes notes that it was because of these Bonds NYC shows that the public became more interested in hip-hop. 'I endeavoured to get these guys on like Grandmaster Flash; not that most of the audience liked them but that led to a helluvalot'.
The record company were not behind the triple album Sandinista! recorded in Rhodes's absence but Kosmo Vinyl states that with the Bonds NYC residency, The Clash 'clawed their way back into the Premiership'.
There has been much blaming of Rhodes for this. However, Paul Simonon states quite clearly that Rhodes was not aware it was going to happen nor in favour of Mick Jones being sacked once Joe and Paul had decided upon it - a fact only disclosed to Mick after Joe's death at the Rock Hall of Fame induction.
After the Mick sacking, Joe Strummer and Paul Simonon held blind auditions to recruit two new guitarists. Joe states they auditioned somewhere near 350 guitarists and found Nick in the first batch, Vince in the second. Rhodes had no say in the choice of musicians.
Cut the Crap
According to guitarist Vince White, the working title of The Clash's last album, released in 1985 was 'Out of Control'. The title was changed by Rhodes shortly before its release. Rhodes also produced the album under the name of 'Jose Unidos'. He co-wrote all of the songs with Joe Strummer.
Whilst the album is often criticised, the single 'This is England' has been widely praised. Joe stated it was the last great Clash song and it has inspired many, including Shane Meadows who made a movie and TV show of the same name.
1990: Rhodes relocated from Los Angeles to Atlanta, Georgia. Doug Watts, the lead singer of a black metal band Naked Truth asked him for help. Rhodes brought in a new bass player and heavily rehearsed the band over several months. Rhodes independently produced their critically acclaimed album titled, 'Green with Rage'. He then signed the band to Sony Records.
St Martin's incident
In May 2007, Rhodes caused controversy at London's St Martins College, when he was accused of using the word 'niggers' during a speech he was giving about street fashion. In a published interview directly after the event, Rhodes stated that: 'calling me a racist is like calling Margaret Thatcher a Marxist'.
In April 2010, Rhodes also caused controversy at his friend Malcolm McLaren's funeral when he accused Vivienne Westwood of "being part of the Establishment" before going onto the platform to deliver his own eulogy: "If we’re not careful we're going to turn Malcolm into John Lennon, into a saint. Malcolm was no saint."
At the after funeral gathering, Rhodes and Westwood were photographed chatting happily by celebrity photographer Richard Young.
In her recent autobiography, Westwood comments on the funeral saying Rhodes was quite justified in what he said, she was talking too much about herself and her ideas.
Rhodes remains active on social and political issues from his website.
He has recently designed a biker range of T-shirts exclusively for iconic brand Lewis Leathers.
Rhodes has written a trilogy of books to be made into film.
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- Films and documentaries
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- Adams, Owen (30 March 2009). "Label of Love: 2Tone Records". Culture > Music > Label of love. Guardian.co.uk.
- "The Clash - Super Black Market Clash". Punknews.org.
- Related articles
- Fisher, Judith (March 1992). "Naked Truth". Riff Raff Magazine (Riff Raff).
- Holden & Van Schreven, Michael & Keld (Aug 1993). "Def by Misadventure". G Spot (8) (van Schreven & Westall).
- "Gangsters by The Specials". Songfacts.com.
- "Clash Culture - Central St Martins". RFB.
- "Vivienne Westwood in Malcolm McLaren funeral row". The Daily Mirror. www.mirror.co.uk.
- O'Hagan, Sean (25 April 2010). "The surreal day we laid the old anarchist to rest". The Observer (Guardian.co.uk).
- Pattison, Louis (7 May 2007). "Clash manager's racist outburst a reminder not to get rose-tinted about punk". The Guardian. Retrieved 6 May 2012.
- "Bernard Rhodes speaks". Mojo. July 2007. p. 18.
- Righi, Len (20 April 1984). "Joe Strummer tells why the Clash is carrying on". The Morning Call.
- "Ex-Clash manager causes uproar with N-word". CMU Daily - On The Inside. CMU Music Network. 4 May 2007. Retrieved 2013-01-07.
- "Last chance to see - Entertaining the Nation". News. The Jewish Museum London. 27 January 2012.