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Paul Simonon

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Paul Simonon
Paul Simonon at the Eurockéennes 2007 with The Good, the Bad & the Queen
Paul Simonon at the Eurockéennes 2007 with The Good, the Bad & the Queen
Background information
Birth namePaul Gustave Simonon
Born (1955-12-15) 15 December 1955 (age 68)[citation needed]
Thornton Heath, Croydon, England
GenresPunk rock, new wave, post-punk, reggae, alternative rock, rock and roll
Occupation(s)Bass guitarist, visual artist, vocalist, songwriter
Instrument(s)Bass guitar, guitar, vocals, harmonica
Years active1976–1993, 2006–present
LabelsCBS, Capitol, Parlophone

Paul Gustave Simonon (/ˈsɪmənən/; born 15 December 1955)[citation needed] is an English musician and artist best known as the bassist for the Clash. More recent work includes his involvement in the supergroup the Good, the Bad & the Queen and playing on the Gorillaz album Plastic Beach in 2010, which saw Simonon reunite with The Clash guitarist Mick Jones and Blur frontman Damon Albarn – and which also led to Simonon becoming the live band's touring bassist for Gorillaz's Escape to Plastic Beach Tour. Simonon is also an established visual artist.[1]

Early life[edit]

Simonon was born in Thornton Heath, Croydon, Surrey.[2] His father, Gustave, was an amateur artist and his mother, Elaine, was a librarian. Simonon's paternal grandfather was a Belgian refugee who came to England during the First World War.[3][4] Paul grew up in both the London areas of Brixton and Ladbroke Grove. Before joining the Clash, he had planned to become an artist. He studied at Byam Shaw School of Art (then based in Campden St, Kensington),[5] which he attended on scholarship.[6]


Simonon performing with the Clash at the New York City Palladium in 1979

He met Mick Jones in 1976, 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.[7][8] Simonon was shown on the front cover of the band's double album London Calling: Pennie Smith's image of him smashing his Fender Precision Bass guitar during a 1979 concert in New York City; the image has become one of the iconic pictures of the punk era.[5][9][10][11][12]

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 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.[9][13] Also, when performing "The Guns of Brixton" live he switched instruments with Joe Strummer, because it was easier for him to sing while playing guitar, instead of bass as he sings lead vocals on this track.

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.[14]

Simonon promoting the band Havana 3am in Tokyo, Japan

After the Clash dissolved in 1986, Simonon started a band called Havana 3am.[15] He recorded one album with them. 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 & the Queen, a project with Damon Albarn on which Simonon plays bass. 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 & the Queen for a performance in London celebrating Greenpeace's 40th anniversary.[16][17]

Actor Pete Morrow portrays Simonon in the 2016 film London Town.[18] The film was met with mixed reviews.

In 2023, Simonon announced a new album, Can We Do Tomorrow Another Day?, in collaboration with singer Galen Ayers. The project arose out of Simonon's time writing music in Mallorca during the COVID-19 lockdown and subsequently busking in front of cafes in Palma.[19]


With the Clash
With Havana 3 am
With The Good, the Bad & the Queen
With Gorillaz
With Galen & Paul (Galen Ayers & Paul Simonon)
  • Can We Do Tomorrow Another Day? (2023)


Selected solo exhibitions[edit]

  • From Hammersmith to Greenwich (2002)
  • Paul Simonon Recent Paintings (2008)[20]
  • Wot no Bike, ICA Nash and Brandon Rooms (2015). To accompany the exhibition, Simonon published a limited edition hardback publication also titled Wot no Bike.[21] Featuring 24 of the paintings, it includes an introduction by David Lancaster, a writer on classic bikes and culture and an interview between Simonon and Tim Marlow, Director of Artistic Programmes at the Royal Academy of Arts, London.

Selected group exhibitions[edit]

  • John Martin Gallery (1996)
  • Eyes of a Child (1998)
  • Crusaid Edinburgh Art Centre (1998)
  • Art Tube Exhibition London Underground (2001)
  • Notting Hill Arts Exhibition (2001)
  • Colony Room Show (2001)


  1. ^ Davies, Dean Mayo (6 December 2017). "The Clash's Paul Simonon on His Work as an Artist". AnotherMan. Retrieved 23 January 2022.
  2. ^ "Find My Past". Search.findmypast.co.uk. Retrieved 26 June 2016.
  3. ^ Mayo Davis, Dean (13 March 2019). "Exclusive: Paul Simonon Directs a Video for The Good, The Bad & The Queen". Another Man. Archived from the original on 8 October 2021. Retrieved 8 October 2021.
  4. ^ Traynor, Cian (15 July 2019). "Ten quick questions with Damon Albarn & Paul Simonon The Good, the Bad & the Queen". Huck (magazine). Archived from the original on 8 October 2021. Retrieved 8 October 2021.
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ Salewicz, Chris (February 1981). "The Clash: Home On The Range". The Face. Retrieved 21 December 2019 – via Rock's Backpages.
  7. ^ Presenter: Kurt Loder. "MTV Rockumentary". MTV Rockumentary. London, England. MTV. Archived from the original on 3 March 2001.
  8. ^ "MTV Rockumentary Part 1". londonsburning.org. Archived from the original on 3 March 2001. 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.
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ Topping 2004, p.12.
  11. ^ Green 2003, pp.195–196.
  12. ^ Sweeting, Adam. "Death or Glory". Uncut. October 2004. p.70.
  13. ^ Deeth, John. "Turning Rebellion into Money: The Story of the Clash". jdeeth.home.mchsi.com. Archived from the original on 4 January 2004. Retrieved 18 February 2008.
  14. ^ Prato, Greg. Paul Simonon Biography. AllMusic. Retrieved 24 February 2008.
  15. ^ Snow, Mat (5 March 1991). "Havana 3 A. M. review". Q Magazine. 55: 68.
  16. ^ Fitzgerald, Brian. "Stories from the Rainbow Warrior: Jailhouse Rockstar". Greenpeace International. Retrieved 14 November 2011.
  17. ^ "The Clash's Paul Simonon arrested while working as undercover Greenpeace activist". The Guardian. 15 November 2011. Retrieved 21 April 2023.
  18. ^ "See Jonathan Rhys Meyers Play Joe Strummer in 'London Town' Trailer". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 14 September 2016.
  19. ^ "Galen Ayers and Paul Simonon announce new project and debut album". NME. 25 February 2023. Retrieved 21 April 2023.
  20. ^ "Thomas Williams Fine Art". Thomas Williams Fine Art. Retrieved 26 June 2016.
  21. ^ "Wot No Bike – Special Edition Book with Print". Paul Simonon. Retrieved 26 June 2016.

Further reading[edit]

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