Paul Simonon


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 Croydon, Surrey. His father, Gustave, was a clerk in the civil service and his mother, Elaine, was a librarian. He grew up in the South London area of Brixton, spending around a year in Siena, 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.
He was asked to join The Clash in 1976 by lead guitarist Mick Jones, who planned to teach Simonon guitar. However, the instrument proved difficult for Simonon, so Jones decided to teach him bass instead. Simonon learned his bass parts by note 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 & stage backdrops. 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.
Paul Simonon wrote three of the Clash's songs: "The Guns of Brixton" on London Calling, "The Crooked Beat" on Sandinista!, and the B-side "Long Time Jerk". He sang "Red Angel Dragnet" from Combat Rock but this song was written by Joe Strummer.
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). Many of the tracks on Combat Rock are thought to have bass tracks laid down by Mick Jones or engineer Eddie Garcia and early recordings on 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.
Simonon's contrapuntal reggae/ska-influenced lines set him apart from the bulk of other punk rock bassists of the era in terms of complexity and the role of the bass guitar within the band. He usually played with a pick as opposed to plucking the strings with his fingers.

Simonon promoting the band Havana 3am in Tokyo, JapanAfter 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. Currently, 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. One of his paintings was bought by British singer Lily Allen for £23,500, according to the Telegraph newspaper. Paul reunited with Damon Albarn and Mick Jones on the new Gorillaz album Plastic Beach, and is 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.
Simonon and Mick Jones are now working as executive producers for a new film based on the recording of The Clash classic 1979 album London Calling.
Paul is known for using white Fender Precision basses and Ampeg amplification although he has also used Sunn amps. He is also known for decorating his own basses with paint and stickers, and his basses often had a text on the upper horn of the body.
Paul started off playing through a small Sunn head-amplifier and a pink 4x10 cab, but in 1978 he began using Ampeg cabinets and amps and has since used Ampegs. 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. In 1977, during the recording of The Clash, he received a black Rickenbacker from Patti Smith, which he also decorated in paint, but he didn't quite like the sound of it as it sounded too thin, and he also thought it was too lightweight (he's stated that he prefers heavy basses, as they seem more resonant and robust). After that he got hold of a white Fender Precision Bass in 1978, and since has only played white Fenders live.
Later he received a new Fender from CBS which he has used for many years. CBS used to give him a new bass every now and then. 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. 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.
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. This bass now resides in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. After it was smashed, it was back to the old Fender, which he used until he got a new bass in 1980 (there is a small possibility that this is the same bass as Bass, before it eventually got modified). All of his Fenders up to then had maple necks.
However, in 1981 he got a Fender Fretless Precision with a rosewood fingerboard.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. He then also changed the neck on his PAUL-bass to a neck with black headstock and rosewood fretboard.
The last two electric bass guitarswere mainly used as backup basses, and still are to this day, and the Fender Precision Bass, 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".
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. He used an Ovation acoustic bass during the recording of The Good, the Bad and the Queen.

With The Clash
The Clash (1977)
Give 'Em Enough Rope (1978)
London Calling (1979)
Sandinista! (1980)
Combat Rock (1982)
Cut the Crap (1985)
With Havana 3 am
Havana 3 am (1991)
With The Good, the Bad and the Queen
The Good, the Bad and the Queen (2007)
With Gorillaz
Plastic Beach (2010)
Simonon reunites with Clash guitarist Mick Jones on the album's title track.
The Fall (2010)
(in Aspen Forest)
Source: accessed 24/12/13