The Clash Bonds NYC

The Clash @ Bonds NYC 1981 – The Clash shows at Bonds in New York were the height of classic Clash self promotion. Well in my eyes at least. Like Joe disappearing before concert tours, or Topper’s in Topper’s out. How exactly does one “over sell” tickets to a show. You know the occupancy level of a venue, it’s a finite number. You sell X many tickets per show. How hard can that be? But not Bonds. Not this time. There were so many people packed into Bonds in the first days, the city closed down the May 30th show. The munificent and magnificent Clash said … we’ll just play more shows. Isn’t it amazing that Bonds had nothing else booked for the days those 17 shows were on? Hmmm. Nor the Clash? Hmmm.

No matter what the reason, or how it happened, the Bonds shows were the stuff legends are made of … and so much more. Thanks to Clash friend Brenda (whom I’ve mentioned in other Clash related posts) … allowed Dorothy and your humble narrator into any shows we wanted. Honestly … I don’t even remember which day Dorothy and I went together. Dorothy probably remembers … but I don’t. It was probably a Saturday show … being I had classes and work during the days. She had gone to a few more shows than I did. I only went to the one. She even took my friend Geoff Hoover to one of them. With all of the chaos going on, and my still going to school at the time at CW Post … I decided one would be enough. Stupid me! =:o

The day that Dorothy and I went was pretty much an all day affair. We got there in the early afternoon … hence the photos hanging in front of Bonds of Mick, Ari, and Viv. The show was great! But I didn’t want to go down in the crowd to shoot. The Bonds stage was so high up … the angle, even if close to the stage would have been nasty ugly! Luckily I was given access to shoot from the side of the stage. It was the first time I shot any band this way … so frontal shots of Joe or Mick were impossible. Lots of shots of Paul though. I finished off the roll of B&W I was shooting, then popped in a roll of color. I didn’t shoot too much live stuff … I was waiting to get back stage. Plus … being a student … I didn’t have a ton of money to buy film or have it developed.

Back stage was so much fun. There were a lot of press photographers there that night. So I was always fighting for access. Paul was so sweet that night and let me have a little time for my own private shoot with him. The photo I call “NG” is one of those classics moments captured for all time … one of my fave Clash photos. The photo was published as a back cover in the British magazine “Teenage Kicks” as a full back cover. Being backstage with the Clash was an experience I’ll never forget. It’s one of those times I’ll tell my (nonexistent) children and grandchildren about. So here I am telling you.

The photo of all photos was the “drawn curtain” photo of Joe Strummer I talked about in my post “The Future Is Unwritten … The Past Has Been Stolen”. I have to say without Dorothy’s help, I would have never been able to get this one.

My then girlfriend Dorothy saw I wasn’t having the best of luck trying to muscle my way into that little nook where Joe, Mick and Paul were being photographed by the press. She stood on one side of the curtain divider and called me over. “Streno! Come here! I’ll pull the curtain back and you be ready to take the picture”. And so it happened. I knew I only had one chance to take one photo. Had no idea if Joe would even look my way. Dorothy pulled back the curtain. One of us called to Joe. He turned, looked straight into my lens, I focused, framed, and pop, the photo was taken. As soon as it was done, I thanked him, and Joe pulled back the curtain and went about his business on the other side. Beyond the gorilla photo tactics needed to take the photo, there was an element of fortuitous serendipity. One of the photographers was using a flash with a slave unit. When my flash fired, so did his. Not only did it create a wonderful “star burst” of light  to the left of Joe’s face, it also did back-lighting for me, making Joe just pop out of the picture, as well as throw frontal lighting on both Mick & Paul. It truly was a photograph of a lifetime …

The show itself was amazing. How could it not be … Topper was still kickin’ it hard … and it was the culmination of all that came before plus the addition of the best of Sandinista. I’m sitting here listening to one of the bootlegs of one of the shows … pretty amazing! Good sound quality too.

So here they are … my photos of The Clash and the Slits at Bonds International Casino, NYC 1981. Thanks for stopping by and …. Enjoy!

One last thing … I’m thinking of doing a book of my Clash photos. Would anyone be interested in purchasing a soft or hard cover book like this? I’d put it together as a numbered and signed limited edition run. If you think you’d be interested, leave a comment below. What would you be willing to pay for a 20 (or so) page book? $50.00? $75.00 plus shipping? Thanks for your input!


Waiting Outside Bonds
Full screenExit full screen
01 of 8 - Outside Bonds - Mick Jones of The Clash

The Clash @ Bonds : NYC : 1981
Full screenExit full screen
01 of 24 - The Clash @ Bonds International Casino - NYC - 1981

The Clash Backstage @ Bonds
Full screenExit full screen
01 of 15 - The Clash Backsatge @ Bonds International Casino - 1981
Joe Streno
artist . musician . photographer . apple computer consultant . residing in asbury park nj with his two cats rocky & rose & living to tell tales about it

19 thoughts on “The Clash @ Bonds NYC 1981

    1. I hear you! I could have gone to more. But I was also going to school on Long Island at the time & working too. So this Saturday show really worked well for me. Plus being able to hang out, see the Slits sound check, see the show from the side of the stage, photograph it, then go back stage & be able to photograph the band … priceless!!!! To be able to witness that chunk of history & record some of it … sometimes I still don’t believe I was there! lol

  1. I’m going to post my write-up over the weekend but wanted to tell you the whole story real quick. I’ve been trying to get my book published for years, then finally decided to strike out on my own after reading something in Kris Needs book about The Clash. (If you’re interested, the post is here

    But I’d been working on this article for a few days now and kept getting stuck. Then this morning, I see your comment and loaded the page in a new window. When I finally opened that tab the pic of Joe through the curtain popped up. Blew my mind. Almost like he was reminding me where my focus should be. I’m not usually one to pay attention to signs, but i thought for sure the universe was trying to tell me something.

    Anyway, I’m glad to have ‘met’ you. The pictures ARE stunning. Truly capture a moment, and I’d agree with some of the posters above that the photo book is an amazing idea. Don’t wait. Take a look at Createspace or Lightning Source if you’re thinking of doing it yourself. I’d love a copy and will lend a hand however I can.


    1. Jason … sometimes it’s hard to hear the voice of sanity & reason (read the Universe) over the chaotic cacophony of daily life. We have so many things vying for our attention. I’m happy to hear Joe “spoke” to you thorough one of my photos & assisted you in redirecting your energy & focus. He’s always had that effect … on so many people. Even now.

      Thanks again for the accolades. The book idea seems to be taking on a life of its own. Now it’s about trying to get it done in tandem with the chaos of my own life. Ruminating. Ruminating.

      I’m glad I “met” you too. Keep writing. Keep plugging. Do what makes you happy.

  2. Thanks for the comment on my blog this morning.

    It came at a very strange time. I’d been trying to write an article about my writing perspective based on one I wrote back in January about Joe Strummer’s time with The 101ers. Getting your link totally changed the direction I’d been taking. I have to say, your pictures are magic. Absolute magic. 31 years ago this week, right?

    Thanks again.


    1. Jason …

      Thank you so much. That’s so kind.

      Allowed to be a fly on the wall backstage was a once in a lifetime chance for me. Even then I knew I was documenting history. I look at the one photo of Strummer & the other “NG” of Simonon, and still, to this day, it seems surreal … “I” took those photos! It was a night of magic … on so many levels. Glad it helped you spark something in yourself & your writing.

      The Bonds shows 1981 … 30 years ago this week.
      The Asbury Shows Memorial Day weekend 1982 … 29 years ago.

      Not to be too cliche … it seems like yesterday. I’m transported each time I see these photos. Glad I could take you on that ride too. Elevator ….. goin’ up!

      Cheers …. Joe

  3. Wonderful pictures of a wonderful Sunday 30 years ago this weekend! Thanks for preserving the memories — and the beautiful shots of Ari!

  4. Hey Man , Great pics ,great memories . Hell yea I’ll buy your book at any price. FYI I have an Original Giant Only American Appearance Red Star poster. been on my wall for 30 years and it pains me to say I am about to sell it (Hard Times) . this is the first i’ve mentioned letting it go . Anyone seriously interested in this RARE Ultimate Clash item contact me at

  5. Ok, you’ve got my e-mail! Now that you mention it, I think you’re right, i think I have met Dorothy! But not back in the day, more in “recent days”.

    I’ll look for the pic, although I’ll probably just ask Brenda if I’ve met her. And I’ll tell her hello from you, although sounds like you’re in touch through Dorothy.


  6. Yes Please ..I’d like a book!!!
    In fact I’d buy 2…there are sone great shots here..and not the usual Bob Gruen /Pennie Smith Material so Clash fans will love it..Get busy in the darkroom Joe!!
    Thanks..those backstage pics are pure magic


  7. Great photos Joe! You mention Brenda in your story – know how I knew you must’ve crossed paths even before I read your story? (I checked the photos first, then read), that one photo of Joe and Gaby on the couch in the dressing room, 1st of the backstage ones – Brenda gave me a copy of that when Joe died. She gave me lots of stuff, so we didn’t review where they came from, but now I know it’s your photo. I think it’s amazing how directly Joe looks into your camera time and time again. He must’ve liked you as a photog!

    Great photos, great story, great site!

    1. p.s. She’ll be glad to know someone she helped get into the shows is sharing his pics and stories for free on the net – I’ll be sure to tell her! You should sell prints, as you are – this is your work, it’s great, you should sell them. But it’s also super cool you’re letting us see them here, and read your stories. Maybe you’re still in touch with her, in which case she probably already knows you’re sharign these! EIther way, cool of you to do.

      1. Hey Dee …

        If you know Brenda, then you might know Dorothy as well. They are good friends. If you look at my post from the Asbury Park Shows, there’s a picture of Brenda and me walking the beach of Asbury. I don’t know why, but I always called that pict ‘The Dejection Twins’. :)

        Yeah … she’s also seen my posts on some of the Clash Fan sites, and commented there. Say hi to her for me.

        BTW … if you leave your eMail address when you leave a comment, no one sees it or can use it except me. It makes it easier for me to contact you, rather than posting here & hoping you come back.

        Thanks for stopping by.

Leave a Reply