The five band "White Riot Tour" date in London turned into a real riot which cost the Rainbow over 200 seats. Although Bernie Rhodes (the Clash manager) had endeavoured to persuade the venue's management to remove the seating from the front stalls, he had been unsuccessful. Throughout the Clash's performance, pogoing fans smashed the seats to matchwood, pieces of them being passed up onto the front of the stage where the pile gradually grew larger in the orchestra pit (see backdrop). Such a punk demolition of one of rock's most sacred temples seemed more like a confirmed takeover than some attempt at mild insurrection. It was considered a major victory, and for onlookers proved hilariously funny but for some it wasn't quite so funny.
The ancient theatres could not deal with this unleashed fury. However good-natured, Punk looked scary and it resulted in damage to venues built for more refined entertainment and also bought the innevitable bannings.
And despite the way that it was conceived, in the spirit of Punk unity, contradictions became apparent early on in the tour. The Jam were to play their last gig on the 'White Riot' tour tonight over a dispute about the way that both headliners were being asked to spend money in supporting the other groups. The Jam had their own album out and a single in the charts. And of course they wanted their own headline tour. It was hardly surprising, however, that in the end the Clash - who had to pay for the smashed Rainbow seats, all 200 of them, hotel bills and a months tour schedule lost £28,000 on the tour.
WHAT THE MEDIA SAID:....
"Standing in the lobby at the Rainbow during the breaks between sets, all you could hear was the sound of plastic glasses being ground under people's heels: that was the sound of sulphate."
- Jonh Ingham (Sounds)
"I remember helping to clear the stage up after the riot. I picked up a huge piece of metal from a broken chair, this huge spike, weighed about two pounds, and it had been thrown at the stage. If it had hit anybody in the band it could have easily killed them. I kept it foryears after."
Caroline Coon (Melody Maker)
The capacity crowd remained in their seats (with encouragement from the security staff) through sets by the Prefects, Subway Sect, The Buzzcocks and the Jam. Each band receiving a more excited response than the last. Energies mounted through the last of the Jam's set and by the time they left the stage the crowd did not want to be confined to their seats. When the Clash started their show by ripping into "London's Burning," the mayhem had already begun.
WHAT THE BANDS SAID:....
"it was like good-natured vandalism."
- Pete Shelley (The Buzzcocks)
"They would have clapped anything'anyone could have done anything and they would have gone mad. They liked us best when everything went wrong, when the amps didn't work."
- Vic Godard (Subway Sect)
"We open the evening with our seven-second, two-chord number called 'VD' whose entire lyrics were 'Help me please help me I'm so weedy I've got VD please help me I'm so weedy I've got VD'. John Peel witnessed this after having apparently sat through a Genesis concert the night before during which no number lasted for less than half-an-hour."
Alan Apperly (The Prefects)