He joined the Clash in 1977 and became famed for his drumming skills. He was dismissed in 1982 because of his drug use. He received his nickname owing to his resemblance to Mickey the Monkey from the Topper comic.
Headon spent his early childhood in Crockenhill, northwest Kent, before attending Dover Grammar School for Boys. He started playing drums at an early age and was a jazz fan, citing Billy Cobham as a strong influence. In 1973, he joined the cult progressive rock outfit Mirkwood. He appeared with them for a year and a half, and they supported major acts such as Supertramp. He later played with a band which opened for American R&B legends the Temptations and admits to falsely claiming that he played with the Temptations.
Originally Headon joined the Clash in 1977 with the intention of establishing a reputation as a drummer before moving on to other projects, but he soon realised their full potential and remained with them for four-and-a-half years. Headon appeared on the albums Give 'Em Enough Rope (1978), The Clash (1979 US version), London Calling (1979), Sandinista! (1980) and Combat Rock (1982), as well as several landmark singles the Clash recorded during their early period. Also of note are his lead vocal on "Ivan Meets G.I. Joe" from Sandinista and his work on the hit single "Rock the Casbah" from Combat Rock, on which Headon composed most of the music and played drums, piano and bass guitar. He also appeared on Super Black Market Clash (1993), which included B-sides from the band's single releases.
Clash singer/guitarist Joe Strummer is quoted as saying Headon's drumming skills were a vital part of the band. Tensions rose between Headon and his fellow band members due to his addiction, and he left the band on 10 May 1982, at the beginning of the Combat Rock tour. The band covered up the real reason for Headon's departure, the apparent growing use of heroin, claiming Headon's exit was due to exhaustion.
In a later interview for the rockumentaryThe Clash: Westway to the World, he apologized for his addiction and speculated that, had he not been asked to leave the Clash, the band might have lasted longer and might possibly still be together. He also lamented the fact that the best known Clash line-up had been considering a reunion at the time of Strummer's death, after the positive reunion during the Westway to the World rockumentary.
During the late 1980s Headon drove mini-cabs to finance his heroin addiction, and later busked on the London Underground with bongo drums.
After a live show in 2002, he was informed of the death of Clash frontman Joe Strummer. An emotional Headon stated:
It's taken Joe's death to make me realise just how big the Clash were. We were a political band and Joe was the one who wrote the lyrics. Joe was one of the truest guys you could ever meet. If he said 'I am behind you', then you knew he meant it 100 percent.
Headon was extensively interviewed for the Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten documentary film about the late Clash frontman, which was released in 2007. In this documentary Headon related his experiences during this period, how he became addicted to heroin and how there were problems before his dismissal. Headon also stated that seeing the video of "Rock the Casbah" with "someone else (Terry Chimes) in my place playing my song" caused him to fall in even greater depression and heavier drug addiction.
In a February 2008 newspaper article Headon revealed that in 2003 he started to experience serious back pain, a frequent complaint of ageing rock drummers. Diagnosed with hyperkyphosis, a forward curvature of the back, he underwent intense posture adjustment treatment and continues to exercise daily. He notes that, on his recent appearance with Jones, he exhibited his new upright stance.
At some point in the 1980s, Headon contracted Hepatitis C, which, along with his alcohol intake, led to severe liver problems. Headon successfully underwent interferon treatment for his hepatitis in 2007 and became a spokesman for the Hepatitis C Trust.
The BBC featured Headon in a February 2009 feature on drumming as therapy. He shares some of his story in a brief video interview. In 2012 Headon was interviewed by fellow drummer Spike Webb, sharing stories from his years drumming for The Clash and his experience writing 'Rock The Casbah'.
In 2016, actor Alex Gold portrayed Headon in the 2016 film London Town, which tells the story of a Clash-obsessed teenager who crosses paths with Joe Strummer by happenstance in 1979 and finds his life changing as a result. The film was met with mostly negative reviews.
1 2 3 4 Prato, Greg. "Topper Headon > Biography". allmusic.com. Retrieved 12 December 2007. a) Sandy Pearlman dubbed Headon "The Human Drum Machine," due to his impeccable timing and skills. b) Headon grew up a soul and jazz fan (an early influence was ace fusion drummer Billy Cobham), and he was once a member of a local group that opened a show for The Temptations. c) Headon's original plan was to stay with the Clash for only a year – which he figured would give enough time to get his name known so he could move on to another more "suitable" group. Headon quickly realised that the group was not just a one-dimensional punk band, as they branched out and touched upon a wide variety of styles – all the while never losing sight of their original punk ideals. d) a heroin addiction had drawn a wedge between Headon and the rest of his bandmates. e) After a planned reunion with Jones (who was expelled from the Clash himself a year after Headon's dismissal) in the group Big Audio Dynamite failed to work out, Headon focused on recording a solo album.
↑ Cooke, Brandon; Pete Shelley, Tom Verlaine, Topper Headon, Hipsway, Curiosity Killed the Cat, Wet Wet Wet, Love and Money, Swing Out Sister, Zerra One (1986). Beat Runs Wild (LP recording). London: Mercury. OCLC51782857.
↑ "Celebrity Tributes to Joe Strummer". strummernews.com. Archived from the original on 18 December 2007. Retrieved 12 December 2007. It's taken Joe's death to make me realise just how big the Clash were. We were a political band and Joe was the one who wrote the lyrics. Joe was one of the truest guys you could ever meet. If he said 'I am behind you', then you knew he meant it 100 percent.
↑ Harper, Simon (12 January 2008). "The Carbon Casino – The Clash reunited! Pair jam after 25 years". Clash Music. Retrieved 15 January 2008. For the first night of their six-week residency in West London's Inn on the Green, Carbon/Silicon had promised surprises, but few had realised that meant the reunion of Mick Jones and the powerhouse drummer of The Clash, Topper Headon.
↑ "Clash members Topper Headon and Mick Jones reunite on stage". Punknews.org. 13 January 2008. Retrieved 15 January 2008. For the first time in 25 years, former Clash members Mick Jones and Topper Headon have shared the stage together. The reunion took place at Carbon/Silicon's "Carbon Casino" residency, and comes five years after Mick joined Joe Strummer on stage at the Brixton Academy.
1 2 Kenemore, Scott (21 March 2007). "All Talk and No Stick". PopMatters. Archived from the original on 25 March 2007. Retrieved 12 December 2007. a) Rock fans everywhere recognise his opening beat to the Mick Jones song "Train in Vain". A typical example of Topper’s excellent work, the beat is both catchy and deceptively complicated. b) Despite his personal failings, his contribution to the music was tremendous, and his drumming remains an undiscovered treasure for too many.
Big Audio Dynamite were an English band formed in London in 1984 by Mick Jones, the former guitarist and singer of the Clash. The band mixed various musical styles, incorporating elements of punk rock, dance music, hip hop, reggae, and funk. After releasing a number of well-received albums and touring extensively throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Big Audio Dynamite broke up in 1997. In 2011, the band embarked on a reunion tour.
The Clash were an English rock band formed in London in 1976 as a key player in the original wave of British punk rock. They also contributed to the post-punk and new wave movements that emerged in the wake of punk and employed elements of a variety of genres including reggae, dub, funk, ska, and rockabilly. For most of their recording career, the Clash consisted of lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist Joe Strummer, lead guitarist and vocalist Mick Jones, bassist Paul Simonon, and drummer Nicky "Topper" Headon. Headon left the group in 1982 and internal friction led to Jones' departure the following year. The group continued with new members, but finally disbanded in early 1986.
Terence "Terry" Chimes is an English musician, best known as the original drummer of punk rock group The Clash. He played with them from July 1976 to November 1976, January 1977 to April 1977, and again from May 1982 to February 1983. He later drummed for Hanoi Rocks in 1985, before the band broke up that same year. He briefly toured with Black Sabbath from July 1987 through December 1987, and in a one-off gig in May 1988. He also appeared as their drummer in Black Sabbath's music video for their single "The Shining" from their 1987 album The Eternal Idol.
Give 'Em Enough Rope is the second studio album by the English punk rock band the Clash. It was released on 10 November 1978 through CBS Records. It was their first album released in the United States, preceding the U.S. version of the self-titled album. The album was well received by critics and fans, peaking at number two in the United Kingdom Albums Chart, and number 128 in the Billboard 200.
Paul Gustave Simonon 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.
The 101ers were a pub rock band from the 1970s playing mostly in a rockabilly style, notable as being the band that Joe Strummer left to join The Clash. Formed in London in May 1974, the 101ers made their performing debut on 7 September at the Telegraph pub in Brixton, under the name 'El Huaso and the 101 All Stars'. The name would later be shortened to the '101 All Stars' and finally just the '101ers'. The group played at free festivals such as Stonehenge, and established themselves on the London pub rock circuit prior to the advent of punk.
Combat Rock is the fifth studio album by the English rock band the Clash. It was released on 14 May 1982 through CBS Records. In the United Kingdom, the album charted at number 2, spending 23 weeks in the UK charts and peaked at number 7 in the United States, spending 61 weeks on the chart.
"Rock the Casbah" is a song by the English punk rock band The Clash, released in 1982. The song was released as the second single from their fifth album, Combat Rock. It reached number eight on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the US and, along with the track "Mustapha Dance", it also reached number eight on the dance chart.
Michael Geoffrey Jones is a British musician, singer and songwriter best known as the lead guitarist, co-lead vocalist, co-founder and songwriter for The Clash until 1983. In 1984, he formed Big Audio Dynamite with Don Letts. Jones has played with the group Carbon/Silicon along with Tony James since 2002 and was part of the Gorillaz live band for a world tour in 2010–2011. In late 2011, Jones collaborated with Pete Wylie and members of the Farm to form the Justice Tonight Band.
"(White Man) In Hammersmith Palais" is a song by the English punk rock band the Clash. It was originally released as a 7-inch single, with the b-side "The Prisoner", on 16 June 1978 through CBS Records.
The Clash: Westway to the World is a 2000 documentary film about the British punk rock band The Clash. In 2003 it won the Grammy Award for Best Long Form Music Video.
The discography of the British punk rock band the Clash consists of six studio albums, two extended plays, two live albums and thirty-one singles.
"Complete Control" is a song by The Clash, released as a 7" single and featured on the U.S. release of their debut album.
"I'm So Bored with the U.S.A." is a song by British punk rock band the Clash, featured on their critically acclaimed 1977 debut album, which was released in the United States in July 1979 as their second album after Give 'Em Enough Rope. It was the album's third track in the original version and second in the US version.
"Tommy Gun" is a song by the British punk rock band The Clash, released as the first single from their second album Give 'Em Enough Rope (1978).
"Janie Jones" is a song by the English punk rock band the Clash. It is the opening track on their eponymous debut album (1977). The song is named after Janie Jones, who was a famous madam in London during the 1970s and had been a pop singer during the 1960s.
Peter Howard is an English rock drummer. He was a member of the Clash from 1983 until 1986.
The Clash were an English rock band that formed in 1976 as part of the original wave of British punk rock. Along with punk rock, they experimented with reggae, ska, dub, funk, rap and rockabilly. For most of their recording career, The Clash consisted of Joe Strummer, Mick Jones, and Paul Simonon, with Terry Chimes or Nicky "Topper" Headon on drums and percussion. The band features in several documentaries and other films.
"Garageland" is a song by English punk rock band The Clash featured as the final track for their 1977 debut album The Clash.