*Today marks a moment in history when hip hop and its anti-establishment cousin, punk rock, came together on the same New York stage in disastrous fashion.
In 1981, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five were percolating in New York with their first hit “Freedom,” and were about a year away from their massive breakthrough single “The Message.”
Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, British punk band The Clash were also just months away from reaching the height of their popularity. To promote their fourth studio album “Sandinista!” in the U.S., the band booked 8 shows at Bonds International Casino in New York City in May and June 1981. They featured a new opening act every night, and recruited Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five to open the 8-night run on May 28, 1981.
It did not go well.
Grandmaster Flash, Melle Mel and company were booed and assaulted with various objects from the crowd, who clearly did not appreciate hip hop’s shared middle finger to mainstream music. In fact, when Melle Mell beckoned the audience to “Say Ho!” the crowd yelled back, “F**k you!”
The Clash fans got so reckless that their singer/guitarist Joe Strummer had to come out and yell at them to show some respect.
Actor Steve Buscemi happened to have been there that night.
Also at Bonds on this night 40 years ago was Fatboy Slim (of “Praise You” fame), who talks about Grandmaster Flash’s influence below at the 1:49 mark.
After Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five survived their opening slot, The Clash went on to perform for the obnoxious crowd…
And Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five went on to release “The Message,” a song that historians say was the seminal bridge between the genre’s era of braggadocio and party rhymes and social commentary later cemented by Public Enemy and Boogie Down Productions.