“Topper”Headon (The Clash)

English drummer, best known as the drummer of the punk rock band The Clash Nicholas Bowen “Topper” Headon was born 30 May 1955. known as “Topper” because of his resemblance to Mickey the Monkey from the Topper comic Topper 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, Headon 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 onto other projects, but he soon realised their full potential and remained with them for four and 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 that Headon’s drumming skills were a vital part of the band.

Sadly though He was dismissed from the band in 1982 After Tensions rose between Headon and his fellow band members due to his drug 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 rockumentary The 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.

After leaving the Clash, he was considered as drummer in Mick Jones’ post-Clash band Big Audio Dynamite and played in a short-lived group called Samurai, with bassist Pete Farndon, guitarist Henry Padovani, organist Mick Gallagher, and vocalist Steve Allen (formerly of Deaf School. Headon subsequently focused on recording a solo album Waking Up (1986). He also released a cover version of the Gene Krupa instrumental “Drumming Man” as a single, which featured Headon’s “DuKane Road” on the B-side. His own composition “Hope for Donna” was included on the Mercury Records sampler Beat Runs Wild, in the same year. During the 1980s Headon produced albums for New York band Bush Tetras. In 1989 He contributed drums to the punk rock band Chelsea’s Underwraps (1989).

Headon was interviewed for the Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten film about the late Clash frontman, which was released in 2007. In this documentary Headon related his experiences, how he became addicted to heroin and the problems before his dismissal. In 2008 he performed with Carbon/Silicon at the Carbon Casino Club in Portobello London, alongside Mick Jones, Tony James, Leo Williams and Dominic Greensmith. Headon joined the band on stage during the Clash’s “Train in Vain (Stand by Me)”. An encore followed with Headon playing drums on “Should I Stay or Should I Go”. This performance marked the first time since 1982 that Headon and Jones had performed together on stage.

Sadly Headon was diagnosed with hyperkyphosis, a forward curvature of the back, and underwent intense posture adjustment treatment and continues to exercise daily. The BBC featured Headon in a video 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

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