The Clash as young rebels, and entering the Hall of Fame
What do you do next after you've been in one of the most celebrated bands on the planet? Become a chiropractor.
By Sean Coughlan
BBC News Magazine
You've played the biggest stadiums, you've had Bob Dylan, Jack Nicholson and Eddie Murphy coming backstage to pay tribute. Rolling Stone magazine says your records are in the top 10 of all time. So where do you go now?
Terry Chimes, drummer with the Clash, literally turned his back on rock and roll - and became a chiropractor in Essex. His stage appearances are now limited to motivational seminars for doctors.
So how did he get from playing in a band to the treatment table?
A painting by the Clash's Paul Simonon is in Chimes' kitchen
"I felt it was time to completely change - and over the time I'd been a musician, I'd already become a non-drinking, non-smoking, non-drug-taking vegetarian who does yoga."
And that's not mentioning the triathlons.
"People say how can you prefer treating patients to being on stage in front of 100,000 people? But if you can get someone healthy, there's a satisfaction in that which is much more profound."
Instead of being an ex-rocker "always looking at their scrapbooks", the 51-year-old, who also played with Black Sabbath, is writing a book about well-being and health.
The story of the Clash has been in the news again with the publication of Redemption Song, a biography of the band's front man, Joe Strummer, written by music journalist, Chris Salewicz.
1976 to 1986, albums included The Clash, London Calling, Sandinista
Joe Strummer died in 2002
His favourite song: White Man in Hammersmith
Chimes replaced on drums by Topper Headon
Paul Simonon now a painter
Mick Jones now a record producer
Chimes was in the drummer's seat when the Clash started. He left after the ground-breaking first album, returning for the big stadium tours at the end of the band's career.
A self-taught musician, he joined the band before they even had a name, meeting up 30 years ago with Strummer, Mick Jones and Paul Simonon.
"When I met them, they were like a gang. They looked different, they were wearing clothes that no one else was wearing," he says.
But what really set them apart was the idea that it wasn't just about music, but about radical politics and an alternative lifestyle.
"It took on a life of its own. It was like joining a cult. I wanted to enjoy
playing music - and they wanted to suffer. It was serious from the moment
you got up in the morning, until the moment you went to sleep."
Fight for a cause
This intensity was a trademark of their live performances - Chimes says his hands used to bleed during a show.
Strummer's performances were particularly manic, described in the new biography as being "like a man possessed, veins bulging, in an almost transcendental state, like he was speaking in tongues".
Strummer then played with the Mescaleros
Chimes says this was also a reflection of the unhappiness that dogged Strummer off stage.
"He didn't let himself be happy. The problem with Joe was that he'd feel
guilty if he was comfortable. You'd be on a sun lounger by a hotel pool
having a drink and in five minutes he'd get distinctly uneasy and say we
should be doing something more purposeful.
"He had a vision that his life should be about helping people, doing
meaningful, profound things. He thought he should be out there fighting for
And with the band's huge commercial success - particularly in the United States - it became even more of a challenge not to get sucked into the rock circus.
The west London-based Clash were influenced by local reggae music
Chimes says that when the Beach Boys came across the Clash, what most appalled them about the English punk rockers was that they were still carrying their own suitcases.
And he recalls Strummer's horror when he discovered that a safety-conscious Volvo taking them to a gig had the child-locks fastened - so "it looked like Joe Strummer had a chauffeur to open the doors for him".
Chimes left the Clash for a second time 1983, when the feuding and in-fighting made it difficult to carry on. "I wasn't enjoying it, so I stopped."
When he decided to retrain as a chiropractor, he didn't tell anyone else on
the course that he'd been in a band. "I didn't tell them in case they thought I was a crackpot," he says.
But then Should I Stay Or Should I Go was re-released and went to number one - and the other students spotted him in the video. "Then they thought I was even more weird for not talking about it."
Does he miss the old days?
Not at all, he says. The chiropractor and alternative therapy business has
boomed, with his firm becoming one of the biggest in Europe. And he's more interested in spiritual matters, saying how important his Catholic faith is to him now.
It's a long, long way from the Clash's angry songs that used to terrify the tabloids.
Terry Chimes: "Time to completely change"
But the band's reputation shows no sign of disappearing and Strummer's legacy is taking unexpected routes.
Strummer was one of the first performers to make his tours
carbon neutral, and was instrumental in promoting the idea of carbon
offsetting. There's a forest planted in his memory on the Isle of Skye.
He is also remembered through a music charity, Strummerville the forthcoming Babyshambles single will be a fundraiser. This summer saw a Strummercamp music festival in his memory. There's even a train named after him.
Salewicz, a veteran reporter of the fickleness of rock reputations,
says the Clash are now ensconced in the top three of the most influential
UK bands, alongside the Beatles and Rolling Stones. "They haven't really faded away, if anything their stature has grown."
And if their backs are getting a bit stiff, they know where to get help.
Add your comments on this story, using the form below.
My brother-in-law Anton is a classical musician, and when he and my sister still lived in London he told me that he was chatting to his chiropractor one day and the conversation went something like this:
Chiropractor: So, what do you do for a living?
Anton: I'm a musician.
Chiropractor: Oh really? I used to be a musician too.
Anton: Yeah? What did you do?
Chiropractor: I used to be the drummer in The Clash.
Anton: *falls off table*
The thing is, he's always making up stupid stories to wind us up, and so I was never really sure whether to believe him. Huh. Turns out he was telling the truth.
Darren Brierton, Edinburgh
Good luck to Terry.The Clash were and still are one of the most influential and magnificent bands to take the stage, God bless you Joe and all you stood for. You walked the walk and talked the talk. You changed mine and a lot of other peoples life for the better.
Dave Lynch, Merseyside
My earliest memory of Terry was his pseudonym - "Tory Crimes". I had a post-gig session with him and the rest of the band in Brixton on the "Know Your Rights" tour and found them all to be deeply passionate about their beliefs, having a lengthy in-depth discussion with Mick about the problems here in N. Ireland. More power to ye, Terry.
Michael McGreevy, Belfast
I was one of the lucky fans who met Joe Strummer a number of times over the years. He influenced the path I took in life. When I told him that I was of all things joining the police he did not scoff but told me that I would make it good because I would be different from most of my colleagues. Twenty-three years later I am still in the police and still listen to The Clash. Everyone follows their own path in life, just as Terry has, but some people help you on that path, that was Joe Strummer.
Red Man, Portsmouth
Good on you, Terry. Great story. There's life after rock 'n' roll. From beating drums to healing hands. A different rhythm. The journey from angry mind to healing heart is inspiring, a journey most people are longing in their heart to take.
Udo Erasmus, Vancouver, Canada
I've always loved the song London Calling, but was never a real Clash fan. However, I am a fan of Terry Chimes. He is mine and my children's chiropractor and is extremely good at his job. I was amazed to discover that I was being treated by a celebrity as he is never boastful of his past exploits. He is a genuine nice guy and certainly looks different to his punk rocker days. Thanks for curing my bad back and for keeping me and my children healthy.
Margaret Darlow, London
I loved the Clash's music too, but was far less impressed by Strummer's political posturing. He may have felt guilty about sipping drinks by a pool (no working class bloke ever would) but what he felt most guilty about was being a middle class baording school boy. Still, the music IS great, apart from the second, fourth and final albums.
Mark Tunstall, Manchester
We 'inadvertantly' walked in through the stage door at the Playhouse in Edinburgh around 1980 just as The Clash were doing a soundcheck. One of the experiences of my life. Better still ,after the soundcheck we shared a bottle of Vodka with Joe and Topper.......before the Playhouse management turfed us out on our ears !
I don't know how good a drummer Terry was with the Clash, but I can vouch for him being a very good chiropractor.
Neill Keen, South Woodford, London
Terry Chimes was always a bit of an outcast - he never really fitted in, in the same way that Ian "Stu" Stewart never fitted into the Stones. But I remeber Joe saying once he was gutted when Terry left after the first album and "wanted to hit him with a spade"! I saw Terry at Hanley Victoria Hall in 1982 - he played magnificently and during the difficult middle bit on Rock the Casbah he was absolutely awesome - with Joe frantically trying to get the lightman to illuminate Terry so we could all see how superbly he was playing. Good times, and good luck to someone who had the balls to up sticks (no pun intended) and follow his own, non rock and roll dream.
What an amazing story! It's always intriguing to hear Where Are They Now type updates on what our musical heroes are doing today.
The Clash in all its guises has a huge place in the heart of British rock and roll.
Clair Chapman, Crewe, Cheshire
Having loved the Clash since I saw them on kids tv (I think it may have been Tiswas) when I was 8 years old, it's always great to hear of the current career opportunities of former members. Unfortunately, I was too young to have seen them perform live, but I still regularly listen to all their albums. Forget the Beatles and the Stones, the Clash were simply the greatest garage band of all time. The last gang in town!
John Crookes, Walthamstow
I remember well the Clash starting out and realising straight away that they where one of those bands that are just 'meant to be' it always makes me giggle when i think of how much material from those 'former' years is used to sell consumer products to young people today, is that The Only Ones i just heard on the telly! Joe Strummer was the 'geniune' article and i'm sure Terry Chimes is as good a chiropractor as he was (is) drummer.
Murray Charles Hobson, Stockport
..so where's Topper Headon now?
Pedro, West London
As a chiropractor and long time fan of The Clash growing up in London, this story is exciting to read. Rock on, Terry!
Ted, Los Angeles
For me the first two clash LPs are essential, along with the Pistols they changed Britain and its music scene forever, they tore down boundaries with political songs and and an intensity only early Jam could get close to. I'm off to play "safe european home" and educate my kids (again).
The Clash wrote angry songs marked by their intelligence. They turned on generations of music fans to political issues that might otherwise have been ignored. The music they created has become stronger over the years and is even more fondly remembered (and embraced by new listeners) because they never reformed for the filthy lucre of an ageing rocker stadium tour.
Mark Kobayashi-Hillary, London
The Clash were one of the most influential bands to affect my life. Every time I hear a Clash song it still sounds as freash and new as the first time i heard it. London Calling is in my opinion, one of the best albums of all time.
Peter Martin, London
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