Tuesday, August 12, 2008


(WARNING: I feel a multi-day, Clash-themed tangent coming. So here's the first of several to come...)

I first learned about Mikey Dread after seeing a casual portrait of Don Letts made by Bob Gruen. Letts was donning a great, partially obscured graphic on his t-shirt that really caught my eye. Then, I noticed Strummer wearing an identical shirt (that's him and Futura playing Ms. Pac Man above) in several other Gruen photos;  'Dread at the Controls,' it read. At first, I just figured it was the name of Letts' radio show or something. I asked a friend about it and proceed to do some research online. I also dug deeply into some of my other Clash periodicals/reference books. Mikey Dread was a Jamaican musician/producer who first worked with the Clash in 1980, assisting with production and backing vocals on 'Bankrobber.' (I definitely put 'Bankrobber' in my top 10 favorite Clash songs). As it turned out, 'Dread at the Controls' was not name of Letts' show, but of Dreads' Jamaican-based radio show. Letts was really at the forefront of sharing and importing Jamaican roots music into London in the late 70's...

I had also heard the phrase, 'Dread at the Controls' as in lyric in 'Radio One.' It's is an obscure Clash recording, actually written by and led by Mikey Dread on vocals (and maybe Simonon on bass); released as a B-Side in 1981. I clearly concluded that I had to "bootleg" this graphic. 

I have made about 3 or 4 of these, and given most of them away to friends. I kept the execution pretty simple, just hand-cut, Bristol board stencils and some high quality aerosol. What's a little bit of work to make a 'legit' bootleg that I love to wear? (To date, nobody has 'recognized' the origin/reference of the graphic. Either my fellow Clash aren't as fanatic as I thought or I need to get out of the house more often. Maybe both.)

Unfortunately, Mikey Dread passed away earlier this year, so RIP and thanks for the inspiration; Dread at the Controls!


Anonymous said...

Cool idea, I'm also a bit obsessed with this graphic to say the least!

JRF said...

Any info you might like to share, please send me an email. I only discovered the graphic from Bob Gruen's photographs of The Clash and Don Letts.