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|Record producer, designer, manager, songwriter|
Dexys Midnight Runners
Bernard Rhodes is a fashion designer, record producer, songwriter, manager and impresario who was integral to the development of the punk rock scene in the United Kingdom during the middle 1970s. He is most associated with two of the UK's best known punk bands, the Sex Pistols and The Clash. It was Rhodes who was responsible for discovering John Lydon and arranging the audition in the King's Road for him to join the Sex Pistols. He also introduced a young Mick Jones and Paul Simonon to Joe Strummer and together with Keith Levene they formed The Clash. Rhodes was an important force behind The Clash, not only managing their business, but also handling marketing and creative direction of the band. He left the band from 1979 to 1981 to pursue other opportunities, but tensions in the band led to singer-guitarist Joe Strummer demanding (and getting) his return in 1981.
Rhodes built and then operated out of his Camden studio Rehearsal Rehearsals in what is now Camden Market. The area around the studio rapidly became a well known hangout for punks and contributed to the growth of Camden as a hip area.
Since the break-up of The Clash, Rhodes has continued to be involved in fashion design and the music industry, as well as various political and social causes.
His mother was a Russian-Jewish evacuee. She worked for Huntsman's in Saville Row making suits for Cary Grant and later Hawes & Curtis where John Pearse who co-owned Granny Takes a Trip was her apprentice.
In the early 1960s Rhodes and Pearse shared a flat at 68 Hamilton Terrace, St Johns Wood. Mick Jagger, Marc Bolan, musician Mickey Finn, the Small Faces, Guy Stevens (who Rhodes later brought in to produce The Clash) were regular visitors.
During this time he became re-acquainted with previous friend Malcolm McLaren and his girlfriend Vivienne Westwood, who were operating out of SEX boutique at 430 King's Road. Finding they shared a similar philosophy, Rhodes and McLaren went into business together collaborating on several T-shirts which were then sold in SEX.
Westwood wanted to expand the sleeveless T-shirt clothing line. Rhodes was an ideal colleague with his skill of printing and 'complex, meandering discourse threw up many new ideas."
The T-shirt You're Gonna Wake Up One Morning and Know What Side of the Bed You've Been Lying On was created and printed by Rhodes in his handwriting for the Sex boutique. McLaren explained that Rhodes idea was 'to create a dialogue.'
Rhodes has described the difference between himself and McLaren: "Malcolm [McLaren] likes to titillate but I get down to substance".
By 1975, SEX had become a hangout for a bunch of teenagers from which the Sex Pistols would emerge. Rhodes took the group under his wing while McLaren was in New York looking after the New York Dolls.
Original Sex Pistols member Glen Matlock describes Rhodes contribution as making them understand the importance of being clear cut. 'He (Rhodes) had a real ability for making people decide exactly what they were trying to do.'
John Lydon states that he was wearing a 'I Hate Pink Floyd' T-shirt when he was spotted by Rhodes on the Kings Road who insisted he meet McLaren, Steve Jones and Paul Cook in the local Roebuck pub that evening. After this get together, Rhodes had Lydon come back to the shop to audition for the role of singer.
Lydon says that Rhodes "was important to me in so many ways...He would indicate to me where the problems with the Pistols would be in the future. He would sow a seed and then wait to see if I would pick up on it.
After his offer to co-manage Sex Pistols was rejected by McLaren, Rhodes was instrumental in The Clash's formation in 1976.
Mick Jones was wearing one of Rhodes' Wake Up T-shirts when he approached Rhodes after a Sex Pistols gig thinking he was a keyboard player. They started talking about groups and the relationship was the starting point for what would eventually become The Clash.
Joe Strummer credits Rhodes as his mentor, stating "He constructed The Clash and focused our energies and we repaid him by being really good at what we did". Rhodes told them to write about social issues occurring at the time, i.e., the housing problems, lack of education, dead-end futures.
Strummer said that Rhodes was the only one who understood how one should go about getting known.
Rhodes called his friend Guy Stevens in to produce the Polydor recordings in 1977. The group later used Stevens to produce London Calling. He also sought out Lee 'Scratch' Perry to produce the single "Complete Control".
On 25 January 1977, Rhodes signed The Clash to CBS Records and Maurice Oberstein who promised to allow the group to do what they wanted on record and CBS would promote it. After a couple of albums, including their first, which Rhodes helped produce with Mickey Foote, he felt the group were drifting away from their street ideals and they parted company in late 1978.
The intro to The Specials' version of "Gangsters" begins with the line: "Bernie Rhodes knows: don't argue!"
Dexys Midnight Runners' single "Dance Stance" was released in 1979 on the Oddball Productions label owned by Rhodes . Rhodes later signed the group to EMI Records.
The first album by Subway Sect, What's the Matter Boy, was also released by Oddball in 1980.
Sean McLusky states that Rhodes gave him a break at Club Left in 1981 and then got a deal and success for his band JoBoxers, who enjoyed mainstream success on both sides of the Atlantic with their single "Just Got Lucky". McLusky says, "Bernard never got the credit for things that were his. He has been the undefined force".
Strummer said if Rhodes did not come back and manage The Clash he would quit.
Once back, Rhodes decided to remix "Magnificent 7". A 12" single dance remix, "Magnificent Dance" was released on 12 April 1981. Production was credited to "Pepe Unidos", a pseudonym for Strummer, Rhodes and Paul Simonon. Pepe Unidos also produced "The Call Out", a re-mix of "The Call Up".
Mick: 'Bernie came back on the scene because people thought that we'd gotten out of control and the first thing he wanted to do was book us for seven nights in New York'.
The residency at Bonds NYC in the first two weeks of June 1981 was organised by Rhodes on his return as manager of The Clash. Support acts included Grandmaster Flash, The Sugarhill Gang, Dead Kennedys, Bad Brains, Texan bad boy Joe Ely, Lee Perry and Funkapolitan.
Rhodes states that it was because of these Bonds NYC shows that the public became more interested in hip-hop. "I endeavoured to get these guys on like Grandmaster Flash; not that most of the audience liked them but that led to a helluvalot".
The record company were not behind the triple album Sandinista! recorded in Rhodes's absence but Kosmo Vinyl states that with the Bonds NYC residency, The Clash "clawed their way back into the Premiership".
Paul Simonon states that Rhodes was not aware that Mick Jones was going to be sacked nor in favour of the action. Simonon states that Jones believed Rhodes to be responsible and did not find out until the Rock Hall of Fame induction.
After Jones was sacked, Strummer and Simonon held blind auditions to recruit two new guitarists. Strummer states they auditioned somewhere near 350 guitarists and found Nick in the first batch, Vince in the second.
According to guitarist Vince White, the working title of The Clash's last album, Cut the Crap, released in 1985, was Out of Control. The title was changed by Rhodes shortly before its release. Rhodes also produced the album under the name of 'Jose Unidos'. He co-wrote all of the songs with Strummer.
In 1990, Rhodes relocated from Los Angeles to Atlanta, Georgia where Doug Watts, the lead singer of a black metal band Naked Truth asked him for help. Rhodes brought in a new bass player and rehearsed the band over several months. Rhodes independently produced the album Green with Rage. He then signed the band to Sony Records.
In May 2007, Rhodes caused controversy at London's St Martins College, when he was accused of using the word 'niggers' during a speech he was giving about street fashion. In a published interview directly after the event, Rhodes stated that: 'calling me a racist is like calling Margaret Thatcher a Marxist'.
In April 2010, Rhodes also caused controversy at his friend Malcolm McLaren's funeral when he accused Vivienne Westwood of "being part of the Establishment" before going onto the platform to deliver his own eulogy: "If we're not careful we're going to turn Malcolm into John Lennon, into a saint. Malcolm was no saint."
At the after funeral gathering, Rhodes and Westwood were photographed chatting happily by celebrity photographer Richard Young.
In her recent autobiography, Westwood comments on the funeral saying Rhodes was quite justified in what he said, she was talking too much about herself and her ideas.
He has designed a biker range of T-shirts for Lewis Leathers.