Smith, A Bit Pissed Off, 1978
Pennie Smith was standing less than six feet away when Paul Simonon, bass-player with the Clash, smashed his guitar to pieces on stage at the Palladium in New York. She’d been on the road with the band for two weeks, photographing their first US tour, but she’d always stayed on the other side of the stage, next to lead guitarist Mick Jones.
That night, to mix it up, she switched sides and remembers Simonon suddenly spinning toward her. “He was in a really bad mood,” she says, “and that wasn’t like him.” She took a step back to get a better focus with her 35mm Pentax – and then all hell broke loose. Simonon, seething, raised his Fender Precision like an axe, turned his back to singer Joe Strummer, and brought it crashing down. “It wasn’t a choice to take the shot,” Smith says. “My finger just went off.”
The photograph immortalised Simonon’s rage in grainy black and white. It was an emotional response, he later said, to a stiff New York audience that sat all night in their seats and didn’t move. “You can’t really tell it’s Paul,” says Smith. “But I guess that’s the point.”