I forgive you: The Clashs drummer Topper Headon makes peace with the man who sacked him

Topper HeadonIn the late 1970s, a drummer called Topper Headon joined The Clash, the most exciting rock’n'roll band in the world. There followed five years of non-stop playing, partying and drug-taking…but by 1982, Headon’s heroin addiction was out of control, and Clash leader Joe Strummer was forced to sack him. Then things got really bad. Today, reflective and sober, he tells Mark Lucas his remarkable story.

Driver K44 sits in a deep armchair with his Staffordshire bull terrier, Yowsah, lying across his lap. Stroking the dog he recalls the mini-cabbing job he took in west London in the late 1980s to fund his heroin addiction. “I look like death,” he tells me. “I’m driving a Talbot Solara with a dodgy starter motor and I pick up this old lady. She goes to get in the car and I say, ‘Excuse me,’ and I hand her a broom. While I turn the key she has to bash the solenoid. The car starts and I go, ‘OK, get in. Here’s the A to Z – do you know where you’re going?’”

By 1989, when the mini-cabbing work became too much for him, he had taken to the London Underground, busking with a set of bongos. “Every hundred people who passed, there’d be one who’d stop and ask, ‘Are you Topper Headon from The Clash?’” He shrugs, “I’d have to say, ‘Yeah, this is what I do now.’ It was so humiliating.”

More than 20 years have passed since I last saw Nick “Topper” Headon; we were fellow drivers at a mini-cab company in Fulham, west London, where I went by the radio call-sign K42. At the time, I thought Headon had taken the state of heroin addiction to a new level; it didn’t seem possible that he could drive a car at all, let alone do it for a living. When I came across his name in the press recently, I was surprised to learn that he was still alive.

On a bright spring day, however, as I step out of Dover station, he pulls up in his customised Mini Cooper to collect me. Now 54, Headon is still small and slim. He is dressed in jeans, a striped shirt and trainers, he wears wire-rimmed glasses and his greying, spiky hair is receding. By the time we arrive back at his house, I have had a chance to adjust to how the man I knew all those years ago has been transformed in other ways, too. Where before he had the slack, cadaverous features and reduced conversational ability of the long-term heroin addict, I am now treated to his charming smile, lengthy anecdotes and frank admissions.

As if making up for his lost years, Headon is making an increasing number of appearances in the press: working with local music charities; drumming with various bands; being a spokesman for the Hepatitis C Trust, a virus that he has recently beaten. He is about to donate his beloved Mini Cooper to be raffled by the Strummerville Foundation, a charity for young musicians. To some it may seem ironic that Headon is so involved with the organisation set up in memory of The Clash’s frontman, the late Joe Strummer, the man who sacked him from one of the 20th century’s most revered rock’n'roll bands. Although already a heavy user, it was to be this event that propelled Headon into taking his heroin addiction to the next level …

[read the full Sunday Independent article]

Toppers Raffle featured in Q Magazine

Clash man raffles mini

The raffle for Topper’s near-perfect mini costs just £10 to enter with all proceeds going to Strummerville. Tickets went on sale on May 30 and are available for six weeks.

To enter or check out more pics? Go to the Strummerville website.

To help Topper with his cause we’ve also written him a classified ad:

Should you stay or should you go? Go, we’d suggest – getting there will be much easier in this gem. Better than a Brand New Cadillac, reluctant sale for a good cause; one two-tone Mini Cooper, X thousand miles on the clock, perfect for parking outside the Casbah or dropping the kids off at Hammersmith Palais. Lost In The Supermarket? No worries, ample room in the boot for groceries. It’s surprisingly nippy – just watch you don’t end up in any scrapes with the law, they usually win, and of course park safely to avoid the Clampdown…

[read full article]

Topper Headon interviewed by Huey Morgan BBC Radio 6 Music

Huey Morgan BBC6 Radio

Topper Headon interview will be on the Huey Morgan Show on BBC 6 on Sunday 14th at 3 o’clock (BST).


Uncut Magazine pick up Toppers Raffle

Toppers Raffle on Uncut Magazine

Topper Headon is selling his Mini Cooper with raffle tickets to raise money for the Strummerville charity that helps young musicians.

The Clash drummer’s car is customised and totally unique and the £10 raffle tickets are available from Saturday May 30, with the draw taking place on July 13.

[read full article]

The Clash Official Website – Win Topper Headons Mini

Raffle picked up byThe Clash official website.

Legendary Clash drummer TOPPER HEADON has donated his Mini Cooper to be raffled for Strummerville.

Starting May 30th

Topper’s Red 2-Tone customized Mini Cooper is going up for raffle on May the 30th, with all proceeds going to the charity Strummerville  Joe Strummer’s New Music Foundation.

Strummerville is a registered charity that aims to create new opportunities for aspiring musicians.

[visit The Clash website for more info]

Prefix Mag – Clash Drummer Topper Headon: Baby You Can Drive His Car

Unfortunately, skinbeater supreme Topper Headon has been the least visible Clash member in the years since the band’s demise, largely because of much-publicized drug problems, which he has seemingly overcome. But now, you can add to his list of accomplishments — which already include writing the music for “Rock the Casbah,” being hands-down the most gifted drummer of punk’s first generation, and simply sporting the name “Topper” — a personal sacrifice in the name of charity.

[read the full article]

Plantet Notion – Clash drummer donates customised Mini to Strummerville

Planet Notion failed our driving test 5 times.

Well, technically speaking it was only 4. The first time wasn’t a failure because the car broke down. It was totally out of our control.

Following that we used to come out in sweats every time we took our test. Maybe it had something to do with the examiner breathing down our neck and looking down their nose at us.

Then again, the sweats could have been brought about by our booze intake, and, if the sweats did have anything to do with the examiners, they probably acted that way because we stunk of booze.

Basically, booze let us down. Point is that we can’t drive and we probably never will do.

If you happen to drive and you happen to like original punk-band The Clash, you’ll be interested to hear of a raffle taking place as part of the charity Strummerville.

[read full article]

MSN Entertainment – Toppers Mini Raffle

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Clash drummer raffles Mini Cooper for Strummerville

The Clash drummer Topper Headon is selling his prized Mini Cooper car in aid of the Strummerville charity.

The customised motor will be sold off in a raffle to raise funds for the organisation, which aims to give young musicians a leg-up, and was set up following the death of The Clash’s frontman Joe Strummer in 2002.

Tickets cost £10, and will be available from Strummerville.com from Saturday (May 30).

Headon said of the giveaway in a statement: “This car has been my pride and joy. I had it two-tone customised and it was the first car I drove when I got clean, so you can imagine I’ve been attached to it and have loved it a lot.

[read full article]

Culture Deluxe – Topper Headons Mini Goes Up For Charity Raffle

Strummerville, a charity set up in the name of legendary Clash frontman Joe Strummer to create new opportunities for aspiring musicians, are hosting a mini-festival to promote their cause, give exposure to a host of Strummerville acts and, oh, to auction off Clash drummer Topper Headon`s pride and joy – his customised Mini Cooper.

The event takes place this Saturday (30th May) at 4pm at the Strummerville Yard, 22a Stable Way, London and features performances from Beans on Toast, Bill Coleman, Cheka, Dan Smith, Dekay, Good Times Good Times, Handshake, Illegitimate Sons Of The King, Jamie Ley, Nat Jenkins, Smokey Angel Shades, The Paperplane Pilots, The Penny Black Remedy, The Riff Raff, The Wild Wolves and The Wutars.  This showcase is guestlist only, so get your finest blagging hat on…

[read full article]

Toppers Raffle Picked up by Clash Music