Why was The Clash's 1977 debut album not released in the United States until two years later? Put bluntly by Epic Records A&R man Bruce Harris, the album's production quality was more in line with an "amateur act" and would "fail miserably" if released. "The band's live performance is many times better than what is on this record," Harris told punk fan Paul Dougherty in a newly unearthed letter (via Dangerous Minds), "and one has to question the artistic integrity of creating an inferior sounding album."
Harris comes off as a genuine booster of punk in the letter, referencing his favorite groups (The Vibrators, the Adverts, Blondie), and stresses that he has a "very deep interest in making punk rock happen in the U.S. but I believe that only the finest quality product (like the Sex Pistols album) can achieve that end."
Indeed, Harris wanted the fan to know he thought Joe Strummer and company had immense quality -- "which is evident in the overwhelming lyrics, the blistering music and the feverish performance" -- but that the band's raw talent "is not at all matched by the level of production which is an enormous drawback."
The letter was written in late 1977 in response to Dougherty's frustration that the album, which had already debuted in the U.K. via Epic's parent company CBS, hadn't found distribution in the U.S. A modified version of the album would eventually be released in the States in 1979... by Harris' own Epic Records.
Here's a screenshot of the letter and read it below.
Rolling Stone publishes the Epic Records rejection letter sent to The Clash in response to their self-titled debut :) pic.twitter.com/nacW3HyNKl— Sean Luther Hall (@SeanLutherHall) June 15, 2015