Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Nicholas Bower Headon (born May 30, 1955), better known as Topper Headon, was the drummer for the British punk rock band The Clash. Before meeting Headon, the band went through several drummers, including Terry Chimes, who recorded on the UK version of the band's self-titled debut. Headon originally planned to have only a brief stay with the band, so his name would become known and he could move on. As time went on, he realized the full potential of The Clash and recorded a total of four studio and one b-side albums with them (in addition to several songs which would become the US version of the self-titled album).
In addition to his incredible skills as a drummer, Headon wrote and played the piano riff of the hit song "Rock the Casbah" from the album Combat Rock and sang lead vocals on "Ivan Meets G.I. Joe" from the album Sandinista!.
Unfortunately, tensions rose between Headon and his fellow bandmembers due to his growing addiction to heroin. Eventually it began affecting his drumming so much that the band gave him an ultimatum: kick the habit or be kicked out. Topper was unable to give up drugs and left the band at the begining of the tour in 1982. The band covered up Headon's departure, claiming it was due to political differences. Ironically, after Headon's departure the Clash rehired original drummer Terry Chimes for the tour.
After his work with the Clash, Topper went on to record a mostly unnoticed solo album. After this album Headon went to jail due to drug supplying. He went to rehab, and today is clean. Since the Clash broke up, he has rarely been heard from, with a notable exception being the Clash documentary Westway to the World, in which he is interviewed along with the other members of the band. During the movie, he speculates that his dismissal from the Clash was the beginning of the end, and had he not been kicked out, the band might have lasted longer and might possibly still be together.
Given the chance to repeat the experience, however, he states that he would probably not have made any extra effort to end his heroin addiction. Although he has mostly moved out of the public eye, he continues to play gigs; it was after one of his shows at a pub that he was informed of the death of Clash frontman Joe Strummer. He said with streaming eyes: "It's taken Joe's death to make me realise just how big The Clash were. We were a political band and Joe was the one who wrote the lyrics. Joe was one of the truest guys you could ever meet. If he said 'I am behind you', then you knew he meant it 100 per cent."
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