Basic Background Info

Birth: May 30, 1955
Location: Bromely, Kent, England
Band: The Clash, Topper Headon
Genres: Jazz, Soul, R&B, Rock, Punk, Reggae
Instruments: Drums, Percussion, Bass Guitar, Piano
Occupation: Musician


Nicholas "Topper" Bowen Headon, considered by many to be one of the best punk rock drummers of the 1970s and 80s, never intended to stay with The Clash. Topper Headon's plan was simple: "Get me [sic] name known, and then move onto something good." Looking back now, it would be hard to imagine what would have happened to The Clash without Topper Headon. As said by Clash frontman Joe Strummer, "We would have been absolutely lost if it wasnít for Topper Headon." An avid fan of jazz and soul, Topper Headon began drumming at a young age. Soon he found himself in various local bandsóone of which opened for The Temptations (though he often lied and said he himself played on stage with the R&B group).

In 1977, The Clash was between the recording and release of their first album. At that point, the band had achieved a degree of success and even cut a deal with Epic Records, but they could not seem to hold onto a drummer. Informed of the tryouts by an acquaintance (who also knew guitarist Mick Jones), Topper Headon auditioned his talents and was offered a position in the band. Topper Headon accepted the invitation to join, but told himself that he would be leaving the following year. But before too long, The Clash's range of styles and fiercely political lyrics eventually convinced Headon that The Clash was the band to be in.

In 1978, The Clash recorded Give 'Em Enough Rope. After witnessing Topper Headon's tireless drumming and flawless timing, producer Sandy Pearlman gave Headon his second nickname, "The Human Drum Machine." Topper Headon also has recording credits on London Calling (1979), Sandinista! (1980), and Combat Rock (1982), which contains The Clash's biggest hit, "Rock the Casbah." 

Despite his musical skill, an ongoing heroine addiction strained Topper Headon's relationship with the rest of the band. Unable to kick the habit, Topper Headon left the group on May 10, 1982, in the middle of the Combat Rock tour. The Clash re-hired original drummer Terry Chimes to complete the tour. Although "Rock the Casbah" was almost entirely written, composed, and performed by Headon on the studio album, it is Chimes who appears as drummer in the music video, a fact that Topper Headon admitted drove him deeper into depression.

Guitarist Mick Jones was dismissed from The Clash a year later. He briefly considered collaborating with Topper Headon for his post-Clash project (Big Audio Dynamite), but Topper Headon's continuing addiction caused the deal to fall through. Three years later, Topper Headon released his solo effort, Waking Up (1986), as well as a few other miscellaneous recordings, but they all went largely unnoticed. Soon after, Headon found himself in jail on drug supplying charges.

Since jail and drug rehab, Topper Headon has appeared in two documentaries, Westway to the World and Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten. Topper Headon continues to play small gigs. On January 11, 2008, Topper Headon joined Mick Jones's new band Carbon/Silicon on stage during a rendition of "Train in Vain (Stand by Me)" and an encore of "Should I Stay or Should I Go." It was the first time in twenty-six years that Headon and Jones shared the stage.


Album Year Album Name Album Band
1979 Clash The Clash
1979 London Calling The Clash
1980 Sandinista! The Clash
1981 Short Back and Sides Ian Hunter
1981 This Is Radio Clash The Clash
1982 Combat Rock The Clash
1986 Waking Up Topper Headon
1989 Better Late Than Never, 1980-1983 Bush Tetras
1991 Clash on Broadway The Clash
1991 Singles The Clash
1992 Into the 80's The Clash
1994 Holy Soul Jelly Roll: Poems & Songs Allen Ginsberg
1994 Super Black Market Clash The Clash
1995 Boom in the Night Bush Tetras
1995 Short Back 'n' Sides...Plus Long Odds & Outtakes Ian Hunter
1997 Tetrafied Bush Tetras
1999 From Here to Eternity: Live The Clash
1999 Rock: Train Kept a Rollin' Various Artists
2000 Clash/London Calling/Combat Rock The Clash
2003 Essential Clash The Clash
2003 New York Noise Various Artists
2003 What a Girl Wants Original Soundtrack
2004 Clash on Broadway The Clash
2004 Collection: The Clash/London Calling/Combat Rock The Clash
2004 London Calling The Clash
2005 Sandinista! The Clash
2006 Fabriclive.28 Evil Nine
2006 Singles The Clash
2007 The Future Is Unwritten Joe Strummer
2007 Combat Rock/London Calling The Clash
2012 Great British Albums Various Artists
2013 The Complete Studio Albums The Clash
2013 Sound System The Clash


  • Headon received the nickname "Topper" because of the apparent similarity his visage shared with Mickey the Monkey, a "cover star" comic in Topper comics magazine.
  • After experiencing serious back in 2003, Headon was diagnosed with hyperkyphosis, a forward curvature of the spine, and then underwent intensive corrective treatment.

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