Cross post from my livejournal
Born in Bromley, England on May 30, 1955, Nicholas Bowen Headen got the nickname “Topper” for resembling Mickey the Monkey from the Topper comic. He is a British rock and roll drummer, who is most well known for his work in The Clash. Another name that he has been given to him (by record producer Sandy Pearlman) is “The Human Drum Machine”, due to his failsafe timing and drumming technique and skills.
Although not born there, he spent most of his early childhood in Crockenhill. At an early age is when he began playing drums, but he was actually primarily a jazz fan with one of his strong influences being Billy Cobham. However, he never played for a jazz band, in fact, his first band when he was 18 was called Mirkwood. They opened for many major acts like Supertramp. It did not last more than a year and a half though, he thereafter played with a small group that opened for The Temptations, the American R&B legends. He actually falsely claimed to literally playing with The Temptations on stage, although he later admitted that it was a fabrication.
Although Headon’s original plan was to use The Clash in order to gain experience and earn a reputation as a drummer before he moved on to bigger and better projects, he soon realized that The Clash had a full potential that would bring them to the top. Instead of quitting after establishing his reputation, he remained with The Clash for a full four years, putting out albums like “Give ‘Em Enough Rope” in 1978, “London Calling” in 1979, “Sandinista!” in 1980, and “Combat Rock” in 1982. He also appeared in numerous landmark singles that The Clash recorded during their early years as a band. The singer/guitarist Joe Strummer from the Clash was quoted saying that Headon’s drumming skills were a vital part of the band and it’s success.
Despite the good things, there are always those bad things that end up occurring on the inside of everything. Headon had an addiction to heroin, and the fellow band members did not approve of it and therefore tensions began to sore high. Headon decided to leave the band for good in the May of 1982, when they had just begun their Combat Rock tour.
Once he left The Clash, he wanted to focus on a solo album of his own, but first was considered as a possible drummer for the band Big Audio Dynamite. Of course, Headon followed his own path and recorded his solo album entitled Waking Up in 1986. Since then, he has appeared in other singles, as well as a documentary film about Joe Strummer’s death in which he stated, “It’s taken Joe’s death to make me realize just how big The Clash was. 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 100%.”