Sheppard got the experience out of his system by moving to California, then back to Britain. But nothing clicked until the Clash fired Mick Jones in the fall of 1983; Sheppard and Vince White won the chance to fill his considerable shoes. The revamped Clash toured America and Europe from January to May 1984. Sessions followed in early 1985 for the album that eventually became Cut the Crap. The album's piecemeal assembly marked one of Sheppard's strangest experiences. Manager Bernard Rhodes called the production shots, while his liberal remix policy rendered songs barely recognizable to the rank and file who'd recorded them. (Pete Howard found his thunderous percussive skills benched in favor of the infamous clattering drum machine that infuses the album.) Ironically, Cut the Crap's brightest hour ("This Is England") reached a number 16 U.K. position on the eve of the band's demise. "I remember sitting in a different city watching it, thinking, 'There isn't a band,'" Sheppard said, laughing. The resulting howls of critical derision convinced frontman Joe Strummer to fold the band.
Sheppard regrouped in 1986 with Gareth Sager (the Pop Group, Rip, Rig & Panic) in Head, a bluesier, funkier outfit than his resumé might have indicated. The group's three albums made little impact, although Head is now belatedly acknowledged as a forerunner of today's trip-hop scene. Sheppard next worked with longtime compadre Koozie Johns in Shot, which signed with IRS in 1991, and even boasted label head Copeland as its manager; however, the band's recordings never saw the light of day there. Fed up with what he regarded as an increasingly constricted homegrown music scene, Sheppard moved to Australia in 1993, where his guitar found a home in colorfully monikered bands like Heavy Smoker and the New Egyptian Kings. In July 2002, Sheppard was tipped as a guest guitarist on a Japanese tour with Johns' new band, Sinnerstar. Although the outing was canceled, the pair made plans to work together again. ~ Ralph Heibutzki, Rovi