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After Combat Rock, the Clash began to disintegrate. Headon was asked to leave the band just before the album's release because heroin addiction was damaging his health and drumming.[77][78] Chimes was brought back to drum for the next few months. The loss of Headon, well-liked by the others, exposed growing friction within the band. Jones and Strummer began to feud. The band opened for the Who on a leg of their final tour in the US, including a show at New York's Shea Stadium.

Though the Clash continued to tour, tension continued to increase. In early 1983, Chimes left the band after the Combat Rock Tour because of in-fighting and turmoil. He was replaced by Pete Howard for the US Festival in San Bernardino, California, which the Clash co-headlined, along with David Bowie and Van Halen. The band argued with the event's promoters over inflated ticket prices, threatening to pull out unless a large donation was made to a local charity. The group ultimately performed on 28 May, the festival's New Music Day, which drew a crowd of 140,000. After the show, members of the band brawled with security staff.[79] This was Jones' last appearance with the group: in September 1983, he was fired. Shortly thereafter, he became a founding member of General Public, but left that band as they were recording their first album.

Nick Sheppard, formerly of the Bristol-based band the Cortinas, and Vince White were recruited as the Clash's new guitarists. Howard continued as the drummer. The reconstituted band played its first shows in January 1984 with a batch of new material and launched into the self-financed Out of Control Tour, travelling widely over the winter and into early summer. At a striking miners' benefit show ("Scargill's Christmas Party") in December 1984, they announced that a new album would be released early in the new year.

The recording sessions for Cut the Crap were chaotic, with manager Bernard Rhodes and Strummer working in Munich. Most of the music was played by studio musicians, with Sheppard and later White flying in to provide guitar parts. Struggling with Rhodes for control of the band, Strummer returned home. The band went on a busking tour of public spaces in cities throughout the UK, playing acoustic versions of their hits and popular cover tunes.

After a concert in Athens, Strummer went to Spain to clear his mind. While he was abroad, the first single from Cut the Crap, the mournful "This Is England", was released to mostly negative reviews. "CBS had paid an advance for it so they had to put it out", Strummer later explained. "I just went, 'Well fuck this', and fucked off to the mountains of Spain to sit sobbing under a palm tree, while Bernie had to deliver a record."[80] However, critic Dave Marsh later championed "This Is England" as one of the top 1001 rock singles of all time.[81]The single has also received retroactive praise from Q magazine and others.

"This Is England", much like the rest of the album that came out later that year, had been drastically re-engineered by Rhodes, with synths and football-style chants added to Strummer's incomplete recordings. Although Howard was an adept drummer, drum machines were used for virtually all of the percussion tracks. For the remainder of his life, Strummer largely disowned the album,[78] although he did profess that "I really like 'This Is England' and [album track] 'North and South' is a vibe."[80] In early 1986, the Clash disbanded. Strummer later described the group's end: "When the Clash collapsed, we were tired. There had been a lot of intense activity in five years. Secondly, I felt we'd run out of idea gasoline. And thirdly, I wanted to shut up and let someone else have a go at it."[82]

This period of disintegration, featuring interviews with members of the Clash, is the subject matter of Danny Garcia's book and film, The Rise and Fall of the Clash.[83]