THE CLASH ON SUNDAYS (6)

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Disc 6 is (White Man) In Hammersmith Palais.

How appropriate that this should be slated for inclusion on Valentine’s Day as it is the song by The Clash that I am most in love with.  It’s a song that features highly in my all time list of singles and I’ll be saying a bit more in that particular series in due course.

It’s also got a belter of a b-side.

mp3 : The Clash – (White Man) In Hammersmith Palais
mp3 : The Clash – The Prisoner

I’ll leave the majority of words today to those who contributed essays to the singles boxset.

(WHITE MAN) IN HAMMERSMITH PALAIS : Released 16 June 1978 : #32

The Clash’s first album always sounded a bit rough to me. It was only when I saw the band live on their “Out Of Control” tour that I found out how potent they could be. It was October 21st 1977 in Trinity College Dublin and it was way more than just a gig. This was a tribal gathering and it had a seismic impact on the Dublin subculture.

White Man In Hammersmith Palais came out June 16th 1978. It was the first Clash song that drew influence from the reggae music of their “front-line” Notting Hill Gate neighbourhood. It was also the first song that really revealed the bands political depth. Written after a disappointing reggae gig at the Hammersmith Palais featuring seminal Jamaican stars Dillinger, Leroy Smart and Delroy Wilson, it mocks both the gun-toting braggarty of the reggae artists and the shallow attention seeking UK punk rockers for missing the real danger; the rise of the neo-Nazi movement.

Maybe more interesting than the political message was the evidence it gave us of a new-found musical ambition that set The Clash apart from their punk rock peers. This was one of the greatest bands of all time coming into their own.

The Edge, U2

Has anyone else ever managed to combine great tunes with such ferocious moralising? Dylan, in his early years, possibly, although Dylan pinched a lot of his tunes from elsewhere. It wasn’t just that Joe Strummer made you believe his outrage; he made you share it too. I have listened to this song hundreds of times and I’m still not entirely sure how he gets us from a reggae show at the Palais to Adolf Hitler in a limousine. I do know, however, that by the time you get to the fantastic, soaring finger-pointing last verse, you’re willing to leave your job and your family in order to right any wrong that Joe tell you to. The irony is that the Four-Tops-stage-right showmanship that Strummer bemoans is replicated, in part, by Mick Jones’ pop sensibilities – that’s why we’re all still listening now. This is a great single by one of England’s two or three greatest-ever bands.

Nick Hornby, novelist (High Fidelity, About A Boy, Fever Pitch)

11 thoughts on “THE CLASH ON SUNDAYS (6)

  1. This was it for me for a very long time. Another song, featuring, as Nick Hornby so cynically put it, Mick Jone’s pop sensibilities, would take it’s perch as my favorite Clash song a few year later. By the way, this is “the Pink Single” I mentioned earlier. Of course JC, you found a pic of the Yellow sleeve which pretty much destroys my attempt at any reference…

  2. Believe it or not, I even have (all?) four copies, all differently coloured, framed, on my wall … which just shows what a twerp I am, I suppose!

  3. Yeah, it’s my favourite too. My most played song of all time. Love it so much I want it played at my funeral. Hopefully that won’t be for a while yet!

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