Disc 8 is Hitsville UK.

An unashamed tribute to Tamla Motown, from the opening few bars that rip off You Can’t Hurry Love through a bass line that Holland/Dozier/Holland and Smokey Robinson would equally be proud of, to the title which apes the Hitsville USA marketing slogan closely associated with the Detroit years of the label.

Trouble is, it’s not really very good is it?  It’s certainly not worthy of most of the other singles that had gone beforehand and in many ways represents much of what was wrong with Sandinista, the triple album that had been released at the end of 1980.  I know I’m probably in a minority, but I was never a fan of the album, albeit it does contain a reasonable number of decent songs.  It was almost as if the band wanted to put out six sides of vinyl at minimal cost as a two-fingered salute to CBS and also to demonstrate to their fan base how little the idea of making money appealed to the greatest of rock’n’roll bands.

Hitsville UK features a vocal from Ellen Foley, who was Mick’s girlfriend at the time.  It’s hard to imagine nowadays the furore this caused at the time (the vocal…..not the relationship!!) as she was best known, in the UK at least, for being the co-vocalist on one of Meat Loaf‘s epic numbers which back in 1977 has been seen as one of the defining moments as to why it was important to embrace the short and sharp sound of punk/new wave.  The thought of such an out-and-out rocker, as she was being portrayed in the press, becoming part of The Clash was a hard one to absorb.

mp3 : The Clash – Hitsville UK

The single bombed.  It’s strange as the lyric is a good one, with Mick acknowledging just how influential the indie labels in the UK were starting to become with the likes of Small Wonder, Fast, Factory and Rough Trade all getting name-checked in some shape or form as is the joy of the three-minute single (another link to the really heady days of Motown).  The logos of many of indie labels (including Postcard) are reproduced lovingly on the sleeve. But it all gets lost in a sadly anodyne production – but maybe that was the band’s plan all along.   It’s not one I go to very often.

The b-side also didn’t offer any succour for those looking for the punky sound of the band, as it was a Mikey Dread number that developed further the sound offered up on Bankrobber a few months back:-

mp3 : The Clash – Radio One

HITSVILLE UK : Released 16 January 1981 : #58 in the UK singles chart

Every film I’ve made I’ve tried in vain to get ‘Hitsville UK’ into it. This stab of post-punk and Motown would elevate any British film. It’s also the perfect blueprint of how to make a British film. For a long time it was on the end of ’28 Days Later’ but mutants, creeps and musclemen persuaded me to replace it with something else.

A couple of months later, Joe Strummer died and although I’d helped to shower him in spit and beer, I’d never met him or any of the group. Now I felt in some stupid way that I’d let him down. Finally, I got it into ‘Millions’ – and will never again delay paying dues.

Danny Boyle,  film director (Trainspotting, A Life Less Ordinary, Shallow Grave)

4 thoughts on “THE CLASH ON SUNDAYS (13)

  1. Sandinista was a bit of a mess, but I always had a sneaking soft spot for the pop sensibilities of this one. Doesn’t sound much like The Clash, though…. 🙂

  2. I’m with Drew. An odd choice for a single but I like the song. And Sandinista is a glorious achievement. I still go back to it and find new things to enjoy

  3. Mick performed a charming version of ‘Hitsville UK’ with his daughter, at a Carbon Silicon gig several years ago, It’s viewable on YouTube.
    ‘Sandinista’ is a magnificent, lumbering beast. Joe said it best…’ I wouldn’t change it, even if I could. And that’s after some soul searching.’

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