THE CLASH ON SUNDAYS (14)

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Disc 14 is The Magnificent Seven.

For all that I’ve never fallen totally for the charms of Sandinista!, the opening track on Side A was one that I loved on first play and have never since tired of it.  Yes, it was a total curve ball as it was not what any of us were expecting from The Clash.  Rap music was something us British new wave post-punkers only really read about tucked away in obscure parts of our music papers and up until this point I can’t say that outside of the Top 3 hit Rapper’s Delight by The Sugarhill Gang (a single I had bought as a 16-year old) was a genre I was unfamiliar with.  But as I’ve mentioned in previous postings looking at times in my life, dancing and dance music has always been important to me.  And everything about the track insisted you moved your limbs to the best of your ability.

mp3 : The Clash – The Magnificent Seven

As wiki accurately reports, it was was inspired by hip hop acts from New York City, like the aforementioned  Sugarhill Gang and Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five, both of whom were having an impact on all members of The Clash.

It was recorded in April 1980 at Electric Lady Studios in New York City, built around a funky bass loop played by Norman Watt-Roy of The Blockheads with Joe Strummer writing the words on the spot. It is probably the first time a rock band had tried to record a rap song – it predated the much more famous and successful Rapture, the #1 hit for Blondie, by some six months.

It’s a remarkable song in so many ways, not least the lyric which deals with the humdrum of everyday life (especially the need to work to survive) but also has an incredible stream of consciousness fashion that takes in shopping, the media and famous people in history. And cheeseburgers. And vacuum cleaners. And budgerigars.

It was released on 7″ vinyl with highly edited versions and an instrumental on the b-side:-

mp3 : The Clash – The Magnificent Seven (edit)
mp3 : The Clash – The Magnificent Dance (edit)

The 12″ versions were slightly longer but still shorter than the album version:-

mp3 : The Clash – The Magnificent Seven (12″ mix)
mp3 : The Clash – The Magnificent Dance (12″ mix)

The US 12″ version also contained The Cool Out, the remix of The Call Out as featured two weeks back.

A cracking essay is in the booklet for this one….

THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN : Released 10 April 1981 : #34 in the UK singles chart

I bought Sandanista and I played the first and second sides loads and I think ‘The Magnificent Seven’ is the leading track.  At the time I had a job in a print factory, and the lyrics were pretty true to my life, “Ring Ring 7am, got to get up and start again”.  Most of the time I wanted to commit suicide, so the song portrayed that experience correctly. It made it funny as well..the “cheesburger” line. I heard he was making an order, and they kept it on the track.

The song’s about the futility of work and that’s what I felt, it voiced the experience I was going through. Living in a cage, imprisoned with no real future, that song gave me the courage to give up work. I always remember the lyrics because of that.

I loved Chic and this sounded like ‘Good Times’, but I liked it.  I didn’t know Joe was doing rap, I do in retrospect but at the time I never knew that. It sounded like a punk version of Chic.

It’s a rebel song you can really dance to.  One of the best, really brave, the album before was ‘London Calling’ which everyone was saying was a rock masterpiece, then they come out with a triple album full of disco, psychedelia, country, dub, everything.  I probably bought it at Soundtrack Records in Mount Florida, Glasgow. For some reason he always had punk records.  I was 18 years old, living at home with my dad. It’s an amazing record, great energy, great remixes, a truly wild record with some of Strummer’s greatest lyrics.

Bobby Gillespie,  Primal Scream

PS from JC…………………

The one thing I will say about the bass line from The Magnificent Seven, is that it bears more than a passing resemblance to this hit single from 1978:-

mp3 : The Rolling Stones – Miss You

Doesn’t it?

 

3 thoughts on “THE CLASH ON SUNDAYS (14)

  1. I always thought of this song as the Clash’s tribute to NYC, even though the lyric seems to have resonated with fans as far away as Glasgow. The ‘Italian mobster shoots a lobster’ rhyme reminded me of the hit on Crazy Joey Gallo at Umberto’s Clam House in Little Italy. In Gates of the West, Mick Jones sang that he “made it all this way from Camden Town station to Fortieth and Eighth”, but then he sang about ‘Eastside Jimmy and Southside Sue’ in the same song. New Yorkers know that the city doesn’t have a ‘South Side’, and there was nothing much at 40th and 8th Ave. in 1978 to make it to anyway. Magnificent 7 was just a good time. As mentioned after last week’s post about the 1981 shows at Bonds, Grandmaster Flash was not well-received by the disco-hating crowd, but I didn’t associate the Clash with either disco OR rap — they were so obviously British that neither genre was applicable to them. (Or so I thought — props to Echorich for being ahead of the curve on that score). Sandanista! is perhaps the band’s most divisive LP (should have been a double album etc.) but it’s the tour where I first saw the band in the flesh, which happened at 42nd and Broadway, smack in the middle of Times Square.

    Coincidental that JC mentions ‘Miss You’ from the Stones’ Some Girls, which was definitely a tribute to NYC. (That song namechecks Central Park, ‘Respectable’ refers to hustle spot 53rd St. and ‘Shattered’ is, of course, “splattered all over Manhattan”.) The M7 bass line does sound a bit like Miss You but also sounds like a sped up version of the bass intro to ‘Good Times’ by NYC’s disco kings Chic.

  2. I’m with Jonny and Billy here. I think Norman was more on a Chic tip at the time and you could not get away from Good Times by Chic no matter where you were in NYC from 1979 to 1981. It was the roller skating song of the day in every concrete park in NYC – still is on Sundays in Central Park in the summer.
    Strummer really found a great point of view flashing between NYC and London and showing that the downtrodden or beaten down are equally affected on both sides of the Atlantic.
    But the beauty of The Magnificent Seven is that even though it deals in the things that make life boring, hard, unbearable at times, it is sung like a call to prayer, a call to action. Strummer sympathizes but he also wants you to dust your ass off and celebrate that you can succeed if you just don’t let all of it take you down. I’ve always interpreted the “You lot! (what?) Don’t Stop! Give it all you got!” and ” What have we got? Magnificence, I say” as Strummer telling us to make your life your own. Tough love from the mind of Joe Strummer.

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