THE CLASH ON SUNDAYS (17)

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Disc 12 is Rock The Casbah.

Combat Rock had not turned out to be a return to the punk origins as many had thought might be the case based on its lead off single.  It was also clear that the record company were now, for whatever reason, calling more of the shots as Rock The Casbah was issued just seven weeks after Know Your Rights when there had previously been considerable gaps between the singles.

The move was as much a response to the reception given to the album, particularly in America.  There is no doubt that Rock the Casbah was always going to be a single, as evidenced by the promo video being made.  I’m not sure how many of you have noticed however, that the drummer in the video is none other than Terry Chimes and not Topper Headon….the irony of course being that we would later learn Rock The Casbah was mostly written by the now departed drummer who had left the band on the eve of the tour to promote the album, with exhaustion being cited.

This is a single like no other in the history of The Clash, at least during their time together as a band.  It didn’t do all that brilliantly in the UK, stalling at #30 and perhaps providing evidence that long time fans were finding it hard to come to terms with the new sound.  But elsewhere, where The Clash hadn’t really enjoyed huge success before, the single brought fame and fortune – Top 5 in both Australia and New Zealand, Top 20 across much of Europe and most crucially, Top 10 in the USA in both mainstream and dance charts.

It’s a song driven along in the main by the disco beat and piano playing, but there’s some decent contributions from Mick on guitar while Joe’s lyrics are among the catchiest he ever penned.  It’s a terrific and enduring pop song that, if written and recorded in that style by any other band of the era, would equally have proven to be a hit.  It’s the one song by The Clash that just about everyone aged 45-60 nowadays can easily recall.

It was released in the UK on 7″ and 12″ vinyl. The former contained a decent sounding and poppy b-side albeit it does on for maybe a minute too long)  which we would later learn was written by Paul Simonon about issues he was having in a long-term relationship but unlike Guns Of Brixton the vocal was taken on by Joe.  The latter had an instrumental remix of the a-side on offer:-

mp3 : The Clash – Rock The Casbah
mp3 : The Clash – Long Time Jerk
mp3 : The Clash – Mustapha Dance

ROCK THE CASBAH  : Released 11 June 1982 : #30 in the UK singles chart (#15 on 1991 re-release)

I was aware of The Clash when punk happened because that was what started us going, although I don’t think Joy Division were punk like that.  I think we were something else that came after that didn’t have a name.

‘Rock The Casbah’ is my favourite track. I heard it in New York when we first started going there in the early 80s after the demise of Joy Division. We were struggling a bit because Ian’s death meant we couldn’t go in that direction anymore, we’d peaked in that sound.

Clubs in NY were ‘new wave’ and the music was infinitely better than in England. For a start they were often in big warehouses.  There was the Peppermint Lounge, Danceteria, Hurrah’s, AM-PM…tons of them. They weren’t playing commercial dance music, but club tracks by English groups…and the two absolute classics were ‘Tainted Love’ by Soft Cell and ‘Rock The Casbah.’

It broke form. I believe it was written by the drummer. It really cut it in a club and showed me you can make club music that’s not cheesy – like nightclub music was in England at the time.  Here was a proper group, making proper music, but they were using traditional rock’n’roll instruments to make music that dominated a New York club scene.  That was a massive inspiration for me.

The song has great rhythmic content and a great hookline. It’s The Clash at their best.  OK, it’s not slashing guitars and a 190bpm tempo – but it’s a fucking great, really, really good song.

Bernard Sumner, Joy Division & New Order

6 thoughts on “THE CLASH ON SUNDAYS (17)

  1. Enjoyed this website some great stuff on here. Especially like the imaginary compilations! Have you got time to make up a Ryan Adams one?

  2. Surprisingly, I have to agree with Mr. Sumner. The Clash, at the time of Rock The Casbah, had an ear to the ground and really understood NYC dance/club culture. One of the things that Combat Rock has is a groove. Radio Clash laid a good deal of the foundation for them to take on blending street and club sounds into their, still confident and current socio-political rock.

  3. Probably my least favourite Clash single, like billisdead I’m more partial to ‘Mustapha Dance’. And just to prove that I’ve walked around with my eyes and ears shut for the past 30 years, this is the first time I’ve heard that Simonon wrote ‘Long Time Jerk’. This Clash fan is never too old to learn something new.

  4. if you listen REEEEALY close, you’ll hear a Casio watch’s chiming of the General Lee’s horn from “Dukes of Hazzard”…I’m sure you’ve all heard that tune before…with modern Mp3s and digital processing, it’s more difficult to hear, but yeah…it’s there.

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