Disc 18 is Straight To Hell/Should I Stay Or Should I Go.
Released just three months after Rock The Casbah, a lot had changed for The Clash in the summer of 1982, not least the fact that they had ‘cracked’ America. Combat Rock was proving to be an enduring album, going on to spend almost six months successively in the UK charts which was well beyond the time expected of any album by the band. They were now determined to get their music across to as wide an audience as possible, hence the decision to accept the task of opening for The Who at a series of outdoor stadium gigs in October 1982, although it is worth recalling that the band continued to headline at much smaller venues in the States at the same time.
The days of standing up to record company wishes to milk albums dry were also over as seen by the fact that the release of a double A single meant that exactly one-third of Combat Rock had been put out on the 45rpm format. But in saying this, there’s no argument that it is one of the band’s finest 45s.
My own preference is for Straight To Hell. As I wrote when I included it in the ICA this time last year, my view is that it an extraordinary piece of music. The very idea that one of the world’s foremost punk bands would, within just five years of their explosive and noisy debut, end up recording and releasing a song that leaned heavily on a bossa nova drumbeat devised by Topper Headon and a haunting violin sound would have been laughable.
It has a stunning and thought-provoking lyric delivered by a resigned-sounding Joe Strummer who seems devastated by the fact that musicians cannot make the world’s problems disappear.
Radio stations and the general public however, preferred the charms of Should I Stay Or Should I Go. It has a great riff, a sing-a-long and infectiously catchy chorus and the most ridiculously yet charming backing vocals in some strange version of Spanish. What’s not to like???
It famously became a huge hit all over again some nine years later after it was used in an advert to promote Levi Jeans. It went to #1 in the UK as well as Top 5 in just about every singles chart in Europe.
mp3 : The Clash – Straight To Hell (edited version)
mp3 : The Clash – Should I Stay Or Should I Go
SHOULD I STAY OR SHOULD I GO : Released 17 September 1982 : #17 in the UK singles chart; #1 on its re-release in 1991
My favourite Clash song is ‘Train In Vain’. My favourite of their singles is in that vein – ‘Should I Stay Or Should I Go’. I thought I’d heard it somewhere before (I’m not trying to be ironic). I had to buy all my Clash records until ‘Combat Rock’ which was produced by longtime Who producer Glyn Johns. I got a free one of those . It makes me feel like I’m 34 again and Spring is in the cocaine.
We had a junior manager called Chris Chappel who was a huge Clash fan. I invited them onto the US tour after Chris convinced our senior manager they would be good. By the end of the tour, they had broken the USA. We were playing huge stadiums on that tour and they really handled the shows well, and convinced the crowd they were real.
I adore The Clash, as I adored the Sex Pistols. Different, incompatible, not really comparable, they both felt to me like bands who (like The Jam a little later) had travelled a route laid by The Who more than any other band. The New York Dolls and the Ramones influenced British punk rock, of course, but it was our simultaneous exaltation of rock, and indifference to it, that both bands emulated, though they each had different reasons for using that particularly tortured formula. So, I have a personal pride in The Clash as I do in the Sex Pistols and The Jam.
I feel bad that I have outlived Joe Strummer, but delighted that Topper is alive, against the odds: he is an absolute sweetheart. I really admire Mick Jones and Paul Simonon too, for remaining true to their individual artistic theses. These guys made a troubled and druggy period of my life in the late 1970s and early 1980s so much happier. The Who just played at the Brighton Centre and all I could think of while we played was that I had once played with The Clash on the same stage in 1981.
Pete Townsend, The Who