It’s just over five years since this double-A effort was featured in the series looking at the singles released by The Clash. But this time round the mp3s come straight from the 12″ vinyl, ripped at 320 kpbs for a better listening experience.
Here’s what was said back in May 2016, along with a couple of things offered up in the comments by two of our Stateside regulars:-
“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.
Straight To Hell -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???
Jonny The Friendly Lawyer added:-
I was a massive Who fan since my sister bought me Who’s Next when I was a little kid. By the time I saw the Clash open for them at Shea Stadium I’d been a dedicated fan since London Calling, which was only 3 years earlier.
I had seen them once at the Bonds shows but the group were still not in the mainstream at that time. I just did not know what to make of the idea of The Clash, who’d been practically underground until a couple of years before, playing for rock giants who’d been at Woodstock and were pretty much on their last legs as a band. It sort of felt, to me, that this massive crowd (Shea was a baseball stadium that held over 55,000 — I’d been watching the Mets play there since 1968) didn’t DESERVE to be in on the act. The vast majority were there to see The ‘Oo, of course, who went through the motions satisfactorily, and I wanted to make a “punk meets the godfathers” mental connection, but just couldn’t.
If I remember correctly, Echorich not only saw many of the Bonds shows but also saw the Clash at the legendary Palladium gig from a couple of years prior, when NO ONE knew the band and they got zero radio play. I wonder what the slightly older than me crowd thought of the only band that mattered opening for the only band that used to matter.
Echorich chimed in:-
…yes I was at Shea Stadium – I was living walking distance from Shea at the time and one of the photographers I rep’ed at my agency, Bob Gruen – who drove the band to the show in his 50’s Cadillac, got us tix. Honestly, I would have been happy to sit outside the stadium in the parking lot listening to them tear down the house if I had to. But it was a weird feeling seeing a band I loved play in such an impersonal setting. The Clash rose to the challenge, but their show a month earlier, in the pouring rain at Pier 84, courting electrocution and drowning a few thousand in sound as much as rain was one of the most electric shows I’ve ever seen.
mp3: The Clash – Should I Stay Or Should I Go
mp3: The Clash – Straight To Hell
I hope, gentlemen, that some further happy memories are triggered listening again to the tracks almost 40 years on.
10 thoughts on “THE MONDAY MORNING HI-QUALITY VINYL RIP : Part Nineteen : SISTOSIG/STH”
As a Sandinista! obsessive, I was a bit unsure of Combat Rock. Some of it seemed overwrought, and some of it, Should I Stay the obvious offender, a bit basic. Straight To Hell was a masterpiece though. Four verses, nailing colonialism, post-industrial decay, inner-city drug epidemics and the immigrant struggle over a compelling six minute beat with various unsettling noises drifting in on the breeze. Maybe Strummer’s best vocal. No wonder Radio One didn’t play it much.
One of my favourite Clash songs – another Glastonbury memory is seeing Joe Strummer perform it on the pyramid stage and smash one of the TV cameras with his mic stand while ranting about CCTV – happy days!
As a casual Clash fan who adored deep diving into “Sandinista!” [I’ve only ever listened to is all the way through, every time] “Combat Rock” failed for me on almost every level…except for this single! But I would have blanched at the notion of seeing the band [a whisker past their sell-by date to me] opening for The Who [15 years past their sell-by date!] in a stadium.
The Who/Clash at Shea was really an odd night. Looking back it was clear that The Who were circling the drain. It wasn’t clear then that the Clash had risen as high as they were going to get. But the odd pairing didn’t diminish my interest in either band. I had and still have no problem with Combat Rock. In fact, Should I Stay is the only song I can live without as it was overplayed to death in the States. I love the rest of the album–every single song. By contrast, I thought Sandanista would have made a great double album but there was filler. Interesting filler, mind you, but not crucial.
I don’t remember writing the comment JC included but I agree with it. The post does indeed trigger happy memories because it was lucky to see the Clash live. But Combat Rock is in regular rotation at my house. And just two nights ago my covers band played Rock the Casbah at a party!
I do wish Joe Strummer was still around…
Some lovely comments above- I wish Joe was still around too. I love Sandinista!, all of it (pretty much), there’s so much in it I’m still finding things I haven’t noticed before. Combat Rock has lots to commend it, loads of good songs and possibly the strangest way they could have chosen to end the album- Death Is A Star. From White Riot to dissonant modern jazz. Some trip they went on. I have no problem with SISOSIG either, belting two chord rumble.
For me, Straight to Hell is definitely the better of the two…
1982 was in 2nd year university in Virginia. Drove to see the Clash in Oct headline at William and Mary College in Williamsburg, warm up band was a local Reggae act. Strummer had his mohawk. $10 ticket.
It wasn’t that STH wasn’t as charming as SISOSIG. STH, in part, holds up a mirror to the US audience and if it isn’t obviously clear, Americans don’t care much for introspection, especially anything that hints of Vietnam which was only a decade back from when this song came out.
In 1982 it was all about MTV and the Rock the Casbah video was really what took The Clash mainstream in the US.
the Straight to Hell link heads in an unpredictable though delightful direction?
Cheers J. Got it sorted now……
Late to this party, but, here goes. In the grand scheme of things, The Clash jumping over the fence into the charts and radio play in the US was never going to happen at a time where they would make a difference. By the time it did happen, Topper was basically gone and the power struggle between the Strummer and Jones camps had taken over.
Pete Townsend, possibly to remain relevant, had been extolling the virtues of Punk in song and interviews for a few years – Rough Boys is supposed to be about The Pistols – if not from a sideways glance. But by the time the idea to put The Clash onstage with one time rebels 15 yrs past the time, came to fruition, the pairing seemed more like a stunt to this fan. In the parking lot of Shea Stadium, Bob Gruen outfitted the band with baseball bats as the posed around his vintage Caddy convertible, dressed in camo gear and sleeveless Clash t-shirts. The images still make me laugh to this day because of the incongruity.
Now as for Straight To Hell, it is the linchpin of Combat Rock. It holds everything together. It is their last great, vital song. As for Should I Stay Or Should I Go, it is the only song in The Clash Canon that I deem overplayed and thus, a song with diminished returns for me.