Formed in 1976; The Clash were a Rock band from London, who are widely considered as one of the key bands in the original wave of British Punk Rock bands! Throughout it’s ten year run, the band achieved both commercial and critical success in the UK and later the United States too; with their third album; London Calling in particular being widely considered as one of the greatest albums ever made. And; whilst the band had many members over its run, the core members of the band was made up of lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist Joe Strummer, lead guitarist Mick Jones, bassist Paul Simonon, and drummer Nicky “Topper” Headon.
Like so many, I enjoy listening to The Clash every now and then. I was introduced to them by chance, after hearing one of their classics (guess which one?) in a TV show about Guy Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot. That was about 20 years ago now, and since then I have heard more and more of their classics. Then just a few years ago, I decided to discover more, when I bought a Greatest Hits album. From this album though, I was surprised to discover other genre’s of music in their repertoire. Genre’s that include Reggae, Funk, Ska, and Rockabilly, to name but a few.
There are also layers to their music which you can’t ignore. For instance, the vocals from Joe Strummer have two settings. Some songs are loud and heavy rock pieces, and the vocals are equally loud and aggressive. So when you hear Strummer singing, the words can be almost in audible, but even if you can’t make out, or understand what he’s saying; he says them with a primal level of authority, that you cant help but shut up and pay attention too! Alternatively though, in their softer repertoire, he takes simple passages, and sings them in such a way, that they become more profound, and memorable; than if I or you were saying them in conversation.
It is surprising to discover that this loud and heavy punk rock band do visit so many other styles, it is almost unbelievable, but many of these underestimated pieces, stand out as some of their best. So, I thought I would share with you my personal favourites. Now, thanks to their many album releases, there are of course more songs than I could fit in a simple Top 5. So I thought I would include a couple more, in a rebellious punk rock sort of way, because, ‘why not?!’. But, this still means that there are many other classics that get left by the way side. So, for those other classics worthy of a mention; here are those other classics:
Safe European Home, Know Your Rights, Janie Jones, Train in Vain, Bankrobber, Police On My Back, I Fought the Law, White Riot, Tommy Gun, Hitsville UK, and This Is Radio Clash.
And so, without further ado; here are My Top 5 Favourite Songs By The Clash; Enjoy!
7. The Magnificent Seven – The Magnificent Seven is a weird one, as it seems perfectly suited to be placed in a TV show as background music; almost like something you might hear in an episode of Top Gear. These placements though hide the vocal sections regularly. But when you hear it with vocals, we once again those heavy shouting sections, over a song that is heavy in style, but not heavy as in fast or aggressive!
6. Straight to Hell – Some people who hear this for the first time today, might recognize this rift. It’s basically the same tune used by M.I.A. for Paper Planes. It’s a sudden shock to the system discovering that The Clash got in there first. The song uses this tune to create a nice soft tune, not a heavy or hard one, and in turn makes this one of those clearer tunes to hear more of Strummer’s vocals. But once again we see that authority in his vocals, especially when he says the song’s title right into the listener’s ears and face. It’s almost a clash of styles, as the lyrics would seem to be more suited for something heavier; but by placing them in this song, we get a styles clash; a clash of a nice soft reggae like tune, but with some hard hitting lyrics!
5. Somebody Got Murdered – This song gets right to the punch, with a title, and lyrics which love to get straight to the point. It’s a nice fast, but almost groovy enough tune, which just keeps going, hooking you in, and then keeping you in it’s hold until the very end. But it’s interesting choice of title acts as an additional hook, as within seconds you hear “Somebody Got Murdered”, which whilst rather morbid, is rather funky and groovy to sing to yourself in isolation, because, well, would you really sing this song out loud at work or on the train?
4. The Call Up – This is one of those soft songs in their repertoire, but one that has a rather magical sounding tune. It’s hard to hear the guitars, as the tune sounds like it was made with a triangle and a glockenspiel. This rather, and almost Christmas Carol-y sound though hides the song’s true intentions, as it delivers it’s rather profound lyrics. This all leads up to lines like “I don’t wanna kill”, and “I don’t wanna die”, before it’s really effective use of a military chant. It’s one of those truly hidden gems, which doesn’t get as much air time as it truly deserves. It’s a magical sounding tune, but with really captivating lyrics, about something less magical!
3. The Guns of Brixton – Another very groovy reggae style tune from a band better known for it’s heavier rock pieces. This song is such a memorable and easy going fun tune, that is so easy to bob your head to, in the mundane everyday moments of life. But once again, we hear hard hitting lyrics, which this time around are easier to hear and pick up on. Maybe not the catchiest of lyrics to pick-up, unlike say Hitsville UK or Straight to Hell; but that tune is rather infectious, which grabs your ears, draws you in, and then starts asking you questions!
2. Rock the Casbah – Not necessarily the hardest or most aggressive of tunes; but the vocals sort of make it hard and aggressive. It’s a song with an interesting composure, as there’s no break between the chorus and verse. As soon as the chorus is over; it’s straight into the verse. And much like mentioned before, it’s one of those songs where even if you can’t understand the lyrics, the power and authority behind them, just grabs you, and makes you listen, to what detail you can hear. And whilst it does come across as more of a hard hitting tune, with very catchy lyrics; it’s also a silent dance piece, as you want to dance by the pool much like the two characters being portrayed in the video. It’s practically a perfect piece, as as soon as you hear it for the first time, you immediately love it, and want to chant “Rock the Casbah” over and over again to your heart’s desire!
1. London Calling – Well…what else was it going to be? The defining tune of one of the worlds finest hard rock/punk rock bands. It’s a fantastic tune, and not just because of the legendary album cover, or the way journalists say (in a UKTV Comedy Documentary sort of way) that it is an excellent track; you can hear it immediately when it starts; that you’re in for a real treat. We have that rather infectious bass riff, leading into the main guitar riff; followed by those trademark vocals, telling an interesting story. One which you find hard to understand, but you still want to hear. And much like Rock the Casbah, once the chorus ends, we are into another verse. It’s a song which keeps going, and doesn’t end until we get more choruses, more verses, a solo, and everything else that makes a great song great, and more. And then it finishes in the way that it can only end, by an abrupt sounding finish, but if it didn’t do that, it would go on for ever. Which again is rather sad because, why on earth would you want it to end? But I suppose the band needs a break!
Leave a Reply