Friday, March 11, 2011

Paste's Top 18 Clash Songs + another 18 worth your time


You can view them here. They have pretty good, informed reasons for each one, but since most of them were released as singles or are the ones every talks about (though I'd definitely put "Straight to Hell" at number 1--it's #18 on their list), I thought I'd compile a list of 18 more Clash songs that are worth your time.*

*(Though of course, my ultimate list is the top [however-many-songs-the-Clash-made-altogether] Clash songs since they're all worth your while. . . yes, even "Mensforth Hill" (ok maybe not), and yes, I suppose except those last 12 tracks, at the end, though I think I've drank the "This Is England"-is-a-good/(ok)-track Kool-Aid.)

And honestly, these are in the order they come to mind, numbered only so you know that there is actually 18 of em without having to count. (links to Youtube.)

18. Cheat - this is such a nice mean song, and punk rockers have been trying to figure out how to do that ever since the Clash did it. The best they've done is drop f-bombs, posture, and bitch about stuff. Take the Rancid cover of this one-- good cover, I like it, but even a band known for being lyrically & image-wise meaner, cruder and more obviously "angry" than the Clash still can't make this song as much as a fuck-off as the Clash do.

17. The Card Cheat - the Clash do melodrama.

16. London's Burning - the Clash do ennui and answer the question: is it possible to be angry about ennui? It is for the Clash.

15. Something About England - this one semi-chokes me up the way "Straight to Hell" does each time, a thousand times after the first time. Plus the Strummer-Jones dialogue play works wonders for the story-telling format, giving the listener a chance to experience what made this duo so dynamic. This is one of the countless Clash songs that seem prescient to the issues of today while really serving as a reference point for what has and hasn't changed since their heyday.

14. Hitsville UK -"2 min 59." There has never been another punk song like this. If there was, it would just "sound like Hitsville UK."

13. The Sound of Sinners - The Paste article, in choosing "Train in Vain" as their number 1, says "For a band whose legacy is typically derived from rebellious and political-minded attitude, “Train In Vain” represents The Clash’s musical dexterity—the most overlooked, yet defining factor of these legendary punk rockers." For those of us who listen to Clash songs besides Train in Vain, London Calling, Lost in the Supermarket, and Should I Stay or Should I Go (which are all great songs, too--some of the greatest--and funnily enough, even that selection alone proves Paste's point) this characteristic of versatility is taken for granted, so it's interesting to see this pointed out. Anyway, I think "Hitsville UK" and "Sound of Sinners" are two good examples of the group's dexterity-- the first time I heard "Hitsville UK" on the radio, I would never in a million years have guessed who did it.

12. Rock the Casbah - I wrote a paper on this in college. I don't remember what it was about, if it was about anything besides setting the lyrics in an historical/theological context (I remember something about the revolutionary spirit of Islam, which is, today, suddenly very relevant), but this is just one example of the Clash's being so rooted in the issues of their times without becoming dated.

11. The Leader - "The people must have something good to read on a Sunday." The lyrics and imagery in this one are so dense it's easy to forget this song clocks in at well under 2 minutes.

10. I'm Not Down - Yeah! There is a Clash song for every mood.

9. This Is Radio Clash - Joe Strummer might not be a great rapper, but he's better than Debbie Harry, to take an example from the same year. This one's a good example of the Clash's ability to take what was then the cutting-edge of music and put their own spin on it. (The other way to look at Debbie Harry's rapping is that she makes Joe Strummer look like a grade-A rapper. . .)

8. Sean Flynn - I've always had a soft spot for this one. . . it's quite haunting.

7. Car Jamming - "I thought I saw Lauren Bacall/I swear/Hey fellas/Lauren Bacall."

6. Stay Free - This one gets me every time, too. A nice Mick one. "Step lightly. Stay free."

5. Julie's Been Working for the Drug Squad - this part always cracks me up: "AN' THEN THERE CAME THE NIGHT OF THE GREATEST EVER RAID/THEY ARRESTED EVERY DRUG THAT HAD EVER BEEN MADE." Best raid ever? Commentary on drug policy that still rings true today? In America? The Clash could see the future? (The song was about undercover cops, trained as hippies, having to drop tons of acid in a sting operation in Wales. I imagine that went from being best job ever to worst job ever pretty quickly.)

4. Charlie Don't Surf - I like Robert Duvall, okay?

3. Deny - A nice middle-finger of a song.

2. City of the Dead - You don't hear about this one much, but it's truly a great one, a confection of a punk song.

1. Midnight Log - same reason as 14 & 13. Another song whose complicated, non-stop lyrics make it hard to believe it's only, in classic punk form, a two-minute track.

Awww. 18 isn't enough. Any you guys would add? Think of it this way: someone comes up to you on the street. You figure they're not asking for change so you stick around long enough to find out they've just listened to London Calling, thought it was fab, and want to know what is the next track you'd recommend that will sink the Clash fan hook in forever. So in this highly improbably situation, what track would you name?

Photo modified from original found at


Anonymous said...

Thanks. Surely I will listen to them in my free time.

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