About the Song:
The Clash formed in London in 1976. They were one of the pillars of British punk rock, “revered for breaking new ground as rock rebels.” SF Their self-titled debut album hit #12 in the UK. 1978’s Give ‘Em Enough Rope hit #2, 1979’s London Calling hit #9, and the 1980 triple album Sandinista! reached #19. Their peak came in 1982 with Combat Rock. It got to #2 in the UK, but became the group’s only top-10 album in the United States, also reaching double platinum status.
Prior to Combat Rock, the Clash had racked up 13 chart hits in the UK, but their only success in the United States had been with 1980’s “Train in Vain,” a #23 hit on the Billboard Hot 100. “Know Your Rights,” the lead single from Combat Rock, was nother miss on the U.S. charts, but got to #43 in the UK. The second single, “Rock the Casbah,” proved to be the breakthrough for the Clash in the U.S., going all the way to #8. Vulture writer Bill Wyman called it “one of the greatest rock singles of all time.” WK
While most Clash songs grew out of the songwriting partnership between Joe Strummer and Mick Jones, this song came from the drummer, Topper Headon. He composed the song based on a piano part. Without his bandmates around, he taped parts for the drum, piano, and bass. When Strummer saw Headon’s lyrics about missing his girlfriend, Strummer “screwed the piece of paper into a ball and chucked it backwards over his head.” WK Different reports suggest the original lyrics were either really sappy WK or downright pornographic. SF By the time the song was a hit, Headon had been fired from the band for drug problems. SF
Strummer rewrote the words in the bathroom to tell a story of a ban on Western music by a Middle Eastern king. WK The king goes to extreme measure, even order jet fighters to bomb people violating the ban. The pilots ignore the orders, playing rock music on the radios in their cockpits. Strummer was inspired by Iran’s ban on Western music after the 1979 Islamic Revolution. WK
First posted 10/2/2022.
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