The Clash’s influence on modern music is well documented and well deserved. The band broke through with the legendary British punk rock movement of the late 70’s with the likes of The Sex Pistols and The Damned. The quartet pooled together a mixed bag of musical styles fusing rockabilly, ska, and reggae with a political slant and deafening attitude to augment an already provocative sound.
From the opening rumblings of The Clash UK, to the heavy politics of London Calling, to the radio smile of Combat Rock, The Clash forged a sound all to themselves influencing a menagerie and diverse number of bands along the way including: Green Day, Rancid, Bad Brains, Massive Attack, and Sublime. Now, I know there are many Clash fans in the world, and what better way to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the band’s formation than a quick look at my top 10 Clash anthems.
- “Complete Control” – The Clash US
A scathing narrative on record companies, management, and the music business in general when the band’s record label made decisions without the groups consent.
- “Should I Stay or Should I Go” – Combat Rock
The radio friendly, massive hit was the bands only number-one single on the UK charts, and a mainstay on radio stations worldwide.
- “Train in Vain” – London Calling
The country and western tinged song was written and recorded after the sleeves for the album were printed and appeared unlisted on the record.
- “White Riot” – The Clash
The band’s first single, released in 1977, was inspired by class and race economics in Britain and not in reference to a race war.
- “Rudie Can’t Fail – London Calling
A nod to the reggae and ska beats that permeated the band’s sound inspired by the Rude Boys in Jamaica in the 1960’s.
- “I Fought the Law” – The Cost of Living EP
The most punk rock song ever, written in the 1950’s by Sonny Curtis of The Crickets, it was the first single released by the band in the US.
- “Guns of Brixton” – London Calling
The lyrics were inspired by the Jamaican film The Harder They Come referring to a Brixton born son of Jamaican immigrants in Britain.
- “Tommy Gun” – Give Em’ Enough Rope
Joe Strummer said he got the idea for the song when he envisioned terrorists getting off reading about their exploits as much as movie stars enjoy reading reviews about their movies.
- “Clampdown” – London Calling
“Working for the Clampdown” is a direct reference to British blue-collar working society and a reflection of the lack of opportunity for British youth in the late 70’s.
- “London Calling”– London Calling
The Clash’s most fiery song with the famous lyric “London is drowning and I live by the river” A loaded phrase referring to the flooding of the River Thames, and an analogy for London at the time. The song speaks to Three Mile Island, nuclear terror, and the paranoia surrounding Britain, and the world during the cold war.
What do you think?