Dec 052013

So it occurred to me the other day that if aliens were to beam down from Mars and ask “Hey what do the Clash sound like?” and I could play them just one song … it would be “Safe European Home.” I know, I know Give ’em Enough Rope is a bit muddled production-wise, but this song has almost every Clash touchstone: the classic Mick Jones single-note guitar, the typical Clash Break … the reggae bit at the end, and Joe’s classic singing. When he hits the “They got the weed, they got the taxis” the song achieves “lift off” in my opinion — in a way few Clash songs do.

I’m up for a Battle Royale here. (My guess is this is well-trod ground.) Look it may not be the “best” song in their cannon … but truly emblematic in my humble opinion. What’s better?


  9 Responses to “The Clash. In One Song!”

  1. We have agreed on many important topics through the years, machinery, but I’m not sure we’ve ever agreed more completely on this one. The belt looks fantastic on you as you parade around the ring.

  2. misterioso

    Although I think “Safe European Home” is a tremendous choice, and really I cannot fault it, for all the reasons machinery nails down, I would be inclined to go with “Complete Control,” which I think is one of the most thrilling pieces of rock music ever recorded, something I have gotten a charge out of every time I have heard it since I bought the first (U.S.) Clash record back in, whatever it was, around 1980. That for most of those years I had no idea what the song was “about” because I could only decode bits of the lyrics (same goes for “Safe European Home,” actually) mattered not one bit, since the meaning doesn’t change once you have all the words in front of you, and the song sums up everything those of us who love the Clash like to think they represent. Amen. You know where to find me when its time for the belt presentation.

  3. I thought the lyrics for SEH were about the band’s misguided attempt to go to Jamaica to record, not realizing that it was a more dangerous place than they thought because disenfranchised poor folks were not as docile and impressed by the band’s political sloganeering as the band thought they would be.

    And I’m on Team Machinery. I love the song, but also agree that it sums up the music of the Clash very succinctly.

  4. “Complete Control” is an excellent contender, but I think “Safe European Home” has an added level of both Power and Glory.

  5. cliff sovinsanity

    London’s Burning
    1. For the call to arms intro
    2. For Mick’s slicing guitar
    3. For Strummer spitting out lines like “The wind howls through the empty blocks looking for a home, I run through the empty stone because I’m all alone”
    4. For Paul’s “I’ll do my own thing” bass lines
    5. For Topper’s double time drumming.
    Clocking in at 2:10, it’s all you need for a quick fix. I was going to nominate Clash City Rockers but they nicked the riff.

  6. machinery

    Complete Control is great. Just doesn’t check off quite as many boxes as SEH. Police on my Back doesn’t make it for the same reason.

  7. 2000 Man

    I always thought it was White Man in Hammersmith Palais. Sorta reggae, sorta rock, killer guitar sound and some weird lyrics that are vaguely political and vaguely druggy. That’s just always the first song I think of when I think of The Clash.

  8. That’s a good contender, too! I like how you describe the excellent lyrics on that song.

  9. I’m with ya, 2000. The Mick “One, two, ONETWOFREEFO!” count in, the rocksteady name-drops, the punk- to reggae- to punk- changes, guitar solo dominated by a harmonica (?), the uppity scorn, and for me the take-off is achieved penultimate verse with some classic Mick backing “harmony” vocals as the band drops back to punk rock mode.

    Not to mention the “all-night drug-prowling wolf who looks so sick in the sun” characterization.

    Or to mention that this white man once jumped off the Tube on his one visit to London just to get his pic taken next to the Hammersmith sign.

    But yeah, I could live with “Home” too.


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