87. if music could talk

“Second of two in a row from the Clash‘s absurdly abundant 1979-80 phase which culminated in the six sided monster known as Sandinista – If Music Could Talk being (for me anyway) probably that album’s key track. Not for any grand power or standalone attainment, but simply for its inclusion — that a band as righteously raw and committed as The Only Band That Mattered™ could deliver such an oddly sweet and beatific ode to not rebellion-revolution-insurrection, but music itself. Which gets us back to that suburban house fire, 1981 sometime, the mixtape I had playing on the walkman care of my good friend Simon Lamb. If Armagideon Time was more fuel for the fire that was our whole broken and corrupt Cold War western culture, then If Music Could Talk, which came after, was some kind of next chapter, an odd little path leading wherever it is that only music can go, not even poetry can keep up with it, though there is a pile of poetry in If Music Could Talk, the words spilling like rain down both channels of the stereo mix, not making sense so much as easing beyond it, because we already knew it way back then even if we couldn’t quite find the words: the revolution, or evolution, or whatever it was going to take to somehow NOT annihilate ourselves in some kind of forever war – it could not be rational.” (Philip Random)

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88. armagideon time [justice tonight]

The Clash‘s take on Willie Williams’ Armagideon Time wasn’t included on Sandinista. In fact, it was released the previous year on the Black Market Clash 10-inch (a loose and cool collection of various b-sides and whatnot), but it came to my ears at almost exactly the same time as Sandinista care of a mixtape a friend made which was all Clash, all to some degree not punk or even rock, more the groovy, strange, dub-induced stuff which comprised so much of Sandinista‘s six sides, pissing off so many of the old school punks (but f*** those reactionary idiots anyway), and very much sucking me in, affirming me in my growing impression that whatever was going on out there culturally speaking, the world had changed profoundly in the last year or two.

My world anyway. Something to do with apocalypse, end times, armagideon – not coming, already upon us, and not really that bad, not if you had the right kind of eyes (and ears). I can even remember the precise moment it all came clear. I was tripping on some middle-grade LSD, out wandering the suburban sprawl with a house fire in the near distance, a calamity of sirens, smoke, people coming and going in the encroaching dusk, a whole block like a war zone. But I was somehow okay with it. Maybe because I had that mixtape playing on my walkman, Armagideon Time, the stretched out dub version guiding me through all the smoke and confusion like it was all just a movie, but not one I was watching, one I was in. Like, here it is, pilgrim, the Apocalyptic Now. Get used to it, because it ain’t goin’ away. It’s not pretty but it may be beautiful.” (Philip Random)

173. one more time

“Second of two in a row from the Clash‘s last truly great, truly world beating album, the six-sided monster known as Sandinista. In the case of One More Time (and it’s dub), that means the ideal soundtrack for an ironic walk through an upscale suburban enclave on a warm spring evening (‘must I get a witness for all this misery?’), particularly if there’s a house fire in the vicinity, sirens a-howling, black smoke rising, and you’re a little high on LSD. This actually happened to me, 1981 sometime. I ended up watching it all from maybe a block away, and thinking (not for the first time) that the Apocalypse wasn’t something that was coming, it was already here, and I was in the middle of it – and so was everybody else. Armagideon times indeed.” (Philip Random)

(photo: Hulton archive)

174. Broadway

“Have I raved enough yet about Sandinista, the vast and multifaceted Clash album that doesn’t generally end up on Best Of All  Time Lists? London Calling being the one that tends to get all the glory. Which it deserves, of course, but I would submit that sometimes more really is MORE when it comes to art, beauty, meaning, rebellion everything. Which, in Sandinista‘s case means thirty-six tracks spread across six sides of vinyl, enough to drown in if necessary. And maybe it is. Necessary. Because Sandinista is the greatest band in the world (at the time) firing all of their guns at once and hitting way more often than they miss. Broadway shows up at the end of Side Four. A slice of Beat-like poetry that may start out weary and down for the count. But never count this band out. Ever. Not in 1980-81 anyway.” (Philip Random)

Clash-1980-rooftopNYC

(image source)

 

321. Charlie Don’t Surf

“Come 1980, The Clash really had nothing left to prove to anyone, having delivered perhaps the greatest rock and roll album of all time in the waning days of 1979, the four-sided monster known as London Calling. So what to do next except everything, which gave us the six-sided mega-monster Sandinista. Charlie Don’t Surf shows up well into things, a song that takes a line from Apocalypse Now and extrapolates from there, all distant helicopters and dreamy if discordant keyboards. A friend of mine heard it once at a bar in Jamaica and it worked so well it didn’t even register until a few hours later that The Clash’s take on reggae had made it to a Jamaican mixtape! Were they really that good? Apparently so.” (Philip Random)

377. magnificent seven

“In retrospect, we realized that The Magnificent Seven was the Clash taking on hip-hop, but in early 1981 when Sandinista first arrived, nobody in suburban Canadian wherever had even heard the term yet. So for me, it felt more like a riff on Bob Dylan, subterranean and homesick — definitely New York City in all of its turn of the decade corrosion and despair, and yet madly fertile anyway, not unlike the world as a whole at the time. The acid helped in this regard. I feel I should I apologize for this, all the acid references that seem to pop up whenever some kind of broader cultural view is required as to what really went down in the 1980s (my angle on it anyway). But why should one apologize for telling the truth? The Clash never did. Even when they were wrong.” (Philip Random)

Clash-1981-backstage

691. the call up

“Have I raved enough yet about how indispensably, imperfectly essential the Clash’s Sandinista is? Probably not. Three slabs of vinyl, thirty-six songs, jams, dubs, meltdowns, whatever you want to call them. Not World Music so much as what the world actually sounded like in 1980-81, including war, here-there-everywhere, young men being called up, sent off to do and die. Which is what The Call-Up‘s about (from about halfway through Side Four). Don’t go, young man. Don’t fall for the patriotic bullsh** of old men whose blood won’t be doing the spilling. Remember that rose you want to live for.” (Philip Random)

Clash-1981-03

807. White man in Hammersmith Palais

Speaking of bass culture, (and contrary to popular belief) it needs to be said that White Man in Hammersmith Palais was neither The Clash‘s first reggae song (that was Police + Thieves), nor its best (probably something from Sandinista). But it was the first one they actually wrote, Joe Strummer to be specific, slipping out of his punk mindset long enough to wax poetic on politics and music, Robin Hood and Hitler, black and white, everything really.

Clash-whiteMAN

983. street parade

Second of two in a row from side five of Sandinista! (the Clash’s longest album, if not its best). “To say it was a hard sell to many of their early fans is the definition of understatement. It Was Hated (and still is by some) for being all the things that was truly great about it, which is to say, driven by the ultimately punk attitude of saying f*** it, London Calling’s made us bigger than we ever dreamed of being, let’s see how far we can push things by just diving into the music, all music, anything that interests us, the whole mad street parade. In my particular case, the arrival on the local Terminal City scene of some genuinely strong and clean LSD probably assisted in my seeing things in this regard.” (Philip Random)