The Equals perform "Police On My Back"

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Love it. On “pressure drop”, my fave has always been the Specials version :



Hey maybe this is a good place to ask this question. Can SOMEONE explain to me what song/songs by The Clash make them “punk rock”, and not peppy danceable light pop music?

that’s what forty years will do to art

just ask the Impressionists, and their critics, about prints of their paintings hanging in suburban kitchens


But like… I was alive in the 70s/80s. Even at the time I didn’t understand how “Rock the Casbah” is more like the Sex Pistols than it is like… I dunno… Rick Springfield. Is it just because mohawks?

Most of the first album, particularly ‘White Riot’ (claims that ‘punk died when The Clash signed to CBS’ notwithstanding).

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Huh. Yeah, I can see that. (I’m not sure I’ve ever heard a single song from that album, which explains my 30-year confusion.) Kind of a remarkably rapid stylistic ride from that to “Lost in the Supermarket”, eh?

40 years is what makes them punk. You have to view them in the time they were putting out music.

Also, too, the lyrics didn’t hurt.


Regardless of title people want to hang on their music, they were good.


As a general rule, the Toots & The Maytals version is always better…

cf Louie Louie

and Take Me Home Country Roads


The motivations of The Clash were dramatically different from those of Rick Springfield. They might have had “catchy dance-able” music because of their affection for ska and reggae, but their message was miles off. Rick Springfield’s goal was “Be on TV, Get Famous, Get Money”. I’m not aware of his activism in the same way I am of that of Joe Strummer’s.

The Clash feature pretty heavily in Don Letts’ The Punk Rock Movie, and you can kind of get a sense that they’re kind of operating differently from even the other punk musicians featured.

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In fact, even this very example, Rock the Casbah tells of how a popular uprising against oppressive middle eastern regimes can result when their leaders push one step too far. Inspired by the right-wing bans on western music and culture. That seems relevant even today in the time of ISIS and the Arab Spring.

From what I can tell, Jessie’s Girl is about a girl Rick Springfield wanted to bang, but who “belonged” to Jessie, so, you know, bummer.

There were lots of punk songs like that too obviously, it’s just that this example of a Clash song couldn’t be more different from Rick Springfield.

London Calling is another great example of people not listening to hear what’s actually being said. It’s just all Union Jacks and James Bond Villains parachuting from the sky.


Sure, but edgy political lyrics can’t erase that disco bass-line, IMHO. Musical styles are defined primarily by the MUSIC, not the lyrics.

The first time I became aware of Robert Palmer was hearing his version of 'Pressure Drop’

As someone who was involved in lots of recording projects from punk to reggae to barely classifiable I disagree.

As for the bass line for Rock The Casbah read the “recording” section here

Even aside from The Clash’s connections to the reggae scene there’s always been a tradition in Jamaican music of covers and interpretations

But doesn’t the fact that it reached #8 on the “dance charts” underline my original point though? That the songs most people know The Clash by are basically (lyrics notwitshtanding) peppy danceable pop songs?

I dont think so. Hardly the first or last time that “genre hopping” of sales charts happened.

Perhaps you are trying to argue from a position of “commercial success disqualifies a band from the punk genre”?

What most people know doesnt change the content. “Everybody knows” Born in the USA but do they understand the content? Same here.

As for dancable pop, go back to any The Clash album and tell me that you dont hear the pop/rock sensibility of Mick Jones guitar work or lyrics.

Or perhaps you are trying to argue that “Punk music as a genre cant be peppy or pop”?

I’m really not trying to ARGUE anything. I was honestly asking… look… I know like 8 or 10 Clash songs. None of them has any of the stylistic characteristics that I associate with the term “Punk Rock”. So someone explain to me why this is.

So far the guy that said - “just listen to the first album” - provided the best answer.

OK so you are not familiar with their work beyond “best hits”, probably then listening to the first two albums would help you if your idea of punk is limited to the late 70s sound.

I dont know what you think punk rock is. If your idea is limited to Sex Pistols, Black Flag, Dead Kennedys then yeah, The Clash is going to sound like radio rock.

Punk was a very wide spectrum of tempo, lyrics & tones. Its impossible to point to any one thing as definitive of “Punk”. The Ramones had plenty of bubblegum tracks, Black Flag could easily sound metal, Bad Brains had just as much reggae as thrash, Minor Threat covered The Monkeees, etc etc etc. and thats just big name bands.

Its not just that 40 years have changed things, its not just that only The Clash’s first album would fit your expectation, its probably that your expectation is limited to begin with.

The Clash was punk because they were punk. Its a tautology but its also true. They were there at the defining moments in the UK and refused to be limited by what anyone expected of them as time went on.

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