Sometimes we have to justify what we really love with what our friends (or in this case, readers…well, actually both) will think is cool. Which is why I switched my Clash song three or four different times while compiling this list.
Truth be told, I actually really do love The Clash. Were they “the only band that mattered”? Well, they certainly weren’t to me then. But then again, when Joe Strummer, Mick Jones and the boys were popular, I wasn’t even old enough to tie my shoes. So…The Jacksons mattered more to me then. Hall & Oates mattered more to me then. Hell, Air Supply mattered more to me then. Is it the same now? Well…Air Supply doesn’t matter to me as much, for what that’s worth.
At any rate, once I narrowed this list down to 150 songs or more, I faced something of a quandary. There were four Clash songs on the list: “Casbah”, “London Calling”, “Train in Vain (Stand By Me)” and “The Guns of Brixton”. As I shifted songs up and down the list, I had to face the very real possibility that there would be NO Clash on the final list, which, in my eager to please mind, would mean that I have failed as an Eighties kid. Ultimately, I had to justify whatever choice I made, and I ended up going with “Rock the Casbah” as my choice, for several reasons:
*It was the first Clash song I ever heard. Of course, it was their biggest pop hit (although I wouldn’t say it’s their best known song). I’m not sure *how* I became so familiar with the song at such a young age (I was 6 when this song was a hit). It could have been “Solid Gold” playing it for a couple of weeks on their weekly countdown, could have been my new-wave loving neighbor Andrew (who also introduced me to The Police and Devo), it could have been the fact that I was lucky enough to live in New York at a time when the program director for one of the hottest urban stations in the city was Frankie Crocker, a man who didn’t believe in the narrowcasting that plagues black radio these days. As such, I heard “Casbah” (and probably “The Maginificent Seven” as well) on the radio right next to Cameo and Grandmaster Flash. And it fit.
*The song makes me feel good. Like, I want to dance whenever I hear this song. It has a serious groove. And anything with chanted/screamed vocals makes me happy.
*Joe Strummer always sounds like he just finished eating a glass sandwich between two slices of splintered wood bread right before he went into the vocal booth.
*The fucking armadillo in the video. While I’d probably run away screaming if I were to encounter one in real life, they’re kind of cute on a TV screen. That is an armadillo, right? Maybe it’s an anteater?
*Special interest groups would be in a tizzy if this video were to come out today for making fun of Middle Easterners.
*Some of the best (and most cheesy) sounding echo effects in the history of pop music.
*Will Smith sampled this song and still couldn’t make it suck! Actually, truth be told, I like “Will2K”. Sue me.
*Simplest reason: it’s still my favorite Clash song. So there. It all works out in the end.