Sunday, October 13, 2013


Working for the Clampdown
Get it, here!

OK, so it's not the version you were expecting, but indulge me this opportunity to hit several targets at the same time. Or at least to aim at them. (You were expecting this, weren't you. Same song, same message, different ambience, both good.)

Some discussion.... Clampdown may not mean quite the same thing as shutdown, but I'm not going to bother Webster for fear of invalidating my argument, as the outcome is the same whether it is Congress (now) or the revolution (Strummer) that turns off the lights. The Clash were the archetypal politico-punks, Strummer inevitably drawn to left wing overthrow of the state, the camouflage of resentment held by so many of those in denial of their own privileged upbringing. Privately educated, the son of a diplomat, an example of that peculiarly british phenomenon, Joe Strummer constantly re-invented and re-defined himself, so as to deny his spoon, stainless steel if not silver, in support for the undertrodden and oppressed, most of that oppression, in his eye, stemming from the righter leaning ideologies of the wealthy upper classes. Arguably naive and simplistic, nonetheless one felt he believed it, despite the perpetual joy of the press, always reminding all of his roots. Even the more radical rock press delighted in this perceived whiff of hypocrisy, as if he could and should have chosen his parentage more wisely. O to be in England, now that class is here. Where it always has been, and, probably, pitifully, it probably always will be. (Relax, guys, my diatribe is done, back to the music.)

I liked the Clash. They always seemed to have a bit more to them than the Sex Pistols, who resolutely seemed a little cartoon-like. Like the Beatles and the Stones, you had to be in one camp or the other, and the Clash seemed a bit better read, perhaps underlining my own class issues. London Calling was, I think, their 3rd LP and was a massive breakthrough at many levels, straying from 4:4 wamalama and introducing many styles and statements, drawn, as Strummer would always return to, especially later in his career, from the musical diversities of many cultures. A double album, squeezed into one sleeve and the price of one, this too was part of the message. (Sandanista, their next, took this still further, being 3 for the price of 1, but, for me, was spread a little too thin.) From the iconography of the cover, to the brilliance of much of the music, London Calling was their pinnacle. Following on from Sandanista the band eventually fell into disrepute and dissarray, Strummer becoming a Pogue for a while, standing in for another "nice boy gone bad", Shane MacGowan, before a last gasp of creativity with his own band, the Mescaleros, and a premature death in his early 50s. Which, inevitably and yet again, gave the obituarists an opportunity to reprise his family tree.

I also like the Indigo Girls, torchbearers also, but for a more sexual politic. This version brings a different slant to the more overt posturing of the original, and comes from one of the better tribute LPs out there, Burning London, which includes versions of Clash songs by No Doubt, the Afghan Whigs and Moby, amongst others.

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