Wednesday, 30 May 2018

The Clash - Sandinista! (1981)

Ring, ring, seven a.m. .....


Released December 1980

Recorded in Manchester, New York, Kingston and London

Running time 02:24:28

On to this controversial album. Bloated, self-indulgent, 15 tracks too long,..all the contemporary and continuing criticisms hold water. However, for me, despite all those drawbacks, it is only the last few tracks that I feel I could do without.

Sandinista! is a veritable cornucopia of musical styles - hip hop, rap, rockabilly, Americana, folk, cajun, 60s pop, reggae, dub, jazz, bluegrass, gospel, funk, rock n roll...why they are all there. Everything it seems...except punk. The very thing that had catapulted The Clash on the road to stardom has been eschewed, big time.

Quite what they were trying to achieve with this album is unclear is indeed whether they ever achieved it or not. Opinions are still divided. For some it is their best work. For others it is a sprawling mess. Me, I have always had a lot of affection for it. It has become quite a fashionable thing among Clash aficionados to cherry pick their best tracks and make their own personal Sandinista!. So, I will do the same. There are too many tracks to detail them one by one so I will pick out my highlights to check out -

The Magnificent Seven - The Clash's first use of the burgeoning genre of hip/hop as an influence on a lengthy, lyric-laden, frantic urban rap. It has a totally infectious rhythm to it.

Hitsville UK - Mick Jones' then girlfriend Ellen Foley leads the vocals on this quirkily appealing, Motown-influenced number.

Something About England - Jones delivers a plaintive, heavily orchestrated song about British social history.

The Crooked Beat - Dubby reggae grooves from Paul Simonon.

Somebody Got Murdered - The only remotely riffy/new wave number on the album, along with Police On My Back.

One More Time - A Strummer piece of urban observation over a slowed down vaguely funk/rock beat.

The Equaliser - More reggae-influence here, this time from Strummer. Very dubby in places.

Washington Bullets - One of the albums best cuts. Full of cynical political comment.

Broadway - Totally un-Clash piece of late night, slurry jazzy blues. Who would have thought, three years ago, they would have done stuff like this?

The Call Up - One of the album's more commercial-sounding numbers. It contains a great hook and a strong anti-war message.

Police On My Back - The album's only punk riff can be found n the intro to this one. It is a cover of an Eddy Grant song.

If Music Could Talk - A bit similar to Broadway. A laid-back stream of consciousness from Strummer.

The Sound Of The Sinners - The Clash try their hand at gospel on this lively, fun number.

Charlie Don't Surf - Strummer's Vietnam obsession rears its head, quoting the movie Apocalypse Now on a shuffling, rhythmic groove.

Version City - One of the only truly listenable tracks in the last batch.

There you go. More than enough to be getting on with. Stick with it. It gets better with each listen. It is probably clear, though, that I have selected according to my taste - the reggae/dubby ones are there plus the more vaguely Clash-sounding ones. Some of the weirder ones - the bluegrass and folky Americana numbers like Look Here and Rebel Waltz haven't made it, neither the frantic anti-media rant of The Leader or the complex pseudo funk of Lightning Strikes (Not Once But Twice).

Thinking about it again, I may put the catchy Let's Go Crazy in there. That's the whole point with Sandinista!, it gets you thinking about all the tracks on offer and all their manifold differences.


1. The Magnificent Seven

2. Hitsville UK
3. Junco Partner
4. Ivan Meets GI Joe
5. The Leader
6. Something About England
7. Rebel Waltz
8. Look Here
9. The Crooked Beat
10. Somebody Got Murdered
11. One More Time
12. One More Dub
13. Lightning Strikes (Not Once But Twice)
14. Up In Heaven (Not Only Here)
15. Corner Soul
16. Let's Go Crazy
17. If Music Could Talk
18. The Sound Of The Sinners
19. Police On My Back
20. Midnight Log
21. The Equaliser
22. The Call-Up
23. Washington Bullets
24. Broadway
25. Lose This Skin
26. Charlie Don't Surf
27. Mensforth Hill
28. Junkie Slip
29. Kingston Advice
30. The Street Parade
31. Version City
32. Living In Fame
33. Silicone On Sapphire
34. Version Pardner
35. Career Opportunities
36. Shepherd's Delight


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