Thursday, June 16, 2011

70. Clash, "The Magnificent Seven" (1980)


This is just another excuse to rave up Sandinista!, my favorite album running away by the Clash, all of whose work I may actually be attached to even more than ever, better than 30 years after the fact. But their best was the big black and red triple that traveled under the banner of an explicit shout-out to Nicaraguan rebels, built an entire song out of a scene from Apocalypse Now, recklessly sailed into the marshes of dub and back out again, and packed itself so full with gems it's hard to keep them straight. My magnificent seven at this moment: "Hitsville UK," "Rebel Waltz," "Somebody Got Murdered," "Lightning Strikes (Not Once but Twice)," "Up in Heaven (Not Only Here)," "Police on My Back," "Washington Bullets," "The Call Up," and—oh, wait, I'm over. There are 36 songs here and on another day it's conceivable I could name another seven or eight entirely as favorites. "The Magnificent Seven" is the first song on the first side and an apt curtain-opener, loose and freewheeling and auspiciously implying everything still ahead, self-consciously springboarding off the image of a big fat Hollywood western of the early '60s with Yul Brynner, Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, Eli Wallach, Robert Vaughn, and James Coburn. American movie references are nearly as ubiquitous across the breadth of Sandinista! as the dub gestures. It's warm, it's funny, it's human, it's alive. Strummer's vocal, which I've seen characterized, somewhat oddly, as "white rap," is rambling and indeed almost conversational, big and wide open as only Strummer can be. He always did make you want to share a drink with him. But since no one can do that anymore, you can play this and raise a glass. To a class act, timeless. To other times. And to a better world, God help us.


  1. Amen. And, really, the bad rap this record got in some circles for political naivete seems incredible when considering the dearth of vital political pop since.

  2. Political song for Michael Jackson to Sing