Clash – Train In Vain

I’m on a business trip this week so I won’t be responding as normal most of the time. I’m not driving so I should be able to check comments here and there on my phone. I’ll be back more regularly on Friday but will post every day till then.

This was the first song I ever knew by the Clash when I heard it on the radio in 1980. The song is credited to Mick Jones and Joe Strummer like most Clash songs. Mick Jones takes the lead vocals in this one.

They started off as a punk band but The Clash, unlike some other Punk bands, could really play and sing well…, especially Mick Jones. He is was probably the best pure musician in the band.

The song was said to come from the train rhythm in the song combined with the theme of being lost. You also hear a reference to Tammy Wynette’s 1975 hit single Stand By Your Man. Train In Vain also contains a pointed reference to his flat being burgled in early 1979 and to his feelings of depression (“I need new clothes, I need somewhere to stay”).

The original vinyl copy of London Calling “Train Is Vain” isn’t listed on the track listing on the sleeve. The story is that the song was recorded for an NME promotional flexi-disc once the London Calling sessions were done, and the flexi-disc idea then fell through, leaving the song with no home. The band hastily tacked the song onto the end of the album just before vinyl pressing, but the sleeve had already been designed and there was no time to add it to the track listing.

The only clue of its existence is in the run-out groove on Side 4, where the name is carved into the vinyl. On all subsequent releases (including the CD copy) “Train In Vain” is included on the track listing on the sleeve.

The song was released in 1979 and reached #23 on the Billboard Charts. It is listed by Rolling Stone Magazine at 298 in the top 500 songs of all time. Train in Vain was written by Mick Jones and Joe Strummer.

Train In Vain

Say you stand by your manTell me something I don’t understandYou said you love me and that’s a factAnd then you left me, said you felt trappedWell, some things you can explain awayBut my heartache’s in me ’til this day

You didn’t stand by meNo, not at allYou didn’t stand by meNo way

All the times when we were closeI’ll remember these things the mostI see all my dreams come tumbling downI can’t be happy without you aroundSo alone I keep the wolves at bayAnd there’s only one thing that I can say

You didn’t stand by meNo, not at allYou didn’t stand by meNo way

You must explain why this must beDid you lie when you spoke to me?Did you stand by me?No, not at all

Now I got a job, but it don’t payI need new clothes, I need somewhere to stayBut without all these things I can doBut without your love, I won’t make it throughBut you don’t understand my point of viewI suppose there’s nothing I can do

You didn’t stand by meNo, not at allYou didn’t stand by meNo way

You didn’t stand by meNo, not at allYou didn’t stand by meNo way

You must explain why this must beDid you lie when you spoke to me?Did you stand by me?

Did you stand by me?No, not at allDid you stand by me?No wayDid you stand by me?No, not at allDid you stand by me?No way

Concert for Kampuchea

When I posted a Rockpile song last week… I heard from Sharon E. Cathcart talking about this concert. A few days later Val mentioned this concert on a Little Richard post. I haven’t thought of this concert in years so I thought it would be a great subject.

I did see a copy of this in the 80s at some point. I’ve watched it the last few nights and it is really good. A few facts about the show…The Pretenders debut album was released the day before they played, this was John Bonham’s last appearance on stage in England, and the Wings last concert appearance.

Concert for the People of Kampuchea was a series of concerts in 1979 featuring Queen, The Clash, The Pretenders, Rockpile, The Who, Elvis Costello, Wings, and many more artists. I’ll post the entire lineup at the bottom. These concerts had a great amount of British talent that would not be rivaled until Live Aid in 1985. The proceeds would be directed to the emergency relief work of the U.N. agencies for the civilians in Kampuchea.

The concerts were held at the Hammersmith Odeon in London over 4 days from 26-29 December 1979 to raise money for the victims of war-torn Cambodia (then called Kampuchea). The event was organized by former Beatle Paul McCartney and Kurt Waldheim (who was then Secretary-General of the UN, later Austrian president).

Waldheim initially approached McCartney, hoping his current band Wings would participate. But he also discussed a performance with George Harrison, and then the gossip wheel started turning. The Beatle reunion rumors started to overtake the press for the show itself. Paul had to completely deny it of course. He was quoted saying: “The Beatles are over and finished with,”  “None of us is even interested in doing it. There’s lots of reasons. Imagine if we came back and did a big show that wasn’t good. What a drag.” None of the ex Beatles showed…except Paul

An album and EP were released in 1981, and the best of the concerts was released as a film, Concert for Kampuchea in 1980. The album wasn’t released until 1981 and it peaked at #36 and the song Little Sister by Rockpile and Robert Plant peaked at #8.

When Wings’ main set was complete on the last night, McCartney invited a Who’s Who assemblage of British rockers to the stage to play four songs as an encore as the “Rockestra”. The list included three members of Led Zeppelin (Plant, John Bonham and John Paul Jones), Townshend, former Small Faces/Faces bandmates Ronnie Lane and Kenney Jones, Procol Harum’s Gary Brooker, Wings, plus members of Rockpile and the Pretenders, among others.

Here is a complete list.

  • Piano: Paul McCartney
  • Keyboards: Linda McCartney, Tony Ashton, Gary Brooker
  • Guitars: Denny Laine, Laurence Juber, James Honeyman-Scott, Dave Edmunds, Billy Bremner, Pete Townshend, Robert Plant
  • Bass: Paul McCartney, Bruce Thomas, Ronnie Lane, John Paul Jones
  • Drums, Percussion: Steve Holley, Kenney Jones, Tony Carr, Morris Pert, Speedy Acquaye, John Bonham
  • Horns: Howie Casey, Steve Howard, Thaddeus Richard, Tony Dorsey
  • Vocals: Paul McCartney, Linda McCartney, John Paul Jones, Ronnie Lane, Bruce Thomas, Robert Plant

That is a talented bunch.

McCartney did assemble the above musicians with some more like David Gilmour to record a couple of songs on the Wings Back To The Egg album…So Glad to See You Here and Rockestra Theme.

Here is the complete list of acts who played during the concerts.

The Blockheads
The Clash
Elvis Costello
Ian Dury
The Pretenders
Robert Plant
The Specials
The Who

December 26

  • Queen

December 27

  • Ian Dury and the Blockheads (with guest Mick Jones on “Sweet Gene Vincent”)
  • Matumbi
  • The Clash

December 28

  • The Pretenders
  • The Specials
  • The Who

December 29

  • Elvis Costello & The Attractions
  • Rockpile (with guest Robert Plant on “Little Sister”)
  • Wings
  • Rockestra

Selected setlists


  1. Jailhouse Rock
  2. We Will Rock You (fast version)
  3. Let Me Entertain You
  4. Somebody to Love
  5. If You Can’t Beat Them
  6. Mustapha
  7. Death on Two Legs
  8. Killer Queen
  9. I’m in Love with My Car
  10. Get Down, Make Love
  11. You’re My Best Friend
  12. Save Me
  13. Now I’m Here
  14. Don’t Stop Me Now
  15. Spread Your Wings
  16. Love of My Life
  17. ’39
  18. Keep Yourself Alive
  19. Drums solo
  20. Guitar solo with parts of Silent Night
  21. Brighton Rock reprise
  22. Crazy Little Thing Called Love
  23. Bohemian Rhapsody
  24. Tie Your Mother Down
  25. Sheer Heart Attack
  26. We Will Rock You
  27. We Are the Champions
  28. God Save the Queen (tape)

Ian Dury & The Blockheads

  1. Clevor Trevor
  2. Inbetweenies
  3. Don’t Ask Me
  4. Reasons To Be Cheerful
  5. Sink My Boats
  6. Waiting For Your Taxi
  7. This Is What We Find
  8. Mischief
  9. What A Waste
  10. Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick
  11. Sweet Gene Vincent

The Clash

  1. Clash City Rockers
  2. Brand New Cadillac
  3. Safe European Home
  4. Jimmy Jazz
  5. Clampdown
  6. The Guns of Brixton
  7. Train in Vain
  8. Wrong ‘Em Boyo
  9. Koka Kola
  10. (White Man) In Hammersmith Palais
  11. Stay Free
  12. Bankrobber
  13. Janie Jones
  14. Complete Control
  15. Armagideon Time
  16. London Calling

The Specials

  1. (Dawning Of a) New Era
  2. Do The Dog
  3. Monkey Man
  4. Concrete Jungle
  5. Too Hot
  6. Doesn’t Make It Alright
  7. Too Much Too Young
  8. Guns Of Navarone
  9. Little Bitch
  10. A Message To You Rudy
  11. Nite Club
  12. Gangsters
  13. Longshot Kick The Bucket
  14. Skinhead Moonstomp
  15. Madness

The Who

  1. Substitute
  2. I Can’t Explain
  3. Baba O’Riley
  4. The Punk and the Godfather
  5. My Wife
  6. Sister Disco
  7. Behind Blue Eyes
  8. Music Must Change
  9. Drowned
  10. Who Are You
  11. 5.15
  12. Pinball Wizard
  13. See Me Feel Me
  14. Long Live Rock
  15. My Generation
  16. I’m a Man
  17. Hoochie Coochie Man
  18. Sparks
  19. I Can See for Miles
  20. I Don’t Want To Be an Old Man
  21. Won’t Get Fooled Again
  22. Summertime Blues
  23. Dancing In The Streets
  24. Dance It Away
  25. The Real Me


  1. Three Time Loser
  2. Crawling From The Wreckage
  3. Little Sister


  1. Got to Get You into My Life
  2. Getting Closer
  3. Every Night
  4. Again And Again And Again
  5. I’ve Had Enough
  6. No Words
  7. Cook Of The House
  8. Old Siam, Sir
  9. Maybe I’m Amazed
  10. The Fool on the Hill
  11. Hot As Sun
  12. Spin It On
  13. Twenty Flight Rock
  14. Go Now
  15. Arrow Through Me
  16. Coming Up
  17. Goodnight Tonight
  18. Yesterday
  19. Mull of Kintyre
  20. Band on the Run


  1. Rockestra Theme
  2. Let It Be
  3. Lucille
  4. Rockestra Theme (reprise)


Clash – London Calling

A guitar-powered anthem if I ever heard one. Great title track of the Clash’s greatest album London Calling.

Authorship of this song was credited to Joe Strummer and Mick Jones, but at some point, the other two members of the band, Paul Simonon and Topper Headon were added.

The title came from the BBC World Service’s radio station identification: “This is London calling…” The BBC used it during World War II to open its broadcasts outside of England. Joe Strummer heard it when he was living in Germany with his parents.

According to guitarist Mick Jones, it was a headline in the London Evening Standard that triggered the lyric. The paper warned that “the North Sea might rise and push up the Thames, flooding the city,” he said in the book Anatomy of a Song. “We flipped. To us, the headline was just another example of how everything was coming undone.”

The song peaked at #11 in the UK in 1979

The Clash wrote this song in 1979 on their first US tour, then recorded it after returning to England.

From Songfacts

This is an apocalyptic song, detailing the many ways the world could end, including the coming of the ice age, starvation, and war. It was the song that best defined The Clash, who were known for lashing out against injustice and rebelling against the establishment, which is pretty much what punk rock was all about.

Joe Strummer explained in 1988 to Melody Maker: “I read about 10 news reports in one day calling down all variety of plagues on us.”

Singer Joe Strummer was a news junkie, and many of the images of doom in the lyrics came from news reports he read. Strummer claimed the initial inspiration came in a conversation he had with his then-fiancee Gaby Salter in a taxi ride home to their flat in World’s End (appropriately). “There was a lot of Cold War nonsense going on, and we knew that London was susceptible to flooding. She told me to write something about that,” noted Strummer in an interview with Uncut magazine.

The line “London is drowning and I live by the river” came from a saying in England that if the Thames river ever flooded, all of London would be underwater. Joe Strummer was living by the river, but in a high-rise apartment, so he would have been OK.

The line about the “a nuclear era, but I have no fear” was inspired by the Three Mile Island nuclear reactor meltdown in March 1979. This incident is also referred to in the lyrics to “Clampdown” from the same album.

The band was intrigued by American music as well as its rock’n’roll mythology, so much so that the album cover was a tribute to Elvis Presley’s first album.

This was recorded at Wessex Studios, located in a former church in the Highbury district of North London. Many hit recordings had already come out of this studio, including singles and albums by the Sex Pistols, The Pretenders and the Tom Robinson Band. Chief engineer and studio manager Bill Price had developed a slew of unique recording techniques suited to the room.

Fellow punk band The Damned were recording overdubs to their album Machine Gun Etiquette in the studio, and as they were old touring buddies of The Clash they roped Strummer and Mick Jones into record backing vocals for the title song to their album – the shouted lines of “second time around!” in that song are actually Strummer and Jones in uncredited cameos.

Interestingly, the band initially wrote most of the London Calling album at the Vanilla rehearsal studios near Vauxhall Bridge in London. Roadie Johnny Green explained: “It had the advantage of not looking like a studio. Out front of a garage. We wrote a sign out front saying ‘we ain’t here.’ We weren’t disturbed.”

With a great vibe going in the studio and having already recorded some demos with The Who’s soundman Bob Pridden, Strummer had the crazy idea to record the entire album there and bypass expensive studio time. CBS refused point blank, so Wessex was chosen because it had a similar intimacy to Vanilla. The original Vanilla demos were made available on the 25th anniversary edition of London Calling.

At the end of the song, a series of beeps spells out “SOS” in morse code. Mick Jones created these sounds on one of his guitar pickups.

The SOS distress signal has often been used metaphorically in songs (like the 1975 Abba song), but in “London Calling” it’s more literal, implying that the disaster has struck and we are calling for help.

London Calling was a double album, but it wasn’t supposed to be. The band were angry that CBS had priced their previous EP, The Cost of Living at £1.49, and so in the interests of their fans they insisted that London Calling be a double LP. CBS refused, so the band tried a different tactic: how about a free single on a one-disc LP? CBS agreed, but didn’t notice that this free single disc would play at 33rpm and contain eight songs – therefore making it up to a double album! It then became nine when “Train in Vain” was tacked on to the end of the album after an NME single release fell through. “Train” arrived so late on that it isn’t on the tracklisting on the album sleeve, and the only evidence of its existence is a stamp on the run-out groove and its presence on the end of side four. So in the end, London Calling was a 19-song double-LP retailing for the price of a single!

Rolling Stone magazine named London Calling the best album of the ’80s. Pedantic readers noted that it was first released in the UK in December 1979. In the US it was released two weeks into January 1980, meaning that from a US perspective, it’s a 1980s album. And if anyone can come up with a better alternative to best album of the ’80s, Rolling Stone would love to hear from you!

According to NME magazine (March 16, 1991), we know that Paul Simonon smashed his bass guitar – as photographed on the cover of the album – at exactly 10:50 pm. This is because he broke his watch in the process and handed the busted bits to photographer Pennie Smith, who snapped the photo.

Smith thought the photo wouldn’t be good for an album cover, citing that it was too blurry and out of focus. “I was wrong!” she admitted in the Westway to the World documentary!

As a tribute to Clash singer/guitarist Joe Strummer, who died in 2002, Bruce Springsteen, Dave Grohl, Elvis Costello and Little Steven Van Zant played this at the close of the 2003 Grammys as a tribute to the band. All four played guitar and took turns on vocals. The Grammys is the type of commercialized event The Clash probably would have avoided, although they did win their first Grammy that night when “Westway To The World” won for Best Long Form Music Video.

In 2003, The Clash were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and it was rumored that Bruce Springsteen would join them to perform at the ceremony. The classic lineup of Strummer/Jones/Simonon/Headon were in talks to reunite to perform at the ceremony and play on stage for the first time since 1982, but Simonon was always against a reunion. In the end, Strummer’s death in December 2002 put paid to the reunion of the original lineup, and the remaining members declined to play. Said Simonon: “I think it’s better for The Clash to play in front of their public, rather than a seated and booted audience.”

According to Mick Jones, his guitar solo was played back backwards (done by flipping over the tape) and overdubbed onto the track.

This is one of the most popular Clash songs, and has been used in many commercials and soundtracks. It was used in promos counting down the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, as well as the film soundtracks for Intimacy (2001), Billy Elliot (2000), Atomic Blonde (2017) and the James Bond movie Die Another Day (2002).

The lyrics contain an observation about how society often turns to pop music to make them feel better about world events, and how The Clash didn’t want to become false idols for folks looking for escapism. This can be heard in the line, “Don’t look to us – phoney Beatlemania (a reference to The Beatles’ massive fanbase in the ’60s) has bitten the dust!” (Mick Jones said the line was “aimed at the touristy soundalike rock bands in London in the late ’70s.)

There’s also a subtle reference to Joe Strummer’s brush with Hepatitis in 1978 with the mention of “yellowy eyes.”

A check of the archives reveals that this song – hailed by many music journalists as a monumental track – received far from unanimous praise from critics when it was released. David Hepworth in Smash Hits criticized the band for playing too loud in the studio. “Why won’t Joe Strummer let us hear more than one word in every three? Until they face those elementary facts, sides like ‘London Calling’ will always fail to condense all that fury and grandeur into a truly great record,” he wrote.

The sales figures and continuing popularity of the song suggest that not many other people had the same problem!

The video was filmed at Cadogan Pier, next to the Albert Bridge in Battersea Park in London. It was directed by longtime friend of the band Don Letts, and made on a wet night in December 1979 which sees the band performing on a barge. Letts didn’t have a happy time doing the video. He explained:

“Now me, I am a land-lover, I can’t swim. Don Letts does not know that the Thames has a tide. So we put the cameras in a boat, low tide, the cameras are 15 feet too low. I didn’t realize that rivers flow, so I thought the camera would be bouncing up and down nicely in front of the pier. But no, the camera keeps drifting away from the bank. Then it starts to rain. I am a bit out of my depth here, but I’m going with it and The Clash are doing their thing. The group doing their thing was all it needed to be a great video. That is a good example of us turning adversity to our advantage.”

Joe Strummer does some ominous echoed cackling about two minutes into this song. He was essentially imitating a seagull, as heard on the Otis Redding song “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay.”

Many cover versions of this song have been recorded, including variants by One King Down, Stroh, and the NC Thirteens. Bob Dylan covered the song during his 2005 London residency, and Bruce Springsteen has followed up from his performance of the song at the 2003 Grammys by performing it at some of his concerts, including on his 2009 London Calling: Live in Hyde Park DVD, which is named after the song.

In late 1991, the Irish folk-punk band The Pogues sacked lead singer Shane MacGowan just at the height of their fame. Joe Strummer, by now well split up from The Clash, agreed to take over on vocals for a couple of years until he departed in 1993 on good terms – he didn’t want to be the permanent replacement for MacGowan and wanted to do his own thing. During his time with the Pogues, the band would often play a searing version of “London Calling” at live shows. Like many strong Clash songs, Strummer took it with him to play with his solo band the Mescaleros in the late 1990s.

This was featured in the October 13, 2013 Funny Or Die episode, where a costumed Fred Armisen interviewed the real Mick Jones and Paul Simonon.

This was featured in the 1998 Friends episode “The One with Ross’s Wedding: Part 1,” when the gang arrives in London for Ross and Emily’s nuptials.

London Calling

London calling to the faraway towns
Now war is declared and battle come down
London calling to the underworld
Come out of the cupboard, you boys and girls
London calling, now don’t look to us
Phony Beatlemania has bitten the dust
London calling, see we ain’t got no swing
Except for the ring of that truncheon thing

The ice age is coming, the sun is zooming in
Meltdown expected, the wheat is growin’ thin
Engines stop running, but I have no fear
‘Cause London is drowning, and I, I live by the river

London calling to the imitation zone
Forget it, brother, you can go it alone
London calling to the zombies of death
Quit holding out and draw another breath
London calling and I don’t want to shout
But when we were talking I saw you nodding out
London calling, see we ain’t got no high
Except for that one with the yellowy eye

The ice age is coming, the sun is zooming in
Engines stop running, the wheat is growin’ thin
A nuclear era, but I have no fear
‘Cause London is drowning, and I, I live by the river

The ice age is coming, the sun is zooming in
Engines stop running, the wheat is growin’ thin
A nuclear era, but I have no fear
‘Cause London is drowning, and I, I live by the river

Now get this

London calling, yes, I was there, too
And you know what they said? Well, some of it was true!
London calling at the top of the dial
And after all this, won’t you give me a smile?

(London calling)

I never felt so much alike alike alike

The Clash – Rock The Casbah

When this came out it took me a while to warm up to it… but after a few listens I liked it. They were all over MTV then when they were opening up for the Who’s “farewell” tour.

Clash drummer Topper Headon wrote the music and the original lyrics. After he wrote it he was fired from the band because of drug problems… In the meantime, the song became an enormous hit in the US. In the music video for the song, its original Clash drummer Terry Chimes at the kit (he had returned to replace Headon temporarily).

Joe Strummer decided to take Headon’s lyrics in a different direction. According to former Clash co-manager Kosmo Vinyl, Headon’s original words were a filthy ode to his girlfriend. Joe Strummer wrote the lyrics with a more political bent.

This was The Clash’s biggest US hit, and along with “Train In Vain,” one of only two that reached the Top 40. They had several Top 40 hits in England.

The song peaked at #8 in 1983 in the Billboard 100. The album Combat Rock peaked at #7 in the Billboard Album Charts.

Dave from A Sound Day did a post on this song in January that you can read here. 


From Songfacts
The first line of Strummer’s re-written lyrics had a specific genesis: manager Bernie Rhodes was frustrated in the early Combat Rock sessions with every track ending up being really long (stuff like “Straight To Hell” and “Sean Flynn”) and in one session shouted, “Does everything have to be as long as raga?!” Strummer told Rolling Stone shortly before he died in 2002: “I got back to the hotel that night and wrote on a typewriter, ‘The King told the boogie men You gotta get that raga drop.’ I looked at it and for some reason I started to think about what someone had told me earlier, that you get lashed for owning a disco album in Iran.” This served as inspiration for the rest of the lyrics, about the people defying the Arab ruler (Shareef)’s ban on disco music and “Rocking the Casbah.”

“Casbah” (also spelled “Qasbah” or “Kasbah”) refers to walled areas in many North African towns, especially the one in Algiers. The lyrics use many different terms in humorous context from Arabic, Hebrew, Turkish and Sanskrit language and culture – along with Casbah, there are also Sharifs, Bedouins, Sheikh, kosher, raga and minerets in the song.

In the UK this single was backed on the B-side by “Long Time Jerk,” a song mostly written by bassist Paul Simonon about his then-girlfriend Pearl Harbour. “Jerk” wasn’t available anywhere else until it was included on the expanded Super Black Market Clash rarities compilation in 1993.

The US military used this as a rallying cry when they invaded Iraq in 1991. During Operation Desert Storm, Joe Strummer was irate over the song being one of the most requested on US radio because of the misunderstanding that it was an anti-Iraq in sentiment (a similar fate befell The Cure’s “Killing An Arab”).

With electronic sound effects and an intriguing video, this appealed to Americans more than any other Clash song, but it wasn’t a good representation of the band. For many young people in the US, The Clash were known as a British import with a catchy song, similar to MTV darlings like Thomas Dolby and A Flock of Seagulls. In England they were revered for breaking new ground as rock rebels.

When this became a hit, Joe Strummer considered leaving The Clash. He couldn’t justify singing rebellious songs when the band was rich and successful. In their early years, when they were struggling, their music was sincere, but he felt they were becoming a joke.

When the band broke up in 1985, it was speculated that their plan all along was to break up once they had conquered America, a feat that was achieved by “Rock the Casbah” becoming such a huge hit along with “Should I Stay or Should I Go?.”

The music video features an Arab and an orthodox Jewish person skanking, to go with the Middle Eastern theme. The parts of the Arab and Jew were played by Titos Menchaca (the sheik), and local theater director Dennis Razze (the Jew). Titos told us the story:

“We shot it in 1981 in and around Austin, Texas. This was a few months before MTV was even launched. At the time, I was a young film acting student (I had stage experience/training, but working in front of the camera is a different beast). My teacher was a guy named Loren Bivens. One day after class he mentioned that some guys were in from out of town to do some sort of film shoot. He didn’t know much about it but thought it’d be a good opportunity to work in front of a camera.

I chatted with them at their hotel room later. There was Don Letts, a rastah from London who would direct, John Hazard, ace camera man from New York, and some guy named Barry, who I later learned was their DP (director of photography). They explained that they were with the Clash and working in a brand new medium called “music videos” that bands were going to be using to pitch songs to record companies and other powers-that-be. It was such a foreign concept at the time that I didn’t think much about it after the interview until they called later and said they wanted me for the part of the sheik, they liked the contrast between my height (6’3″) and Dennis’, and the gig would pay $350 for one day’s work. NOW they had my attention.

This was Don’s directorial debut, so he was a bit unsure how to handle actors. But, he was extremely creative and we soon learned to glean from his instructions what he wanted from us in each scene.

A few quick notes about the shoot: The rock quarry scene near the beginning where I’m running – we shot that about 6 times because Don wanted to see dust flying off my shoulders à la Indiana Jones when he’s running from the natives at the beginning of the original Raiders movie which had just come out and was all the rage. He kept heaping more and more dirt on me and we kept doing takes until, mercifully, John and Barry told him it simply couldn’t be seen from that distance.

The scene where we’re jamming down the highway with the Austin skyline in the background – John was shooting out an open panel van door and there was lots of honking traffic behind us. That was real beer we were drinking all day.

For the final scene where we’re dancing in the crowd at the concert – some punk kept trying to worm his way into the shot and Don had to physically block him out (like a basketball player) so we could get the shot. (that venue has since been torn down to make a park).

We got to hang out with the band for a bit before the show. They struck me as quiet, serious. Sober, too. Joe Ely was there, also. That night, I hung out at a local reggae joint in Austin called Liberty Lunch (now torn down also) with Bivens, Barry, and these two brothers from New York who were former students of Bivens’ – in town to scout locations for their first feature, which Barry was going to DP for them.

I enjoyed some notoriety from the video when it became an MTV (and later VH1) mainstay, but that all kind of quieted down after a few years except for rabid fans of the band (of which there are many). I find it interesting that it has such social relevance now, as it did then. Maybe more. Also, kids today are rediscovering the Clash and when I do guest artist gigs at colleges my ‘cool factor’ shoots up immediately. Heh heh! Oh, by the way… Barry’s last name? Sonnenfeld. And the two brothers scouting locations? Joel and Ethan Coen. The movie? Blood Simple.

Dennis Razze, who played The Rabbi, told us:
“A casting agent friend of mine suggested I audition for this video shoot, so on a lark I went down to the Sheraton Hotel that night to audition. At 8pm or so was a long line around the block of guys auditioning, and finally around 11pm I was ushered into the hotel room to meet three guys who were doing the shoot. Titos, who was a friend of mine, was next in line so we went in together. They had a boom box on which they played this song I had never heard (“Rock the Casbah”) and asked us to improv to it. We danced around a bit and did some interaction as the two characters they wanted – the Sheik and the Rabbi. When we were done they told us on the spot we got the job. We were told to be back there at 5am for makeup and costume!

I had to wear three layers of dark heavy wool and also fake “locks” that were glued to my sideburns. The day of the shoot was ungodly hot as Austin can be in the summer. Close to 100 degrees. They drove us around in a van from location to location and by mid day we had also met the band who didn’t have much to do with us (and I didn’t have a clue who they were). They had rented an expensive film camera to do the shoot (most people don’t realize that music videos were shot on film) The director loved the little bits I added like the “Fiddler on the Roof” dance and spitting beer in the pool. He encouraged me to have fun and I had no trouble being silly. As the day went by, I began to really like the song that they played over and over again at each location. The coolest thing was doing the scene with the armadillo – what a cool creature, bigger than I thought one might be.

We didn’t end the very long day till around midnight after the concert shoot which was absolutely crazy because they just worked us into the audience in front of the stage and shot us and the band in real time during the concert. I was drenched in sweat by that time, exhausted, and just wanted to go home to bed.

I never thought I would hear another thing about the video, but six months later, friends of mine form the East Coast would call and say they saw me on HBO and later MTV. (I never saw the video myself till almost two years after it was shot) We were paid a few hundred dollars for our work, and because there were no residuals in the early days of music videos, we never made another cent off of our success. Given the number of times over so many years the video has been aired, Titos and I would have made a sizable sum I think if the video had been shot a year later when it was determined that music videos would work the same way as commercials.

Combat Rock was recorded at the Electric Ladyland studio in New York. Topper Headon recalled to Mojo magazine November 2008: “I loved New York, the 24-hour city. (But) we’d lost that unity and had stopped hanging out together as friends, and would all turn up at the studio at different times, writing stuff as and when it came up. The sessions were supposed to start at two in the afternoon, though by the time everyone turned up it was seven. I got there early, and what else was I going to do except put down an idea?” That idea was the drum pattern and tune for this song.

Live performances of this song often took a different direction, since by this time the band had given up on taking a keyboard player on tour. This meant the piano part couldn’t be played live, and the song took on a heavier, more all-out rock feel in a live setting.

It was a live staple from its introduction in 1982 through to the band’s breakup in 1985. Joe Strummer was so proud of the song that it was one of the Clash songs that he performed live with his solo band, The Mescaleros (who did indeed have a keyboard player!).

Rock The Casbah

Now the king told the boogie men
You have to let that raga drop
The oil down the desert way
Has been shakin’ to the top
The Sheik he drove his Cadillac
He went a-cruisin’ down the ville
The muezzin was a-standing
On the radiator grille

Shareef don’t like it
Rock the Casbah, rock the Casbah
Shareef don’t like it
Rock the Casbah, Rock the Casbah

By order of the prophet
We ban that boogie sound
Degenerate the faithful
With that craazy Casbah sound
But the Bedouin they brought out the electric camel drum
The local guitar picker got his guitar-picking thumb
As soon as the Shareef had cleared the square
They began to wail

Shareef don’t like it
Rock the Casbah, rock the Casbah
Shareef don’t like it
Rock the Casbah, Rock the Casbah

Now, over at the temple
Oh, they really pack ’em in
The in-crowd say it’s cool
To dig this chanting thing
But as the wind changed direction
Then the temple band took five
The crowd caught a wiff
Of that crazy Casbah jive

Shareef don’t like it
Rock the Casbah, rock the Casbah
Shareef don’t like it
Rock the Casbah, Rock the Casbah

The king called up his jet fighters
He said you better earn your pay
Drop your bombs between the minarets
Down the Casbah way

As soon as the Shareef was chauffeured outta there
The jet pilots tuned to the cockpit radio blare
As soon as the Shareef was outta their hair
The jet pilots wailed

Shareef don’t like it
Rock the Casbah, rock the Casbah
Shareef don’t like it
Rock the Casbah, Rock the Casbah

Shareef don’t like it, he thinks it’s not kosher
Rock the Casbah, rock the Casbah
Shareef don’t like it, fundementally can’t take it
Rock the Casbah, Rock the Casbah

Shareef don’t like it, you know he really hates it
Rock the Casbah, rock the Casbah
Shareef don’t like it, really, really hates it

The Equals – Baby Come Back

If you were wondering what Eddy Grant did before Electric Avenue…wonder no more. He was writing this song for the band he was in called The Equals.

The Equals were a pop/reggae/rock group that formed in North London, England in 1965. Eddy Grant, founded the group. Also in the original line-up were the twin brothers Derv and Lincoln Gordon, as well as John Hall and Pat Lloyd. They were noted as being the first major interracial rock group in the UK and one of the few racially mixed bands of the era.

This song was originally released in 1966 as a B side. Throughout Europe DJ’s started to play this song and it charted in Germany. It was re-released in 1968 in the UK and it peaked at #1 and in the US it made it to #32.

In 1980, The Clash recorded a cover version of the Equals’ song “Police on My Back”. Willie Nelson also covered the song in 2006.

Baby Come Back would be their only charting song in America but in the UK they found success.

  • “I Get So Excited” / “The Skies Above” – (1968) (UK #44)
  • “Baby Come Back” / “Hold Me Closer” – (1968) (UK #1, IRL #2, NOR #4, U.S. #32)
  • “Laurel And Hardy” / “The Guy Who Made Her a Star” – (1968) (UK #35)
  • “Softly Softly” / “Lonely Rita” – (1968) (UK #48)
  • “Michael and The Slipper Tree” / “Honey Gum” – (1969) (UK #24)
  • “Viva Bobby Joe” / “I Can’t Let You Go” – (1969) (UK #6, IRL #3)
  • “Rub A Dub Dub” / “After the Lights Go Down Low” – (1969) (UK #34)
  • “Black Skin Blue Eyed Boys” / “Ain’t Got Nothing to Give You” – (1970) (UK #9)



From Songfacts

Originally, this was the B-side of The Equals’ “Hold Me Closer” single. That record did not capture much attention, but in early 1968 this was released as a single in Germany, where it rose to #1. After it subsequently topped the charts in Belgium and Holland the song was finally reissued in the UK, where it soared to #1.

The Equals were a pop group formed in England in 1965 by Derv Gordan (vocals), his twin brother Lincoln (guitar), Grant (guitar), John Hall (drums) and Pat Lloyd (guitar). They went on to have 12 more hits in Germany and two other UK Top 10 hits (“Viva Bobby Joe” and “Black Skin Blue Eyed Boys”) before legal problems with the record company made it impossible to release any more records.

Baby Come Back

Come back 
Baby, come back 
Baby, come back 
Baby, come back 

This is the first time [unintelligible] today 
That you have run away 
I’m asking you for the first time 
Love me [unintelligible] stay (all right) 

Hey (all right) 
Hey (all right!) 
Hey, yeah 
Come back 

Baby, come back 
Baby, come back 
Baby, come back 

There ain’t no use in you crying 
‘Cause I’m more hurt than you 
I shoulda not been out flirting 
But now my love is true 

Ooh (all right) 
Ooh (OK!) 
Ooh, yeah 
Come back 

Baby, come back 
Baby, come back 
Baby, come back 
Come back, baby, don’t you leave me 

Baby, baby, please don’t go 
Oh, won’t you give me a second chance 
Baby, I love you so (all right) 
Oh (oh, yeah) 

Oh (unintelligible) 
Oh, yeah 
Come back 
I said baby, come back 

I said baby, come back 
Oh won’t you please come back 
Oh won’t you please come back [Repeat until fade]


The Clash – Train In Vain

I’ve always liked the Clash. Love the London Calling album and really started to listen to them when Combat Rock came out. I’ve never known much about them. This was the first song I ever knew by the Clash when I heard it on the radio in 1980.

They started off as a punk band but The Clash, unlike some other Punk bands, could really play and sing well…and above all else write some great songs. This song was written by

The song was released in 1979 and reached #23 on the Billboard Charts. It is listed by Rolling Stone Magazine at 298 in the top 500 songs of all time. Train in Vain was written by Mick Jones and Joe Strummer.

From songfacts about Train In Vain.

On the original vinyl copy of the album “Train Is Vain” isn’t listed on the tracklisting on the sleeve. The story is that the song was recorded for an NME promotional flexi-disc once the London Calling sessions were done, and the flexi-disc idea then fell through, leaving the song with no home. The band hastily tacked the song onto the end of the album just before vinyl pressing, but the sleeve had already been designed and there was no time to add it to the tracklisting. The only clue of it’s existence is in the run-out groove on Side 4, where the name is carved into the vinyl. On all subsequent releases (including the CD copy) “Train In Vain” is included on the tracklisting on the sleeve.