Groovy times: The best of The Clash

For years I thought I’d outgrown The Clash. The surprise? Give’em Enough Rope, whose opener “Safe European Home” a commenter described as evoking “terror” but is also witty: the best account of white privilege ever recorded. Sandy Pearlman’s maligned production emphasizes the crack of the guitars and the Salacious Crumb-like interjections of Mick Jones. It’s my favorite Clash song.

As for the rest: I’ve loved “This is England” since downloading it in the Napster days: Strummer clearing his throat for the last time over a skeeved-out synthesizer and metal power chords, surveying Thatcher’s England with the grin of a satyr and the terror of a firebombing survivor; it’s a good track in the Mekons vein. Credit to Greil Marcus for writing so well about it. “Should I Stay or Should I Go,” which hit number one in the British charts nine years after its original release, introduced me to a debate I didn’t know: the band is reviled in certain British quarters for its last-gang-in-town mythos (read the comments on Tom Ewing’s blurb).

The ballot:

1. Safe European Home
2. White Man in Hammersmith Palais
3. I Fought The Law
4. Complete Control
5. Janie Jones
6. Spanish Bombs
7. One More Time
8. Stay Free
9. This is England
10. London’s Burning
11. 1977
12. Washington Bullets
13. Police at My Back
14. Straight to Hell
15. Lost in the Supermarket
16. Wrong’em Boyo
17. Groovy Times
18. Jimmy Jazz
19. Clampdown
20. The Magnificent Seven
21. Death or Glory
22. Guns on the Roof
23. Up in Heaven (Not in Here)
24. Bankrobber
25. Somebody Got Murdered
26. Charlie Don’t Surf
27. White Riot
28. What’s My Name
29. London Calling
30. Jail Guitar Doors

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