March 5, 2024

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Song of the day for December 22, 2023

2 min read
The Clash's performance on the comedy show Fridays included hits "London Calling" and "Train in Vain". The latter was added to the album at the last minute, becoming the band's first US Top 30 hit. "London Calling" reflects Joe Strummer's concerns about world events, including a nuclear error and police brutality. Strummer died in 2002 at age 50.

Today is a double song bonus. London Calling / Tran In the Vain by The Clash. Both of these songs were huge hits for The Clash, and to find a live performance from the comedy show Fridays with both songs was a nice little bonus.

I also chose to do songs by The Clash today because In 2002, singer, songwriter, guitarist, and co-founder of The Clash, Joe Strummer, died at the age of 50. With the innovative political punk-rock band, Strummer released a variety of highly-influential titles, including 1979’s London Calling and 1982’s Combat Rock.

“Train in Vain” was released as the third and final single from their third studio album, London Calling (1979). The song was not originally listed on the album’s track listing, appearing as a hidden track at the end of the album. This was because the track was added to the record at the last minute when the sleeve was already in production. Some editions include the song in the track listing. It was the first Clash song to reach the United States Top 30 charts and in 2010, the song was ranked number 298 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

In the US, the song’s title is expanded to “Train in Vain (Stand by Me)”, as the words “stand by me” dominate the chorus. It was titled “Train in Vain” in part to avoid confusion with Ben E. King’s signature song “Stand by Me”.

“London Calling” was released as a single from the band’s 1979 double album of the same name. This apocalyptic, politically charged rant features the band’s post-punk sound, electric guitar, and vocals.

The lyrics reflect the concern felt by Strummer about world events with the reference to “a nuclear error” – the incident at Three Mile Island, which occurred earlier in 1979. Joe Strummer has said: “We felt that we were struggling about to slip down a slope or something, grasping with our fingernails. And there was no one there to help us.”

The line “London is drowning / And I live by the river” comes from concerns that if the River Thames flooded, most of central London would drown, something that led to the construction of the Thames Barrier. Strummer’s concern for police brutality is evident through the lines “We ain’t got no swing / Except for the ring of that truncheon thing” as the Metropolitan Police at the time had a truncheon as standard issued equipment. Social criticism also features through references to the effects of casual drug taking: “We ain’t got no high / Except for that one with the yellowy eyes”.

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