Song of the Day #357: ‘The Guns of Brixton’ – The Clash

theclashMy first exposure to the classic Clash album London Calling was in a Rolling Stone issue on the ‘Best Albums of the 80s.’ I was familiar with most of their selections — including (in order) Prince’s Purple Rain, U2’s The Joshua Tree, Talking Heads’ Remain in Light, Paul Simon’s Graceland, Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the U.S.A., Michael Jackson’s Thriller, R.E.M.’s Murmur and Tracy Chapman’s debut album.

Two of the albums were new to me. At #9 was Richard and Linda Thompson’s Shooting Out the Lights, an album I bought after reading about it but I admit I have yet to listen to all the way through. I actually own two copies, one of which contains the recorded material of David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust despite being labeled as the Thompsons’ disc. I thought that might be a rare collector’s item I could sell for enough money to retire on, but no such luck.

But even more interesting was the album sitting at #1 on that list… The Clash’s London Calling. I had a very rudimentary knowledge of The Clash, mostly tied to the song ‘Rock the Casbah,’ which received steady play on MTV. But the #1 album of the 80s? Ahead of such classics as the ones I mentioned above? That was interesting (especially because the album was actually released in 1979, meaning it shouldn’t have even been eligible for the list).

So I picked it up. And it is indeed an excellent album. Not ‘best album of the 80s’ great — I’d rank most of the albums listed above ahead of it — but great nevertheless. It’s a punk masterpiece that doesn’t scrimp on the melodies. Its 19 songs fly by in a flash of attitude and inventiveness, heavy with the fierce urgency of now (to quote MLK by way of BHO).

I could feature any song on London Calling with confidence. It’s one of those ‘drop the needle anywhere and let it fly’ albums. I’ve chosen ‘The Guns of Brixton’ pretty much at random.

When they kick out your front door
How you gonna come?
With your hands on your head
Or on the trigger of your gun

When the law break in
How you gonna go?
Shot down on the pavement
Or waiting in death row

You can crush us
You can bruise us
But you’ll have to answer to
Oh, Guns of Brixton

The money feels good
And your life you like it well
But surely your time will come
As in heaven, as in hell

You see, he feels like Ivan
Born under the Brixton sun
His game is called survivin’
At the end of ‘The Harder They Come’

You know it means no mercy
They caught him with a gun
No need for the Black Maria
Goodbye to the Brixton sun

You can crush us
You can bruise us
But you’ll have to answer to
Oh-the guns of Brixton

When they kick out your front door
How you gonna come?
With your hands on your head
Or on the trigger of your gun

You can crush us
You can bruise us
And even shoot us
But oh- the guns of Brixton

Shot down on the pavement
Waiting in death row
His game was survivin’
As in heaven as in hell

You can crush us
You can bruise us
But you’ll have to answer to
Oh, the guns of Brixton
Oh, the guns of Brixton
Oh, the guns of Brixton
Oh, the guns of Brixton
Oh, the guns of Brixton

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2 thoughts on “Song of the Day #357: ‘The Guns of Brixton’ – The Clash

  1. Kerrie says:

    Not as catchy as Rock the Casbah, to be sure, but not a bad song. I like the guitar and the cool beat that’s steady for most of the song and then gets a little chaotic toward the end. It adds a little interest to an otherwise pretty low key song. I am not a big fan of the vocals, though. The shrieking and carrying on in RTC is more suited to this guy’s voice…

    Interesting selection and one I wouldn’t ever have heard if not for the blog. :-)

  2. Dana says:

    I know the Clash are one of the critic darling groups and that London Calling is considered holy ground to punk fans. But I’m not really much of a fan of punk, and not a big fan of the Clash. So, on this one, I take a pass.

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