Saturday, June 05, 2010

Progressive Music Classics. The Clash: "Clampdown"

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By MARC McDONALD

Welcome to another edition of Progressive Music Classics.

I first heard the songs that would make up The Clash's massive double album, "London Calling" at a Dallas concert the band gave in 1979. To tell you the truth, I was initially a bit disappointed. I came to the concert expecting to hear the classics I loved from the band's first spectacular two albums. Instead, the set-list was comprised mostly of unfamiliar yet-to-be-released songs from the band's forthcoming new album.

When the record first arrived on import vinyl in U.S. stores in late 1979, I grew to appreciate it more, after more listens. One thing that was immediately apparent was that The Clash had abandoned simple, three-chord punk. And the lyrics were now much more worldly, literary, intriguing, and often cryptic.

The band also seemed to be prophetic in songs like "Clampdown," one of my faves from the new record. A year later, Ronald Reagan would be elected to the White House. Yet the band was already referring to an "evil presidente" (sic). That and the chilling reference to Three Mile Island gave the record a "ripped-from-the-headlines" immediacy that perfectly captured the troubled era.

Part of of the lyric to "Clampdown" could easily be applied to today's Tea Baggers: "We will teach our twisted speech, to the young believers. We will train our blue-eyed men, to be young believers." Chilling fascist imagery that captures well the image of today's increasingly extremist Right-Wing America.

Indeed, "Clampdown" as a whole could be seen as a prophetic title that neatly sums up the horrors that Reagan and the New Right unleashed upon America, and the world, starting in the 1980s.

Take a look, if you can stomach it, at the pop charts of today. There's nothing more than an endless parade of cowardly pop stars, with nothing to say outside of "Have sex, be happy and be a good little consumer."

Bands like The Clash simply don't exist any more. Which is a shame, because today, we need them more than ever.

1-2-3-4!
Hey, hey!
Ooh!
The kingdom is ransacked
the jewels all taken back
and the chopper descends
they're hidden in the back
with a message on a half-baked tape
with the spool going round
saying I'm back here in this place
and I could cry
and there's smoke you could click on

What are we gonna do now?
Taking off his turban, they said, is this man a Jew?
’Cos working for the clampdown
They put up a poster saying we earn more than you!
When we're working for the clampdown
We will teach our twisted speech
To the young believers
We will train our blue-eyed men
To be young believers

The judge said five to ten but I say double that again
I'm not working for the clampdown
No man born with a living soul
Can be working for the clampdown
Kick over the wall 'cause government's to fall
How can you refuse it?
Let fury have the hour, anger can be power
D'you know that you can use it?

The voices in your head are calling
Stop wasting your time, there's nothing coming
Only a fool would think someone could save you
The men at the factory are old and cunning
You don't owe nothing, so boy get runnin'
It's the best years of your life they want to steal

But, you grow up and you calm down and
You're working for the clampdown
You start wearing the blue and brown and
You're working for the clampdown
So you got someone to boss around
It makes you feel big now
You drift until you brutalize
You made your first kill now

In these days of evil presidentes
Working for the clampdown
But lately one or two has fully paid their due
For working for the clampdown
Ha! Gitalong! Gitalong!
Working for the clampdown
Ha! Gitalong! Gitalong!
Working for the clampdown

Yeah I’m working hard in Harrisburg
Working hard in Petersburg
Working for the clampdown
Working for the clampdown
Ha! Gitalong! Gitalong
Begging to be melted down
Gitalong, gitalong
Work
Work
And I give away no secrets – ha!
Work
More work
Work
Work


(From the lyrics database Sing365.com).

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