The Clash – Rock the Casbah

Combat Rock
Year :
Buzzcocks / Iggy Pop / The Kinks

Scenario: It’s a great Saturday night, you’re in the city, hell – you’re in a bar. And you get drunkkk. Not the gross skeezy drunk, or “white girl wasted,” mind you, but the fun kind of drunk you see in movies. A great song just came on the jukebox, and damn man, you gotta jam. A group of buddies sling their arms around each other and sway to ‘Don’t Stop Believing’ as they belt off-key. A flock of bubbly girls ‘wooo!’ and almost each girl claims, ‘This is my song!’ to I don’t know – ‘Party in the USA?’ (I wouldn’t know, I’m not one of those girls – ahem) But in the running reel that’s in the back of my mind – there is the kind of song that makes you wish you were in a tribute band, just so you can be on the stage (bar counter) and not look like a total dumbass. For me, that would be the timeless song, Rock the Casbah by The Clash.

The song was released in 1982 from the English punk band The Clash, where it became the band’s greatest hit. Turn to the 80s station, and I bet you the song would play at least ONCE that day. Because really, Rock the Casbah has itched itself into anyone’s mind who has heard it. Why? 1. It’s an ace song, featuring Topper Headon’s chummy piano riff, and a hint of reggae twang. 2. Penned by Joe Strummer, you either don’t understand what he’s saying or you don’t understand what he MEANS. If The Clash had a dollar each time someone asked “What does rock the casbah mean?” they would probably be much better minted. Fortunately mates, it’s not as big of a mystery as we played it out to be. Arabic, Turkish, Hebrew and Sanskrit terms are incorporated in the lyrics. The song tells a fictional story of the population resisting the ban of rock music, so they rock the Kasbah – an Arabic term for an Islamic City. The king orders jet fighters to bomb anyone who dare violates the rock probation, but instead of following the king’s order – they proceed to play rock on their cockpit radios.

The song was inspired by the banning of rock music in Iran under Ayatollah Khomeini and reflects the struggle of the UK between society and government in the 70s. Though the origin of punk derives from New York City, it was London that epitomized the rebellious movement that withstands in punk culture. The recession of the 70s, post war politics, and a garbage strike in the UK drove the youth to much resentment, and conservatives tried their best to quiet the expression of the socially estranged group that strived for anarchy. Being punk is about being proudly independent – and being the voice of the people. Punk bands were here for the cult following – selling out and becoming a yuppie was the culture’s sin, and The Clash falls under the debate if they are indeed sell outs or not – which I find ignorant since they refused to budge their principals even at their height of popularity, and kept sales cheap for their audience, which left the band in debt for two decade.

The internet stands for what music lacks these days; ignorance of social politics can be diminished within a few clicks and expression can be found on blogs and your facebook newsfeed (unfortunately). Nationwide, high-school theater teachers have shoved cheesy chivalry 80s flicks down youngsters throats, and now even us young kids have great tastes. I hope with the apparent love for The Smiths and Joy Division, I’m making sure no one forgets The Clash. The greatest question of 80s music has an answer that’s even cooler. If you go out tonight, you could either pull out your red shoes and dance the blues, orrr you could throw on your combat boots and rock the casbah.

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(@JJoyceL) had her hips first shake to mainstream 80's music. Since then, she's developed an ear for many other genres, but still remains an awkward dancer.

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