An all-star panel – including Mick Jones, Paul Simonon and Terry Chimes – vote for their greatest cuts (from Uncut's December 2003 issue)
21 Armagideon Time
B-side of “London Calling”, December 1979
PETE WYLIE: I used to DJ at Eric’s in Liverpool and we’d play this three or four times a night. People would still go back and dance to it every time. Liverpool sometimes picked on a certain track over others. Maybe it was a perverse bullshit thing but “Armagideon Time” was the one. It’s spooky and it’s taking reggae and making it their own thing. An ominous record.
MARK REFOY: This reminds me of seeing them at Birmingham Top Rank Suite when Mikey Dread was doing the support. These four figures came out in long coats with the collars turned up, big cowboy boots, hats covering their faces, and started skanking. Now in Johnny Green’s book, A Riot Of Our Own, he says nobody ever noticed that these guys were actually The Clash. Well I noticed! I remember at the time saying to my mate, “Fucking hell – that’s The Clash!”
THURSTON MOORE: Revolution reggae made genuine by yobs.
BRETT SPARKS: As a middle-class white kid growing up in Texas, this was the first actual reggae song I ever heard. Written by Clement Dodd and Willie Williams, two early founders of dancehall, the song opens with Joe Strummer wailing what sounds like the beginning of an old cowboy song – “I stayed around and played around this old town too long/Feel like I got to travel on.” Interesting spelling of ‘Armagideon’ – Gideon appears in the Book of Judges. An angel told him to destroy all false prophets. Gideon and his men smashed pitchers, blew trumpets and screamed, “The sword of the Lord!” Old Testament punk rockers.
STEVE WYNN: This used to scare the shit out of me when I would play it alone in my room late at night – you could feel yourself crawling between the bass lines and echo-laden beats and swampy reverb. An awesome performance and an incredible production.
Sandinista! album track, December 1980
SIMON GODDARD: Joe’s Strummer’s brilliant lyrical monologue – it’s a proper performance in every sense of the word on Strummer’s part. It’s like On The Waterfront meets “Rhapsody In Blue” or something, fucking genius. I admit it’s pretty lonely being in the Sandinista! fan club, but I love every inch of the bastard.
RAY GANGE: The way Joe sings it is such a trip. I think that goes with the whole of Sandinista!, really. It just blew everything apart. Whatever people were expecting from the next Clash album, Sandinista! wasn’t it. The variety of stuff was brilliant. I liked the fact that a lot of people didn’t get it. A triple album for a start, that’s so not expected from a punk band it just confused the fuck out of people.
GIDEON COE: Sandinista! is my favourite Clash album. It’s a sprawling, flawed masterpiece of a record that just happens to be one-and-a-half sides too long. “Broadway” is one of the reasons for forgiving them its excesses. Strummer’s on top form and his Grove-meets-Lower-East-Side drawl is honed to perfection for this tale of a bum who’s down on his luck. The Clash are full of delightful paradoxes, one being the way America puts fire and anger in their bellies while at the same time firing their imagination. They may have been bored with the USA but they also bought into its mythology and romantic imagery big-time. That’s what you get with “Broadway”. And the band sounds great. Start to finish.
MARK RODGERS: Spread over six sides of fat black vinyl, Sandinista! came as a much needed musical education to this 15-year-old boy, closed in by the chapel-cold walls of the South Wales valleys. As the punch-drunk hobo in “Broadway” falls out of the night, everything The Clash ever stood for comes stumbling out after him. It’s all here – humility, anger, passion and pride. Why Tom Waits hasn’t covered this song is anybody’s guess. Perfection.
19 Lost In The Supermarket
London Calling album track, December 1979
BUTCH VIG: A lot of people see The Clash as an old punk band but there was a lot of different styles and ideas in their music. One minute they’d be playing around with rock and blues, the next ska and reggae. “Lost In The Supermarket” brings a lot of these different influences together with a really hypnotic chorus. It also demonstrates Mick Jones’ unique guitar techniques and the way he would produce really hooky leads. I used to get into arguments with Kurt Cobain about The Clash because he would say they didn’t have as much energy as The Sex Pistols and I would say The Sex Pistols only had four or five killer songs and that most of their material was really one-dimensional. It was just a light-hearted thing, but we’d argue for hours about this and other classic rock debates like The Beatles vs The Stones.
ED HAMELL: I always dug the occasional Jones vocal. This is a catchy little bugger, and in a perfect world this would have been a radio hit.
MATTHEW RYAN: The first song I wished I’d written. I was inspired by their wonderful marriage of truth-telling, vulnerability and being pissed off. It was my first moment of absolute envy, and an important point in my interior life as a writer.
JOSH ROUSE: “Rock The Casbah”, “Train In Vain” and “Lost In The Supermarket” basically made it all right for white boys from the wrong side of the tracks to do a pop-soul thing. You might not be able to tell without reading between the lines, but these particular songs and The Clash as a band were a big influence on my new record. They inspired me to use different characters in songs, pick up the newspaper or watch television for ideas and use more call-and-response vocals. Thanks boys!
BRETT SPARKS: Hearing London Calling for the first time was a major event in my musical life. Ironically enough, I bought this strange record in a large department store in Odessa, Texas. This song takes place in a ring of tenement hell in which the more you shop the more you disappear. This invisible man sings a beautiful, melodic, perfect pop song made even more poignant by the fact that he can no longer see the hands he reaches out with.
JOHN BRAMWELL: The greatest Jam song that Paul Weller didn’t write.