#943: 1980, The Clash, Something About England

by Charlie_East_West on October 15, 2014

The first verse sends shivers down my spine…

They say immigrants steal the hubcaps
Of the respected gentlemen
They say it would be wine an’ roses
If England were for Englishmen again

The Clash wrote these lyrics to Something About England back in 1980. They could apply to the borderline fascist ideology from UKIP that so many little Englanders appear to be buying into today.

The song is taken from The Clash all-over-the-fucking-place disturbing first listen / it-all-makes-complete-sense genius by the third listen Sandinista! album – which I recently reviewed on All That’s Left.

Something About England is one of the stand out tracks on the Sandinista! album, with The Clash experimenting with vaudeville to create an old English “comedy of the absurd” music hall persona.

The song is structured as a conversation between the narrator (Mick Jones) and a wistful old tramp, (Joe Strummer). The first verse is a put-down of lazy racism by those who blame and demonise immigration for society’s ills. *As above / UKIP circa 2014.

Joe Strummer’s character of a wistful old tramp then bemoans how two world wars and the industrial revolution still couldn’t break down the class system which has relentlessly caused harmful divide and rule in England.

The whole thing is utter genius. It even includes a music hall rendition of Long Way to Tipperary. Bloody marvellous. Something About England may not be the stereotypical sound of The Clash, but, the lyrics hit the bullseye of Punk anti-establishment and protest against social division.

I will leave you with the words of Joe Strummer and Mick Jones:-

But how could we know when I was young
All the changes that were to come?
All the photos in the wallets on the battlefield
And now the terror of the scientific sun
There was masters an’ servants an’ servants an’ dogs
They taught you how to touch your cap
But through strikes an’ famine an’ war an’ peace
England never closed this gap

So leave me now the moon is up
But remember all the tales I tell
The memories that you have dredged up
Are on letters forwarded from hell

The streets were by now deserted
The gangs had trudged off home
The lights clicked off in the bedsits
An’ old England was all alone

Scared yet? You should be. These words are still being applied across England right now. England has become a tragic comedy of the absurd.

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