#1007: 1980, The Clash, The Magnificent Seven

by Charlie_East_West on April 4, 2015

Evening, happy warriors (to paraphrase Ed Miliband). Tonight we feature the eighth song on our great musical oversights within Songs To Learn And Sing. This song is a magnificent bastard of a song. It is The Magnificent Seven from The Clash, and it is quite simply one of the most bonkers and brilliantly creative songs of all time.

The Magnificent Seven was inspired by old school hip hop acts from New York City, like the Sugarhill Gang and Grandmaster Flash. Rap was still an underground music genre in 1980, and The Clash, especially Mick Jones, fell in love with hip hop and the potential for The Clash to diversify their music but still presenting an opportunity get their lyrical social commentary across.

The song explodes onto the album Sandinista! as the opening track. Sandinista! is probably the most wildly diverse and interesting album I have ever listened to. It is the sound of a band taking huge risks and producing a flawed genius masterpiece. The Magnificent Seven encapsulates this in five minutes of punk/rock/hip-hop genius.

Joe Strummer wrote the words on the hoof, and it became the first attempt by a rock band to write and perform original rap music, and one of the earliest examples of hip hop records with political and social content that still resonates today. It is the first major white rap record, beating Blondie’s Rapture to the punch by six months.

The lyrics are off the cuff, but in that typically brilliant street based intelligence of Joe Strummer:-

Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi
Went to the park to check on the game
But they was murdered by the other team
Who went on to win 50-nil
You can be true, you can be false
You be given the same reward
Socrates and Milhous Nixon
Both went the same way – through the kitchen
Plato the Greek or Rin Tin Tin
Who’s more famous to the billion millions?
News Flash: Vacuum Cleaner Sucks Up Budgie
Oooohh…bub-bye
Magnificence!

Fucking magnificent, innit?

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