The Clash “Combat Rock” released on this date,…

The Clash “Combat Rock” released on this date, May 14th, 1982. Combat Rock was The Clash’s fifth studio LP; it reached #2 in the UK and #7 in the US and was their most successful release ever. It was also the final album with drummer Topper Headon, who was fired soon after its release for his worsening coke and heroin habits. 

I love Combat Rock so much – it was the first Clash album I bought; I played the living shit out of Side A and still know every single word (embarrassingly I’m still relatively ignorant of Side B because my brain stopped retaining lyrics sometime around 1989). “Know Your Rights” is one of the best album openers ever (“This is a public service announcement…with guitars!”) and is tied for my top 3 tracks on the LP, the lyrics still depressingly relevant in 2018 – probably even more now than in ‘82. “Know Your Rights” was the first single released from Combat Rock and hit #43 in the UK. Tied with “Know Your Rights” for album favorite is “Car Jamming,” the funky reggae-ish traffic tune that name checks Lauren Bacall and the combat chemical Agent Orange. The third is the   world beat staccatoed protest song “Straight To Hell” which was the flip to the double-A-side single for the second release of “Should I Stay or Should I Go” (which is another fabulous track, so accessibly pop, and the only Clash song to hit #1 in the UK) (I also love M.I.A.’s sampling of “Straight To Hell” on her 2008 song “Paper Planes”). And of course I love “Rock the Casbah,” the video, directed by legendary Don Letts, I watched endlessly on MTV during the summer of ‘83 as the song hit #8 in the US, their only American top 10 single. I also really love the other Side A track not already listed, “Red Angel Dragnet.” It’s super-weird with mostly Joe Strummer doing his take on sprechgesang. 

It’s strange listening to Side B since my past habit was to simply start Side A over, but here I go anyway. “Overpowered By Funk” is, um, funky, not that overpowering though. It definitely foreshadows the direction that Mick Jones’ Big Audio Dynamite would take. “Atom Tan” is more traditional Clash but with a lot of 80′s echoey production effects. “Sean Flynn” has saxophone, flute and world beats (making me no longer surprised that 1980′s punk me didn’t listen to it), “Ghetto Defendant” is pretty cool with the inclusion of Allen Ginsberg speaking lines of poetry. “Inoculated City” has those pop whispers that seep into many Clash tracks (like “Train in Vain” and “Lost in the Supermarket”). “Death Is a Star” is art-punk, mixing spoken poetry, vaguely off-tune crooning Beatle-esque harmonies, and harpsichord? 

Lyrics to “Know Your Rights” 

This is a public service announcement
With guitar
Know your rights all three of them

Number 1
You have the right not to be killed
Murder is a CRIME!
Unless it was done by a
Policeman or aristocrat
Know your rights

And Number 2
You have the right to food money
Providing of course you
Don’t mind a little
Investigation, humiliation
And if you cross your fingers

Know your rights
These are your rights

Know these rights

Number 3
You have the right to free speech
As long as you’re not
Dumb enough to actually try it.

Know your rights
These are your rights
All three of ‘em
It has been suggested
In some quarters that this is not enough!

Get off the streets
Get off the streets
You don’t have a home to go to

Finally then I will read you your rights

You have the right to remain silent
You are warned that anything you say
Can and will be taken down
And used as evidence against you

Listen to this