I’m working from my basement office this morning, preparing for three days worth of one-on-one coaching sessions. Not the most exciting of tasks but at least it gives me a chance to work in my jammies, favorite coffee mug in hand, while listening to some heady dusty gold, this time the classic ‘Sandinista!‘ album by The Clash.
This album has been in my “to find” list for some time so when I happened across it in a bin at the back of the ‘Niagara Records‘ store on St. Paul Str., St. Catharines and found it was in amazing condition – I snatched it up.
Anticipating the “world music” trend of the 1980’s, it features funk, reggae, jazz, gospel, rockabilly, folk, dub, rhythm and blues, calypso, disco, and rap, there is quite the history to this album. Released on December 12th, 1980 as a triple album containing 36 tracks, with 6 songs on each side, Rolling Stone magazine headlined “The Clash Drop The Big One”, a breakthrough that deserved comparison to the Beatles’ ‘White Album’. ‘Sandinista!’ was voted Best Album of the Year in the Pazz & Jop critics poll in The Village Voice, and was ranked #404 on the Rolling Stone list of “The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time” in 2003. At the time, however, the fans didn’t necessarily see it that way.
Prior to this album, the Clash could do no wrong in it’s fans eyes. On ‘Sandinista!’, though, they made the big switch to a big name label producer (Epic) in the hopes of actually making, you know, money. Something they had been failing to do given the limited resourcefulness and distribution of the smaller independent record producers who had managed all their previous hits. I mean, really, isn’t that the ultimately end goal for most bands/musicians wanting to make living doing their craft? The fans however cried “Sell Out!”. Even though one of the bands initial terms with Epic (in exchange for better distribution and creative freedom) was to release their first album with the label as a triple album at – get this – no extra charge to their fans. Seriously, how awesome is that? The fans however, didn’t care. They just couldn’t see past the fancy, big brand name label. Crazy punk rockers and their ridiculous, out-dated anti-establishment attitude; they just wanted more ‘London Calling‘ and ‘Rock the Casbah‘. Who cares if their heroes could barely pay rent? The band, however, had moved on stylistically and professionally.
Amid all the dub experiments, backward tracks, unfinished songs, and instrumentals, there are a number of classic Clash songs that rank among the band’s best, including ‘Police on My Back‘, ‘The Call Up‘, ‘Somebody Got Murdered‘, ‘Charlie Don’t Surf‘, ‘Hitsville U.K.‘, and ‘Lightning Strikes (Not Once but Twice)‘, yet it’s difficult for anyone but the most dedicated listeners to find them. My favorite, and likely the most recognizable is the ‘Magnificent Seven‘. ‘Look Here‘ also has a certain jazzy snap to it as well. You could say that there is something for everyone on this album, Clash fans and otherwise.
Great start to the work day.