I'm generally a forward looking chap when it comes to music, and don't dwell too much in the past. But every couple of years I revisit a band that was important in my youth, not as a matter of policy, that's just what seems to happen.
I've been doing this with The Clash recently, after reading Pat Gilbert's Passion is a Fashion. I always liked Sandinista – as an impressionable teenager it was a good exposure to different music styles and some of the awkward rebel politics of the Clash. It was panned when it came out, after the success of London Calling, largely because it was a triple album and seemed confused and messy. It's often said that it would have been a good double album. I think part of its problem was not just the rather rubbishy tracks that got included but also the ordering of the album. So, feeling a bit bored last night I created my good double album Sandinista. This is embedded as a spotify playlist below. It has twenty tracks, and is a bit longer than London Calling in length, but roughly comparable.
The order is important here, I tried to envisage it as four sides of vinyl, as it would have been then. Each side has 4-5 tracks in my version and has a distinct personality. It starts of with what you might think of standard Clash. These are probably all tracks that could have been on London Calling. It then moves into a 'funk' side, with the excellent Magnificent Seven and Lightning Strikes. The best side would be side 3, the reggae side. I've slightly cheated here and added Armagideon Times (I wanted a live version but Spotify couldn't find it) and also Bank Robber. I know these weren't on Sandinista and came out earlier, but they fit much better with (my favourite Sandanista track) One More Time and The Equaliser. This really makes reggae/dub a strong theme of the album. The last side is the 'reflective' side, ended with the excellent Broadway.
I think if this had been the Sandinista that had been released, we'd be talking about it now in the same way as London Calling.
I've been thinking about it too much haven't I?
Not too much thought at all; I would have gone for this if all it had was an extended version of The Magnificent Seven, the song that brought me back in the fold after hearing a lot of London Calling when it was all over the place.
I take it you find “Ivan meets Gi Joe” as rubbishy, for some reason I loved its silliness. If anything, on this album, you have to admire the broad brush of genres they took a swipe at.
I appreciate the effort to get back to album thinking, do more of this!
I don’t mind Ivan, but it didn’t make the ‘classic album’ cut. I’m not sure about Rebel Waltz or the Call Up on here either to be honest. Of course, it’d make a really great single album but then you wouldn’t get that diversity.
The point about album thinking is a good one – I don’t really listen to albums much now, most of my music listening is done while running so I select single tracks. And vinyl made a difference – selecting which side of Sandanista to play was always a debate.
It’s hard to argue that Sandanista couldn’t have used some selective editing, though the idea of a punk band releasing a triple album was part of the charm. I do like the dub you came up with, pretty much all of my favourite tracks from this album (which funnily is the one, along with “Black Market Clash,” that I find myself singing as I walk along most often these days.)
Long live St. Joe!