While doing a bit of research on yesterday's song, I learned that The Clash sang a snippet of the lyrics from "54-46" in the song "Jail Guitar Doors."
Of course, this got me thinking about The Clash and "White Man in Hammersith Palais," which is my favorite song by the group. I first heard it on a mixtape given to me by a girl who I had a giant crush on in high school in 1999. The tape also included songs by Bikini Kill, Heft, The Specials, Archers of Loaf and Tori Amos. It was one hell of a mixtape. It was called "Tape 4 U." I still have it and I still listen to it.
When we were on tour last week, my longtime friend and bandmate Kenny and I had a long conversation about this girl. She was a junior when we were freshmen and we were both totally head-over-heals in love with her. Actually, I've only experienced the kind of crush I had on her a few terrible times. You know the kind I'm talking about. You're completely dizzy and unable to hold any kind of normal conversation whenever the person appears. It's not fun and you feel like a total dope.
At the end of our senior year, she came up to me and told me that Kenny and I were the only freshmen she thought were worth a damn. Swoon, swoon, swoon. Looking back on it, I'm sure we blew the whole phenomenon out of proportion, but when you're 14 and stuck in a boring suburb with limited options, a cute girl who listens to hip pseudo-underground music and wants to read your tarot cards in French class instead of, you know, actually learning French, kinda knocks your socks off.
Anyway, I still listen to that tape and think back fondly on how young and stupid I was. Plus, did I mention that this song is a jam? It was written about a disappointing reggae concert that some members of The Clash attended in Hammersmith/Shepard's Bush. Ultimately, this song is a comment about selling out, playing music for the wrong reasons and using counter culture for profit. The lyrics also touch on a number of hot button social issues at the time in the UK, including racism and poverty.
In 2004, the song was put on Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. One last little tidbit about the song: it was one of Joe Strummer's favorites and he kept playing it with his new band, The Mescaleros, until his death. It was also played at his funeral. Badass.
White Man In Hammersmith Palais.mp3
White youth, black youth
Better find another solution.
Why not phone up Robin Hood
And ask him for some wealth distribution?
Punk rockers in the UK,
They won't notice anyway.
They're all too busy fighting
For a good place under the lighting.
The new groups are not concerned
With what there is to be learned.
They got Burton suits,
Ha, you think it's funny?
Turning rebellion into money.