One of the most fearsome lead singers of all time, Joe Strummer is often, and rightly, lauded for his compelling lyric writing, his vicious ear for a tune and uncompromising values. Often forgotten is his searing ability behind the microphone. Nobody could match the venom that flew from Strummer’s spit-strewn lips when he dropped a vocal track for The Clash.
While Combat Rock may not be considered one The Clash’s finest works, it did include the incredible ‘Rock the Casbah’ a Topper Headon written track which was pumped full of Clash credentials. Known as “the only band that matters”, the group were the politically charged voice of a new generation, no matter the pop-adjacent punk rock package they delivered it in. Often, that voice was manifested by Strummer, and when you isolate his vocal from the rest of the chaos Mick Jones, and Paul Simonon provided, you can hear every word punch out from his soul.
If there’s one song to separate the cream of the crop in regards to the band’s fans, then it will probably be this track. A divisive song, as often band’s most popular songs are, the band’s ultras have oddly shunned this number. Written by Headon, the song is imbued with a canny sense of funk that shouldn’t be overlooked. Naturally, it is Strummer on the lyrics as he sings about Iran and its post-Islamic revolution ban on pop music.
This is where the idea of people rising to “rock the casbah” was born and it fits with both Strummer and the rest of the band’s strong ethos. Making music that connected with people on a spiritual level has often been the target for many musicians over the years. Still, few have tried to evoke the feeling of empty and outrage in such a delightful package.
The funked-up punk jams of eighties Clash can always guarantee a full dancefloor, but when you isolate the vocals and hear Strummer’s lyrics unadulterated, you can hear his passion busting through every piece of punctuation.
In this isolated vocal track you can not only hear all of the anger, trepidation and passion that Strummer employed but also the voice of a generation looking to kick out against the establishment that seemed determined to keep their feet on the heads of the youth.
Listen to Joe Strummer’s isolated vocal on The Clash classic ‘Rock the Casbah’