This Is England by The Clash

By the mid 1980s, The Clash were in disarray – musical lynch-pin Mick Jones had been fired from the group, and impresario Bernard Rhodes was back pulling the strings. The resulting album, 1985’s Cut The Crap, was widely derided, and the album’s generally been omitted from the group’s compilations. But the single ‘This Is England’ has gained a better reputation over the years, an inspired Joe Strummer tirade, where the mid 1980s synths and drum programming somehow add gravitas to his exasperated lyrics. “This is England. Land of a thousand stances.”
It’s always puzzled me why punk died when it did – you’d think the Thatcher years and The Falklands War would have been fertile grounds for political protest, but there were only a few punk-era acts still around to denounce her, like Elvis Costello and The Crass, while just as much musical protest came from the older generation like Pink Floyd and John Cale. But there’s enough fire left in Strummer’s belly to make ‘This Is England’ a track worth salvaging.

I hear a gang fire on a human factory farm
Are they howling out or doing somebody harm
On a catwalk jungle somebody grabbed my arm
A voice spoke so cold it matched the weapon in her palm
This is England
This knife of Sheffield steel
This is England
This is how we feel
Time on his hands freezing in those clothes
He won’t go for the carrot
They beat him by the pole
Some sunny day confronted by his soul
He’s out at sea, too far off, he can’t go home
This is England
What we’re supposed to die for
This is England
And we’re never gonna cry no more
Black shadow of the Vincent
Falls on a Triumph line
I got my motorcycle jacket
But I’m walking all the time
South Atlantic wind blows
Ice from a dying creed
I see no glory
When will we be free
This is England
We can chain you to the rail
This is England
We can kill you in a jail
The British boots go kick them
Got ’em in the head
Police ain’t watchin’
The newspapers been read
Who cares to protest here
To the eye like a flare
Out came the batons and
The British warned themselves
This is England
The land of illegal dances
This is England
Land of a thousand stances
This is England
This knife of Sheffield steel
This is England
This is how we feel
This is England
This is England

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Aphoristical
Graham Fyfe is probably the only music blogger to appreciate Neil Diamond and Ariana Grande.
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8 Comments

  1. I love love love The Clash but don’t even own a copy of Cut The Crap. I have heard it though. I think this is why punk went the way it did too. When punk was good I t was always pop music with an agenda. Things that were pure punk fury sounded very samey very quick. Punk couldn’t become New Wave quick enough when it was clear there was money to be made for all who did. Then the awful 80’s really got going and the machine mattered more than the music… That’s Thatcher’s Britain right there

    • Generally I don’t like music when the message overshadows the musical content. The Clash didn’t really go new wave, but they spread their wings and tried lots of different things, and even on their debut they play with reggae a bit.

  2. I agree, good song that has turned up on a couple of Clash compilations. I must say, though, that the video is a bit daft. Bernie Rhodes would probably like it however.

  3. I haven’t heard Cut the Crap yet – unlike Floyd’s The Final Cut, I haven’t found anyone who considers it an under-appreciated gem, it just seems to be like you said, widely derided.
    Encouraging to hear it’s not all bad!

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