The Clash: Sandinista – [Record 29]

The Clash: Sandinista!

Sandinista!: is the fourth studio album by the English recording group The Clash. It was released on 12 December 1980 as a triple album containing 36 tracks, with 6 songs on each side. Anticipating the “world music” trend of the 1980s, it features funk, reggae, jazz, gospel, rockabilly, folk, dub, rhythm and blues, calypso, and rap. For the first time, the band’s traditional songwriting credits of Strummer and Jones were replaced by a generic credit to the Clash, and the band cut the album royalties, in order to release the 3-LP at a low price.

The title refers to the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, and its catalogue number, ‘FSLN1’, refers to the abbreviation of the party’s Spanish name, Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional.

Sandinista! was voted best album of the year in the Pazz & Jop critics poll in The Village Voice, and was ranked number 404 on the Rolling Stone list of “The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time” in 2003. Slant Magazine listed the album at number 85 on its “Best Albums of the 1980s” list in 2012.

Record 1. Side 1.
1. The Magnificent Seven.
2. Hitsville U.K..
3. Junco Partner.
4. Ivan Meets G.I. Joe.
5. The Leader.
6. Something About England.

Record 1. Side 2.
1. Rebel Waltz.
2. Look Here.
3. The Crooked Beat.
4. Somebody Got Murdered.
5. One More Time.
6. One More Dub.

Record 2. Side 1.
1. Lightning Strikes (Not Once but Twice).
2. Up in Heaven (Not Only Here).
3. Corner Soul.
4. Let’s Go Crazy.
5. If Music Could Talk.
6. The Sound of Sinners.

Record 2. Side 2.
1. Police on My Back.
2. Midnight Log.
3. The Equaliser.
4. The Call Up.
5. Washington Bullets.
6. Broadway.

Record 3. Side 1.
1. Lose This Skin.
2. Charlie Don’t Surf.
3. Mensforth Hill.
4. Junkie Slip.
5. Kingston Advice.
6. The Street Parade.

Record 3. Side 2.
1. Version City.
2. Living in Fame.
3. Silicone on Sapphire.
4. Version Pardner.
5. Career Opportunities.
6. Shepherds Delight.

The Wiki

Background and recording: The album was recorded over most of 1980, in London, Manchester, Jamaica and New York. It was produced by the band (which essentially meant Mick Jones and Joe Strummer), recorded and mixed by Bill Price, and engineered by Jeremy “Jerry” Green (Wessex Sound Studios), J. P. Nicholson (Electric Lady Studios), Lancelot “Maxie” McKenzie (Channel One Studios), and Bill Price (Pluto + Power Station Studios). Dub versions of some of the songs and toasting was done by Mikey Dread, who had first worked with the band for their 1980 single “Bankrobber”. With Sandinista! the band reached beyond punk and reggae into dub, rhythm and blues, calypso, gospel and other genres. The album clearly displays the influence of reggae and producer Lee “Scratch” Perry (who had worked with the band on their 1977 single “Complete Control” and who had opened some of the band’s shows during its stand at Bond’s in New York in 1980), with a dense, echo-filled sound on even the straight rock songs.

When recording began in New York bass guitarist Paul Simonon was busy making a film called Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains, and he was replaced briefly by Ian Dury and the Blockheads bassist Norman Watt-Roy; this later caused some bad feeling when Watt-Roy and keyboard player Mickey Gallagher, a fellow Blockhead, claimed they were responsible for co-composing the song “The Magnificent Seven”, as the song was based on a tune of theirs. Dread, too, was upset that he was not credited as the album’s producer, although he was credited with “Version Mix”. Other guests on the album include actor Tim Curry (providing the voice of a priest on “The Sound of Sinners”), singer Ellen Foley (Jones’ partner at the time), guitarist Ivan Julian formerly of The Voidoids, former Eddie and the Hot Rods member Lew Lewis, and Strummer’s old friend and musical collaborator Tymon Dogg, who plays violin, sings on and wrote the track “Lose This Skin”; he later joined Strummer’s band The Mescaleros. Gallagher’s children also made appearances: his two sons, Luke and Ben, singing a version of “Career Opportunities” from the band’s first album, and his daughter Maria singing a snippet of “The Guns of Brixton”, from London Calling, at the end of the track “Broadway”.

This is also the only Clash album on which all four members have a lead vocal. Drummer Topper Headon made a unique lead vocal contribution on the disco song “Ivan Meets G.I. Joe”, and bassist Paul Simonon sings lead on “The Crooked Beat”.

Releases: Four singles were released from the Sandinista! sessions in the UK: “Bankrobber” (which did not appear on the album), “The Call Up”, “Hitsville UK”, and “The Magnificent Seven”.

Police On My Back was also released for promotion.

The triple-LP set was, like London Calling, a subject of trickery towards the record company from the band. Two contradictory accounts of the release of the album exist. Some say that the Clash pulled the same trick a second time by saying they wanted to include a 12″ single with their double album, and then getting 3 full-length discs pressed before executives became wise. Another belief is that The Clash surrendered all of their album royalties for the first 200,000 copies sold in order to make the 3-LP set a reality. Joe Strummer said in an interview by Judy McGuire for Punk Magazine: “Well, now you’re talking to a man who forwent the royalties on Sandinista!” Regardless of which of these is true, either situation paints the band in a good light, putting their fans before and above any other involved entity.

A one-LP distillation of the album, called Sandinista Now!, was sent to press and radio. The side one track listing was “Police on My Back”, “Somebody Got Murdered”, “The Call Up”, “Washington Bullets”, “Ivan Meets G.I. Joe” and “Hitsville U.K.”. The side two track listing was “Up in Heaven (Not Only Here)”, “The Magnificent Seven”, “The Leader”, “Junco Partner”, “One More Time” and “The Sound of Sinners”.

The song “Washington Bullets” was Clash lyric-writer Joe Strummer’s most extensive—and most specific—political statement to date. In it, Strummer name checks conflicts or controversies from around the world; namely in Chile, Nicaragua, Cuba, Afghanistan and Tibet. (In reference to the first three, Strummer seems to side with what he sees as popular leftist movements or governments, while in the latter two, he sharply criticises the policy of Moscow’s and Beijing’s communist governments for what he sees as their imperialist actions). The original Rolling Stone review of Sandinista! calls “Washington Bullets”, along with “The Equaliser” and “The Call Up”, “the heart of the album”.

The original, 3-disc vinyl release of Sandinista! included a tri-fold lyric sheet cleverly titled The Armagideon Times, no. 3 (a play on “Armagideon Time”, the b-side from the single London Calling.) Armagideon Times, nos. 1 and 2 were Clash fanzines. The lyric sheet featured cartoons credited to Steve Bell, as well as hand-written (but still legible) lyrics of all the original songs. The 2-CD release contains a facsimile of the lyric sheet considerably reduced in size.

Joe Strummer once told Rolling Stone magazine that the concept for a triple-LP (a rarity in the rock music world) came from friendly competition with American artist Bruce Springsteen. When their earlier LP London Calling was released in 1980, critics said that Springsteen’s upcoming double-disc album The River would outsell the Clash effort and wipe away any impact. Strummer’s response was: “Right Bruce. Suck on this!” The band then expanded Sandinista! into a triple album.

Reception: John Piccarella, in a review headlined “The Clash Drop The Big One” and giving the album the highest possible rating of five stars, argues that in effect, the band said “to hell with Clash style, there’s a world out there.” Some critics have argued that the album would have worked better as a less-ambitious, smaller project, while Piccarella (in his Rolling Stone review) and others think of the album as a breakthrough that deserves comparison to the Beatles’ White Album. Robert Christgau said “if this is their worst–which it is, I think–they must be, er, the world’s greatest rock and roll band” and graded the album A-.

The triple album won several “best of the year” critics polls in 1981. It was voted the best album of the year in The Village Voice’s Pazz & Jop critics poll. Dave Marsh noted that it was a record whose topic was as many years ahead of its time as its sound. Alternative Press magazine included Sandinista! on its 2000 list of the “10 Essential Political-Revolution Albums” In 2003, the album was ranked number 404 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. The CMJ New Music Report ranked Sandinista! number two on its 2004 list of the “Top 20 Most-Played Albums of 1981”.

The Sandinista! Project, a tribute to the album featuring The Smithereens, Camper Van Beethoven, Jon Langford (Mekons) and Sally Timms, Amy Rigby, Katrina Leskanich (of Katrina and the Waves), Wreckless Eric, Willie Nile, Matthew Ryan, Stew, Mark Cutler, Sex Clark Five, Sid Griffin & Coal Porters, Haale, The Blizzard of 78 featuring Mikey Dread, Ruby on the Vine, and many others, was released on 15 May 2007, on the 00:02:59 Records (a label named after a lyric from the Sandinista! song “Hitsville U.K.”). The album also features a collaboration by Soul Food and Mickey Gallagher on “Midnight Log”.

The Clash: Sandinista! back cover.

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