The Clash: Combat Rock – [Record 130]
Combat Rock is the fifth studio album by the English punk rock band The Clash. It was released on 14 May 1982 through CBS Records. In the United Kingdom, the album charted at number 2, spending 23 weeks in the UK charts and peaked at number 7 in the United States, spending 61 weeks on the chart. Combat Rock is the group’s best-selling album, being certified 2x platinum in the United States.
1. Know Your Rights.
2. Car Jamming.
3. Should I Stay or Should I Go.
4. Rock the Casbah.
5. Red Angel Dragnet.
6. Straight to Hell.
1. Overpowered by Funk.
2. Atom Tan.
3. Sean Flynn.
4. Ghetto Defendant.
5. Inoculated City.
6. Death Is a Star.
Recording and production: Combat Rock was originally planned as a double album with the working title Rat Patrol from Fort Bragg, but the idea was scrapped after internal wrangling within the group. Mick Jones had mixed the first version, but the other members were dissatisfied and mixing/producing duties were handed to Glyn Johns, at which point the album became a single LP. The original mixes were later bootlegged. Out-takes included a Tymon Dogg song, “Once you Know”, the recording featured all the band with Tymon Dogg on vocals and violin.
Artwork: Pennie Smith shot the cover photo for Combat Rock on a deserted railway line outside Bangkok while the band were on their Far East tour in 1982.
Following along the same note as Sandinista!, Combat Rock’s catalogue number ‘FMLN2’ is the abbreviation for the El Salvador political party ‘Frente Farabundo Martí para la Liberación Nacional’ or FMLN.
Release: In January 2000, the album, along with the rest of The Clash’s catalogue, was remastered and re-released.
According to author Marcus Gray, the song “Red Angel Dragnet” was inspired by the January 1982 shooting death of Frank Melvin, a New York member of the Guardian Angels. The song contains extensive quotes from the 1976 movie Taxi Driver’s main character Travis Bickle, delivered by Kosmo Vinyl. Bickle sports a mohawk in the later part of the film and that hairstyle was adopted by Joe Strummer during the album promotion.
The song, “Ghetto Defendant”, features beat poet Allen Ginsberg, who performed the song on stage with the band during the New York shows on their tour in support of the album. At the end of the song he can be heard reciting the Heart Sutra, a popular Buddhist mantra. Original U.S. pressings of the album had the full length track “Inoculated City” lasting 2:43. This version contained an unauthorized audio sample from a U.S. television commercial for a toilet bowl cleaner called “2000 Flushes”. After the maker of the product complained of copyright infringement the audio sample was removed reducing the track length to 2:11. Approximately 100,000 copies of the first version were pressed with custom designed record labels. The majority of copies sold had the edited track and were re-issued on the standard dark blue Epic Records label. The full length “Inoculated City” also appeared on the B-side of the US “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” single. Early US CD copies of the album had the edited track. When the album was released as a remastered CD in 2000 the full length track was restored, though no mention of this was included on the CD packaging.
Reception and influence: The album received positive reviews from critics, and peaked at number 2 on the UK Albums Chart, number 7 on the Billboard Pop albums, and the top ten on many charts in other countries. The United States Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) certified Combat Rock as a Gold album on November 1982, Platinum in January 1983, and Multi-Platinum in June 1995.
In 1999, Q magazine rated Combat Rock three stars out of five, and described the album as “…their biggest seller, but the beginning of the end.” In 2000, Alternative Press rated the album three stars out of five, and wrote that “The penultimate Clash album…employing lessons learned in the previous three years….their most commercially rewarded release….containing [their] most poignant song ‘Straight To Hell’.” CMJ New Music Report ranked Combat Rock at number five on its 2004 list of the Top 20 Most-Played Albums of 1982. Slant Magazine listed the album at No. 80 on its list of “Best Albums of the 1980s”. Kurt Cobain listed it in his top fifty albums of all time.