A lot of people have blogged about the National Review's ridiculous list of the to 50 conservative rock songs of all time. Until now, though, I wasn't aware that the Clash's "Rock the Casbah" came in at number 20. In case you don’t remember, the Clash named their monumental third full length album Sandinsita!, in honor of the socialist government in Central America. My vinyl copy (three 12” records!) says “FSLN!” on the spine.
The song “Rock the Casbah” itself is about an issue both liberals and conservatives (or, as they say in England, democratic socialists and Tories) can get behind: the edict issued by the Ayatollah Khomeini banning rock and roll in Iran. We all hate it when the religious leaders ban rock and roll. In America, even the religious conservatives know they can’t get away with that.
The lyrics to “Rock the Casbah” are a wash of images--images of war, ancient cultures, and rock star posing. Standard fare for The Clash. The Clash, as rockers, were always interested first in creating a mood, and only secondarily in making political statements. Violence permeates their music, for instance, but it is not until Mick Jones wrote “Somebody Got Murdered” that you get a clear denunciation of it. This sort of thing led someone in a book that I skimmed to criticize them for being really only about rock star poses. Whatever. By the time you get to songs like “Something about England”--one of the nicer dissections of race and class to have a backbeat--it becomes clear that no one at the National Review can claim The Clash as one of theirs.