“Give ’Em Enough Rope” by The Clash - album review

features in: Album Chart of 1978Album Chart of the Decade: 1970s

TJR says

Much against the prevailing punk trend, The Clash took their time with the second album – it arrived fully 18 months after the debut. Most thought it worth the wait; it was album of the year at Rolling Stone, Time and Sounds magazines and was also a big commercial success, ascending all the way to No.2 in the UK charts. “Tommy Gun” and “English Civil War” were released as the album’s singles, either side of Christmas 1978, entering the UK charts at numbers 19 and 25, respectively. It was the first LP to feature new drummer Nicky Headon, a classically trained musician nicknamed “Topper” by Paul Simonon, who felt he resembled the Topper comic book character, Mickey the Monkey. Strummer later observed, “We were lost until we found Topper Headon… finding someone who not only had the chops, but the strength and the stamina to do it was just the breakthrough for us”. During recording sessions for the album, producer Sandy Pearlman dubbed Headon as “The Human Drum Machine”, due to his impeccable timing and seemingly tireless energy.

The album has a fantastic opening three, beginning with “Safe European Home”, a reflection of the anti-white hostility they had personally faced whilst in Jamaica. I KNOW. I’ve been there, felt that. This opening vitality is maintained on “English Civil War”, derived from an American Civil War song, “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” (which in turn was derived from the Irish anti-war song “Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye”.) Those on the left wing saw the rise during the mid-1970s of far right groups such as the British National Front as alarming and dangerous omens for Britain’s future. The song is about this state of politics in the country and warns against all things uniformed and sinister. The all-time classic “Tommy Gun” rants against global terrorism, and is famously set to Topper Headon’s snare drum mimicry of gunfire; it’s a work of thrilling genius. If we could stop right there the album would rate 8.63. However, from there-on the album fails to maintain bite, immediately exemplified on the faux Rock n Roll of “Julie’s Been Working For The Drug Squad”, a commentary on the infamous “Operation Julie” drug bust that saw the largest LSD production ring in the world, based in Wales, dismantled by an undercover police operation. A laugh, but it’s not what we really want from our Clash. It is a really good set, but the major classics of which they're capable are thin on the ground…

The Jukebox Rebel

A1 [03:50] 8.8.png The Clash - Safe European Home (Joe Strummer, Mick Jones) Punk
A2 [02:35] 7.2.png The Clash - English Civil War (Joe Strummer, Mick Jones) Punk
A3 [03:17] 9.9.png The Clash - Tommy Gun (Joe Strummer, Mick Jones) Punk
A4 [03:03] 6.7.png The Clash - Julie’s Been Working For The Drug Squad (Joe Strummer, Mick Jones) New Wave
A5 [05:14] 6.6.png The Clash - Last Gang In Town (Joe Strummer, Mick Jones) Punk
B1 [03:15] 6.1.png The Clash - Guns On The Roof (Joe Strummer, Mick Jones, Paul Simonon, Nicholas Headon) Punk
B2 [03:43] 6.2.png The Clash - Drug Stabbing Time (Joe Strummer, Mick Jones) Punk
B3 [03:40] 6.1.png The Clash - Stay Free (Joe Strummer, Mick Jones) New Wave
B4 [03:25] 6.0.png The Clash - Cheapskates (Joe Strummer, Mick Jones) Punk
B5 [04:55] 6.7.png The Clash - All The Young Punks (New Boots And Contracts) (Joe Strummer, Mick Jones) New Wave

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