WCSX Classic Cuts
The Clash: “Rock the Casbah”
The Hook: Their manager tries to get them to write shorter songs. One word he says opens the door to “Rock the Casbah.”
Album: Combat Rock
Writers: The Clash
Stats: Peaked at number-8 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Background: The late Joe Strummer recalled that the song grew out of The Clash’s manager telling them indirectly that they should write shorter songs by comparing what they’d been recording to the long Indian musical form “raga.” In his hotel that night, Strummer typed out the song’s opening line: “Now the king told the boogie men, you have to let that raga drop.” He picks up the story from there.
In a 1991 interview, the late Clash frontman Joe Strummer on how he proceeded writing “Rock the Cashbah” once he’d gotten the first line. OC:…the Casbah. :25
“I started to wail about the muezzin and the sheiks and the oil in the desert. Somebody’d told me earlier that if you had a disco album in Tehran, you got 20 lashes. And if you had a bottle of Johnny Walker Black Label whiskey, you got 40 lashes. I couldn’t get this out of my mind, so I was trying to say fanaticism is nowhere. There’s no tenderness or humanity in fanaticism. That’s what I was trying to say in ‘Rock the Casbah.’”