The Clash

Combat Rock

Year: 1992
Label: Epic Records
Location: Phetchaburi, Bang Kapi, Huai Khwang | 

The Clash was photographed by Pennie Smith on an abandoned railroad in Bangkok during their Far East tour of 1982. While they were in Bangkok, the Clash wandered down to the railroad tracks near their hotel (somewhere in the Makkasan area on Petchburi Road) and a photograph from that session ended up being the cover of their popular «Combat Rock.»

Album info

Combat Rock is the fifth studio album by the English 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 double platinum in the United States. It contains two of the Clash's most popular songs, the singles "Rock the Casbah" and "Should I Stay or Should I Go". Combat Rock is the last Clash album featuring the classic lineup.

The music on Combat Rock has been described as post-punk and new wave. A recurring motif of the album is the impact and aftermath of the Vietnam War. “Straight to Hell” describes the children fathered by American soldiers to Vietnamese mothers and then abandoned, while “Sean Flynn” describes the photojournalist son of actor Errol Flynn who disappeared in 1970 while covering the war.

Biographer Pat Gilbert describes many songs from Combat Rock as having a “trippy, foreboding feel”, saturated in a “colonial melancholia and sadness” reflecting the Vietnam War. The band was hugely inspired by Francis Ford Coppola’s 1979 film about the Vietnam War, Apocalypse Now, and had previously released the song “Charlie Don’t Surf” on Sandinista!, which referenced the film.

Other Combat Rock songs, if not directly about the Vietnam War and U.S. foreign policy, depict American society in moral decline. “Red Angel Dragnet” was inspired by the January 1982 shooting death of Frank Melvin, a New York member of the Guardian Angels. The song quotes Martin Scorsese’s 1976 movie Taxi Driver, with Clash associate Kosmo Vinyl recording several lines of dialogue imitating the voice of main character Travis Bickle. Bickle sports a mohawk in the latter part of Taxi Driver, this was a hairstyle adopted by Joe Strummer during the Combat Rock concert tour.

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. Ginsberg had researched punk music, and included phrases like “do the worm” and “slam dance” in his lyrics. At the end of the song he can be heard reciting the Heart Sutra, a popular Buddhist mantra.

Music for “Rock the Casbah” was written by the band’s drummer Topper Headon, based on a piano part that he had been toying with. Finding himself in the studio without his three bandmates, Headon progressively taped the drum, piano and bass parts, recording the bulk of the song’s musical instrumentation himself.

The other Clash members were impressed with Headon’s recording, stating that they felt the musical track was essentially complete. However, Strummer was not satisfied with the page of suggested lyrics that Headon gave him. Before hearing Headon’s music, Strummer had already come up with the phrases “rock the casbah” and “you’ll have to let that raga drop” as lyrical ideas that he was considering for future songs. After hearing Headon’s music, Strummer went into the studio’s toilets and wrote lyrics to match the song’s melody.

The Clash


The Clash were an English rock band formed in London in 1976 who were key players in the original wave of British punk rock. Billed as "The Only Band That Matters", they also contributed to the post-punk and new wave movements that emerged in the wake of punk and employed elements of a variety of genres including reggae, dub, funk, ska, and rockabilly. For most of their recording career, the Clash consisted of lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist Joe Strummer, lead guitarist and vocalist Mick Jones, bassist Paul Simonon, and drummer Nicky "Topper" Headon. Headon left the group in 1982 and internal friction led to Jones' departure the following year. The group continued with new members, but finally disbanded in early 1986.

The Clash achieved critical and commercial success in the United Kingdom with the release of their self-titled debut album, The Clash (1977) which continued with their second album, Give 'Em Enough Rope (1978). Their experimental third album, London Calling, released in the UK in December 1979, earned them popularity in the United States when it was released there the following month. It was declared the best album of the 1980s a decade later by Rolling Stone. Following continued musical experimentation on their fourth album, Sandinista! (1980), the band reached new heights of success with the release of Combat Rock (1982), which spawned the US top 10 hit "Rock the Casbah", helping the album to achieve a 2× Platinum certification there. A final album, Cut the Crap, was released in 1985, and a few weeks later, the band broke up.

In January 2003, shortly after the death of Joe Strummer, the band—including original drummer Terry Chimes—were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked the Clash number 28 on its list of the "100 Greatest Artists of All Time".

Before the Clash's founding, the band's future members were active in different parts of the London music scene.

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