The song The Clash abandon at the outset of “Wrong ’Em Boyo” is Lloyd Price’s “Stagger Lee.” Seems like a nice shout-out to early rock ’n’ roll/New Orleans R&B, right? But here’s the thing: “Wrong ’Em Boyo” is actually a note-for-note cover of a song by a little-known ska band called The Rulers — yes, including the false start and the “start it all over again.” Okay, deep breath. In “Stagger Lee,” Price, a founding father of rock ’n’ roll, was paying homage to early blues music, singing a song about a character who’s deeply rooted in early American blues and folk music — even though he was modernizing it by turning it into R&B. His modernized blues wafted across the Caribbean (American radio was choppy but listenable in Jamaica), and it inspired a bunch of Jamaicans to first cover American R&B and then, uh, invent ska. (Without American R&B, ska wouldn’t exist. Trust us: this is true.) In covering The Rulers’ “Wrong ’Em Boyo,” The Clash are paying homage to a) early American blues, b) New Orleans R&B and rock ’n’ roll, c) ska and its influence on punk rock, and d) all of humanity, history and beauty. Or something like that.
Sounds about right.
Anyway, here’s the Rulers’ original version:
And I have to point out that when you Google “the rulers wrong em boyo” one of the links that comes up brilliantly if mistakenly identifies the song as … wait for it … “Wrong Embryo.” When you click on the link, however, the YouTube video that comes up actually labels the song “Wrong Emboyo” … which is almost correct; but I’m disappointed it’s not “Wrong Embryo.” Because if you’re going to screw up a song title, you might as well do it hilariously.
Anyway, there you go. Your Friday Clash Song: “Wrong ’Em Boyo.”
Turn. It. Up.