“Safe European Home,” the lead track on the band’s second album, Give ’Em Enough Rope (1978). Musically, it’s one of the best punk songs ever written. Lyrically, it’s potentially controversial until you realize it was Joe’s way of poking fun of the discomfort he and Mick felt after spending some time in Jamaica.
From Greil Marcus’ 1979 Rolling Stone review of Give ’Em Enough Rope:
The LP begins with its most spectacular cut, “Safe European Home,” a furious and funny account of a trip Joe Strummer and Clash lead guitarist Mick Jones (who, with Strummer, writes the songs) made to Jamaica. What might have been a nice Patti Smith-style ode to Rasta Consciousness (“Jah speak to me, too, man — uh, mon?”) turns out instead to be a hard-rock version of 10cc’s “Dreadlock Holiday.” Would-be soul brothers Strummer and Jones report back from “a place where every white face was an invitation to robbery,” where Natty Dread is drinking at the bar in the Sheraton Hotel. They looked for Bob Marley’s punky reggae party (he even sent them an invitation!), but no one knew where it was, and Bob was out of town. The feeling of displacement is hilarious, but what makes the song more than a good joke on the Clash, what tosses you right into the middle of it, is the pure power of the performance: Strummer’s outraged and self-mocking vocals, Jones’ wonderfully sardonic chorus (“Where’d you go?” he keeps asking Strummer) and the careening caterwaul of the band. The music pushes harder and harder, and finally the two Englishmen flee — right back to their safe European home, to the safety of a land where Jamaicans are treated with the same scorn Strummer and Jones were offered in Jamaica. And then “English Civil War” kicks off, and home is a crueler joke than paradise.
Sounds about right.
But, anyway, I chose this song in honor of Ann Coulter, the queen of juvenile divisiveness, whose cartoon character (you realize she’s playing a character, right?) went full-Bircher earlier this week. Via ABC News:
Conservative commentator Ann Coulter implied that racial minorities are the cause of the country’s “gun problem” during a Monday appearance on Fox’s Hannity show.
“If you compare white populations, we have the same murder rate as Belgium,” she said. “So perhaps it’s not a gun problem, it is a demographic problem, which liberals are the ones who are pushing, pushing, pushing.”
“Let’s get more Colin Fergusons...Why are they coming in to begin with?” she said.
The Jamaican-born Ferguson killed a half dozen people at a train station in New York in the early 1990s. Ferguson was able to reload once, but was stopped by passengers as he attempted to reload for the second time.
Yes, she said that. No, I’m not surprised. As I say, this is her shtick; it’s a character she plays. Of course, she may well believe it. Would you be surprised to find out Coulter really is a racist? I wouldn’t. But she makes a living by saying stupidly provocative things to excite an audience that’s not very bright.
She’s kind of an idiot whisperer, where “whispering” is more like shouting and the idiots work themselves into a lather rather than calming down. But this is how she sells books – er, I mean, communicates with them.
Little did she know, though, that she’d end up looking and sounding a lot like the caricature Strummer and Jones are making fun of in “Safe European Home.” Of course, Strummer and Jones were engaging in self-deprecation; Ann Coulter undoubtedly thinks her comments are clever.
Sometimes a cartoon character doesn’t realize she’s in a cartoon, I guess.
Anyway, because I’m a generous soul, here’s a live version of “Safe European Home” recorded in Japan in 1982 or thereabouts:
But wait. There’s more:
Yeah, that’s right. Joe and the Mescaleros. “Safe European Home” live at the Roseland Ballroom in New York City. That’s almost good enough to make me forget about the constant stream of nonsense coming from the likes of Ann Coulter.
Almost, but not quite.
Still. You know what to do.
Turn. It. Up.