Apropos of last night’s post on the “war on terror,” “The Call Up,” from Sandinista! (1980), the Clash’s funk-inspired antiwar anthem:
All the young people down the ages
They gladly marched off to die
Proud city fathers used to watch them
Tears in their eyes …
With the line “It’s 55 minutes past 11...” the song directly reference[s] the Minutes to Midnight Doomsday Clock which was established and maintained by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists at the University of Chicago, which denotes by just how few minutes it is to midnight to what the impending threat of just how close the world is estimated to be to a global disaster, and it also includes a rejection of dead-end jobs (“who gives you work and why should you do it?”). Though the US discontinued the draft in 1973, in 1980 Congress re-instated the requirement for men aged 18–25 to register with the Selective Service System. This may have inspired the song’s subject matter ….
On a related point, the single was released on November 28, 1980, about three weeks after Ronald Reagan was elected. If my memory is accurate, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists moved the minute hand on the Doomsday Clock forward after Reagan’s election, but that may have occurred after the song was recorded. Nonetheless, those were some apocalyptic times.
So, anyway, here’s a live version from the legendary Bond’s International Casino shows in New York City in 1981:
As an aside, the period from Sandinista! to Combat Rock, which came out in 1982, was, in many ways, the band’s most prolific and creative, but I have a confession to make: As great as their music was during that period, I find that the live versions of those songs are generally better than the original studio versions, because in concert, they tended to avoid a lot of the sound effects and clever studio tricks that made their recorded music interesting, but sometimes less authentic. Not that I fault the band for stretching creatively, but by the early 1980s they had developed into a pretty tight live act, and sometimes it’s nice just to hear them play their instruments. I know, very uncool of me. But I’m 51 fer Chrissakes. Gimme a break.
So, there you go. Your Friday Clash Song: “The Call Up.” You know what to do.
Turn. It. Up.