The Clash

Rock The Casbah

Song Review by

After enduring five years as a cult act in the U.S., the Clash finally broke through on the U.S. charts with a Top Ten hit in the form of "Rock the Casbah." The lyrics, penned by Joe Strummer, were inspired by a news report of Iranians being flogged for the crime of owning a disco album and create an amusing fantasy where a disco-hating sharif is defied by everyone from the citizens to his own air force as he tries to stamp out "that crazy Casbah sound." The music lives up to the playful style of the lyrics with a rollicking melody that contrasts simple verse melodies that bounce up and down in a dance-friendly style with a shoutalong chorus that uses stuttered notes to create a punchy rhythm. The Clash's recording began as a short demo by Topper Headon consisting of a funky bass/drums vamp with some ticklish piano riffs on top. The rest of the band looped and remixed to it to a proper song length and fleshed it out with funky yet fiery electric guitar riffs, more percussion and an array of electronic sound effects. The result was a song that was tough enough for rock fans but rhythmic enough to appeal to dance music lovers. A combination of live exposure via a tour with the Who and a video on the then-new MTV network helped "Rock the Casbah" shoot to number eight on the U.S. pop charts. It remains a favorite on classic rock radio today and is frequently played by sarcastic disc jockeys whenever there is a military situation in the Middle East (example: it got a lot of airplay during the Persian Gulf War).

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Combat Rock 1982 Columbia / Col 3:43
The Clash/London Calling/Combat Rock [2000] 2000 Epic / Sony Music Distribution 3:43