The Clash

Rudie Can't Fail

Song Review by

One thing that always set the Clash apart from the rest of the British punk rock pack was their ability to perform reggae-styled material in an authentic and stylish matter. They used this skill to great effect on their highly varied London Calling album, often crossbreeding it with other musical styles to give it a twist. A good example is "Rudie Can't Fail," an exuberant horn-driven number that mixes pop and soul elements in to spice up its predominantly reggae sound. "Rudie Can't Fail" stays in the social commentary tradition of reggae as it pays tribute to the "rude boys" who challenged the status quo of their elders during the 1960s. The lyrics chronicle the travails of a fun-loving young man who is criticized for his inability to act like a responsible adult: his elders constantly hound for being "so crude and feckless" but he calmly responds "I know that my life make you nervous/But I tell you I can't live my life in service." The music mixes reggae and pop elements by marrying a melody with a percolating, rhythmic feel to a tight song structure that keeps things concise in the best pop tradition. The Clash's recording of "Rudie Can't Fail" is a high-spirited delight: it leaps out of the gate with an effects-drenched guitar riff then adds staccato horns and a hard-grooving bass line while Joe Strummer and Mick Jones trade lead vocals and harmonize in an energetic fashion. It is a beautiful mixture of high energy and genre bending and this combination makes "Rudie Can't Fail" one of the enduring high-points of London Calling.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
London Calling 1979 Legacy / Epic 3:29
Clash on Broadway 1991 Epic / Legacy 3:30
Grosse Pointe Blank 1997
Original Soundtrack
London / Deram / Motor / PolyGram 3:31
The Clash/London Calling/Combat Rock [2000] 2000 Epic / Sony Music Distribution 3:29
The Essential Clash 2003 Legacy / Sony Music Distribution 3:29
Great British Albums 2012
Various Artists
Sony Music 3:29
Sound System 2013 Sony Legacy / Sony Music 3:28