The Clash

Should I Stay Or Should I Go

Composed by The Clash / Topper Headon / Mick Jones / Paul Simonon / Joe Strummer

Song Review by

Given the fickle nature of the music business, it probably figures that when the Clash finally had a major hit in the United States, this band which had so prided themselves on their street-smart intelligence and edgy political stance would make the charts with what was almost certainly the most purposefully dumb song in their catalog. Then again, from "Louie Louie" to "Bitchin' Camaro," the history of rock is dotted with any number of wonderfully stupid songs, and "Should I Stay or Should I Go," from the 1982 album Combat Rock, is a true classic in this grand tradition. Mick Jones wonders out loud if he should stick with his significant other or move on to greener pastures, and the argument never gets much deeper than "If I go there will be trouble/But if I stay there will be double" (meaning, strictly on numbers, he really ought to go, but his thinking doesn't appear to be quite so analytical). Jones actually manages to sound like he can take such an argument seriously, though when Joe Strummer chimes in with a Spanish interpretation of the lyrics during the second verse, he seems fully aware of how goofy this is -- and he's enjoying every moment of it. And while the tune isn't much more than two emphatic chords, they're two GREAT emphatic chords, and between Jones and Strummer's full-bodied guitar downstrokes and Paul Simonon's thick, fuzzy bass line, it sounds like the Clash's great nod to the pleasures of garage rock. Since it was the group's biggest hit, "Should I Stay or Should I Go" has inspired more covers than most of the Clash's repertoire, ranging from the odd but inspired (swinging Seattle alt-country act the Pickets) to the painfully misguided (who suggested to Kylie Minogue that covering this tune was a good idea?), but the most interesting version may have come from Billy Childish. In the early '90s, the Clash allowed "Should I Stay or Should I Go" to be used in a British television commercial for Levis; airplay of the TV spot resulted in the song topping the British singles charts (something it didn't quite manage first time around), and the former leader of the Pop Rivets was quite appalled that his old heroes had not only sold out so crassly, but hit number one in the process. So Childish and his fellow members of Thee Headcoats cut a single in 1993 as Thee Stash, with a sleeve that parodied the cover of the first Clash album. The A-side featured the band 's posthumous hit re-written as "Should I Suck or Should I Blow?," while the flipside altered another Clash classic, "I'm So Bored With the U.S.A.," into "Selling Jeans for the U.S.A." And if that ain't punk rock, I don't know what is.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Combat Rock 1982 Columbia / Col 3:09
The Clash/London Calling/Combat Rock [2000] 2000 Epic / Sony Music Distribution 3:09