:: Tuesday, September 21, 2004 ::

Punk Rock Countdown: No. 16
"White Riot," by the Clash
It begins with dischord: a siren wailing by, the police rushing to a scene. Then all hell breaks loose as Jones, Strummer and Simonon launch an all-out power chord assault and scream out the lyrics. At first hearing, it sounds something like:
Wah-wah! Wanna wah-wah!
Wah-wah wanna wah-wah waaaaah!
But what they're actually singing is:
White riot -- I wanna riot
White riot -- wanna riot of my own!

"White Riot" is a call to rebellion, to incite a riot. Joe Strummer, despite his privileged, middle-class upbringing, belts out an idealistic anthem for the proletariat. But the pragmatist in him realizes the truth: that "nobody wants to go to jail." An uprising is simply too inconvenient. Are you taking over/or are you taking orders? Strummer asks later in the song. The answer is too obvious.

"White Riot" threw down a challenge, and its theme of class rebellion (and its ultimate quelling by the forces of politics and consumerism) is one that would recur in later works, particularly in London Calling and Sandinista!

:: Andrew 07:33 + ::

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