Monday, June 27, 2011

Song of the Week: "Police On My Back", The Clash

Few groups are in my fave list more than The Clash. In fact, we love them so much, we have written about them no less than three times already. The first time we featured Safe European Home. Then we compared their cover of Brand New Cadillac to the original. Then we talked about the brilliant Spanish Bombs from the perfect album, London Calling. Wowza. That said, I'm not a huge fan of their 1980 triple album, Sandanista! In general, I think the bulk of the 36 tracks The Clash laid out for this album feel unfinished and, at times, trying too hard to encompass too many musical styles. It lacks focus and edge.

But one of my favorite Clash songs is on this album. And it's not even written by members of the Clash. It's a cover of a song written by Eddy Grant -- who would go on to have a massive hit in the US in the mid-80s. But this is a Grant song from when he was a member of The Equals, a ground breaking multi-racial band that mixed British Psychedelia with Reggae during a brief run in the late 60s. The song is Police On My Back and The Clash's version is sung by Mick Jones and promotes the "British Siren" guitar riff, inherent to the original version, to the front and center of the revved up Clash cover. It's a fast-paced romp that gives The Clash version an urgency that the original doesn't quite have.

As a bonus, here is a You Tube link to the Equals original. Let us know what you think by commenting below.


  1. I definitely concur, this is one of the Clash's finer moments. They certainly have a knack for producing great covers of law enforcement-themed songs: "Police On My Back", "Police and Thieves", "I Fought The Law". As for the rest of "Sandinista", I used to share your thoughts, that it was overlong and unfocused. BUt in recent years I've grown to really like a lot of the stuff that I used to hate. Maybe my tastes changed, maybe it just took a few decades for me to understand what they were doing.

    And the original? Awesome! I'd never heard the Equals (never even heard of 'em), so this is a nice treat. Thanks Morgan!

  2. Do you remember Eddy Grant and his 80s hit Electric Avenue?

  3. Yes, I rocked down to Electric Avenue a few times back in the olde days. After hearing the Equals (original) version of "Police On My Back" I looked them up and noted Eddy Grant's membership. Are you familiar with any of their other material and, if so, is any of it worth tracking down?

  4. I had one of their records back in the early 80s. I didn't like it. But I may have a different opinion today. Or not.