Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Clash: Sandinista! Live!

R.I.P. Joe Strummer
August 21st 1952 - December 22nd 2002

Sandinista is a mess. Call it an inspired mess or self-indulgent one but few accuse it of cohesiveness. While the Clash's fourth album, a triple L.P. from 1980, has its defenders and detractors my estimation remains unchanged since making my own cassette distillation back in the eighties: roughly one album of strong material, one album of fine B-sides and one album of endurance-defying filler.

So, as MRML once presented Cut the Crap Revisited, we’d now like to offer up Sandinista! Live!, a collection of just-about every song the Clash played live from that album. This compilation is not so-much an alternate version (listeners make their own even faster now) as a supplement to the studio work. After all, unlike Cut the Crap, Sandinista doesn't suffer over-production, if anything it suffers from the lack thereof. The final goal of this set was to observe how well the test of the stage succeeded in burning off the dross.

(In the early eighties this image sold as a poster, alongside ones of Rambo and Cheryl Tiegs)

1 Intro Kingston, Jamaica (27-1-'81)
A little Kosmo Vinyl to rile you up.

2. The Magnificent 7
Jaap Edenhal, the Netherlands (10-5-'81)
The original (more so than its re-mixes) succeeds at its somewhat dubious goal (white-boy rap-punk) so well that the live versions, even this guitar-heavy one, rarely out-do the original (the mash-up of the songs and "Armagiddeon Time" preserved on Live at Shea CD possibly excepted).

3. Junco Partner - Kingston, Jamaica (27-1-'81)
Look, I don’t know what makes that bown! sound on the record but it’s fucking annoying and any version without it has a leg up on the original.

4. Ivan Meets G.I. Joe Jaap Edenhal, the Netherlands (10-5-'81)
The Topper song sans the disco touches is kinda fun

5. The Leader Jaap Edenhal, the Netherlands (10-5-'81)
It’s a little slight in the lyrical department but the original rocks any way you cut it.

6. Somebody Got Murdered Jaap Edenhal, the Netherlands (10-5-'81)
Lyrically and musically devastating, this song got a bit buried in the vinyl avalanche that was Sandinista and here it gets a rough treatment with Jones vocal being stretchy but his guitar ringing at full force.

7. One More Time
Jaap Edenhal, the Netherlands (10-5-'81)
A throbbing version of one of Sandinista's better reggae tracks.

8. Lightning Strikes Jaap Edenhal, the Netherlands (10-5-'81)
Structurally a bit too similar to Magnificent 7 but this version rocks out.

9. Corner Soul Lille, France (09-05-'81)
This bantam level song has dodgy sound but a solid performance.

10. Let’s Go Crazy Barcelona, Spain (27-04-81)
Great song but by far the worst recording here.

11. The Sound of the Sinners
(US Festival, 05-28-83)
A secret joy of Sandinista is this little gospel pastiche done both tongue-in-cheek and with reverence for the power of the music. The live versions are fiery with hilarious Joe intros.

12. Police on my Back Tokyo, Japan (30-01-82)
You’d be hard-pressed to find a bad version of this one, Mick and co. just seemed to love ripping up Eddy Grant's classic.

13. The Call-Up Bonds, New York, USA (09-06-81)
A live audience definitely gave this less-successful single the extra push it needed.

14. Washington Bullets Bonds, New York, USA (09-06-81)
Long one of my fave songs from the album (in retrospective it foreshadows the Mescaleros) despite a few clunky lines ("Castro is the colour that will earn him a spray of lead"), this version features a jam with some toasting (mmmm jam toast).

15. Broadway
Bonds, New York, USA (09-06-81)
A subtle, jazzy song from the album that feels more immediate in this setting.

16. Charlie Don’t Surf
Jaap Edenhal, the Netherlands (10-5-'81)
A loping version that shows that even with slower material the Clash were still an exciting live band.

17. The Street Parade
Bonds, New York, USA (03-06-81)
A noisier version of another of the undeservedly ignored songs from the album.

18. Radio Clash Jaap Edenhal, the Netherlands (10-5-'81)
An honourary Sandinista song (it came out between that album and Combat Rock) and despite being slagged off as "This is Disco Clash" it's never a drag, especially on this burning version.

I’m saddened that “Hitsville UK”, “Something About England”, “Loose This Skin” (resurrected by the Mescaleros-era Strummer) “Rebel Waltz” and “Kingston Advice” (despite being the title of a fine bootleg) never met the stage but glad for what we do have to remember Joe by.

MRML Readers: Is Sandinista trash, treasure or some unholy muddle-up of the two? Let us know in the comments!

Sandinista! Live!

Thanks, as always, to If Music Could Talk (esp nsc for the Equaliser jpg), which helped make this post possible, though I’m sure that many of the denizens of that community would make a very different, likely better version of such a compilation. Also thanks to Clash Photo Rockers for many of the fine images herein.

Buy Clash albums!


  1. Good to see a lot of Jaap Edenhall tracks. It's hard to go wrong in that directon.

    "Castro is the colour that will earn him a spray of lead" actually always scanned well for me in the past. Maybe now I can look forward to cringing at it in the future.

    -Silent Majority

  2. I rate Sandinista! very highly sure the production could've been better and yes there is filler but over the years I have grown to really love this album. Nice mix of live trax Jeff good work.

  3. I've always felt that Sandinista had the very best and worst of the Clash all in one. It contains some of my favorite Clash tracks and yet I find as an album it is almost impossible to listen to it in one sitting. But perhaps that is what makes it great. The erratic nature of it all captures the erratic persona of the Clash. At times amazing and at times destructive.

  4. SM
    I actually just bought a copy (do people still buy physical copies of bootlegs?) of Jaap and knew it had to form the core of this comp (i.e. great sound and performance plus smack in the middle of the Sandinista era.
    Sorry to have snarked on that line in WB but I guess I feel he already covered red and dead in the two lines and the third line ends up a bit forced. Could be just me...

    Thanks for the good words. As a fanatic, I too love Sandinista and believe it rewards the patient listener may times over. Still, I wish Guy Stevens coulda been there chucking chairs and ladders before side six got recorded.

    Again nice summary. Mick Jones said, "I think of Sandinista! as a record for people on oil rigs or Arctic stations" as in it's good for good dipping into. While not the greatest justification for the bloat, it is an album that one can come back to for more over the years.

  5. that is a good point about being able to come back to it. I've noticed over the years I have gone back and find merrit in something that I previously disliked. For example The Sound of Sinners. When I first heard Sandinista I loathed that song, now I love it.

  6. Always a personal favorite of mine. It helped open my young ears to the possibilities of mixing punk, reggae, rock, ska, jazz and R&B in one big wonderful mess. Thanks for the brilliant rethinking of the album through live tracks.

  7. When I bought it on vinyl I was massively disappointed.
    When I bought it on cd (used at a great price) I really enjoyed most of it.
    It's convenient to be able to program your fave tracks & avoid the ones that bug ya.
    Thanks for the live versions.

  8. I really didn't like Sandinista at the time. I didn't really like alot of London Calling either for that matter but both sound better as the years have wore on.

    R.I.P. Joe

  9. Mike
    I'm glad you use SotS as a prime e.g. That song (which did grow on me even back then) has just gown on me more and more over time. I know think of it as a high point on the album.

    They really wanted to open up people's minds on that album - I mean the sheer diversity of old and new styles - hard to think of a band who could pull all that off these days.

    Yeah that album was made for editing. Fortunately I had a decent stereo as a kid and I made my 90 minute tape of it and listenend to it on the bus on the long way to and from school.

    Damn but LC was devastating for me but then it was the first Clash album I heard, which is probably not the case for you. My love of LC complicated my relationship with Sandinista in that I kept hoping if I listened hard enough it would become LC. It never did but, like you said, Sandinista has grown in my estimation over the years.

  10. Mike
    I don't spell-check my comments apparently because that 'know' where I meant 'now' is pretty atrocious.

  11. Now that I've heard Mickey Dread and Lee Perry dubs and a lot of stuff which was unknown in my suburban Cdn. environs back then but seems to have shaped the sound and aims of the album throughout, I get a lot more of _Sandinista!_ than I once did. While I cannot say all 36 tracks make it for me now, or ever will, a lot more of it does than did in the way back. Credit to the band for failing big rather than doing _London Calling II_, I say. Thanks for this reminder and the great boot-tracks--and the constant pleasures of your blog. Cheers!

  12. Yes, this album's a mess, one that I find more beautiful every time I come back to it. Like Jeffen, I'm also disappointed at the lack of a live "Hitsville UK," if only because there seems to be the edges of a great song sticking out from under that children's chorus. I always have assumed it's just some very British joke that I'll never understand. Can anyone explain it?

  13. jbull
    "Credit to the band for failing big rather than doing _London Calling II" that's a fear if you edit it nicely it still sounds a bit like LC outtakes, the sprawlingness (sic) gives it its character...

    "Hitsville" an early fave, is odd in that it combines very American references ("AOR" "Consumer Trials") and very English ones (i.e. the references to the Small Wonder, Rough Trade and Factory labels)though I suppose the title lays the juxtaposition out pretty clearly.

  14. When the album came out, I spent a full week listening to all of it - over and over again. Being 16 and having a ready supply of hash made this possible!

    That may have been the last time I heard a lot of the songs because as much as I loved the Clash, and as great as a lot of the songs are, there is a LOT of junk and poorly executed sonic experiments. As a double album, it would have rivaled "London Calling", but as a triple, it can only be the third best album they released.

    Which makes it a great album nonetheless.

  15. Anon
    I defy anyone who loved the the first three Clash albums, to not have some mixed feelings about Sandinista in its entirety.
    Speaking of hash, I think the drugs must been part of the problem (assuming we want to call it that) - I still can't believe they were shocked that it got a slagging in NME, I mean with some of that filler they were begging for a backlash.
    It's a great record but maddenig at the same time, which is not a caveat either of the first three (or even Black Market) would require.

  16. Love all things Clash, from the lowliest to the greatest, being 'the only band that matters', but Sandinista is my all-time favorite. Even when it doesn't work, the range of variety they strove for is entertaining & inspiring. While I have heard most of the tracks on your Live! offering, I am looking forward to listening to it as a whole. Sandinista! Live! indeed. Thanks so much, jeffen, for the wonderful Holidaze gift. R.I.P Joe. Clash forever.

  17. Just got "Sandinista!" on cd for Christmas (thanks Mike!) and listened to it in it's entirety today. I would say that it's really only at the end of disc two where the filler becomes hard to handle. I don't think it'll ever be my all time favorite Clash disc but, for me, it hung together extremely well and I enjoyed it's sprawl. Then again, I love me some Yes, so what the hell do I know?

  18. One: Happy Holidays Jeffen!
    Two: Sandinista! is the only Clash album i have and know. Never made it past Side 1 for 20+ years. Think now i will.

    Btw, if you want the No Age & Bob Mould show where they play Hüskers stuff, then shoot! Would be a nice add to your excellent Hüskers take.



  19. No
    The massive ambition of Sandinista is fascinating because it both helps and huts the album. Glad you enjoyed the whole deal, (bringing joy to Clash fans is one of my sacred duties here).

    I love the fact that one commenter here bought another commenter here Sandinista for Christmas (independent of this post but still charming). I knew you'd love that aura of failure that hangs over the album but also the fact that there really are a lot of great songs when you ignore side six.

    Now is the time to re-lsiten to Sandinista.
    Re: the No Age & Bob Mould show where they play Hüskers stuff
    Were you gonna post it at TBC? If not I would certainly post it here. Hell if you want to do a little write-up it could be a guest post!


Thanks for clicking the COMMENTS link.
Now that you're here,I should mentions that
without reader feedback blogs slowly wither and die