Sandinista! is the fourth studio album by The Clash, released in 1980. It is a triple album and was a huge departure from the group's original sound as it showed them trying out different kinds of styles and genres. The band asked their CBS record label to sell their triple LP for the price of only a standard LP. The label protested, but The Clash did get their wish granted in the end.
At the time the album received mixed criticism and even Kurt Cobain blamed it for having him hate punk music for several years, just because this was his first introduction to the genre. However, the album has been Vindicated by History and was listed at #407 in Rolling Stone's Rolling Stone: 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
Song-wise Sandinista! is best known for songs like "The Magnificent Seven" and "Hitsville U.K.".
- "The Magnificent Seven" (5:28)
- "Hitsville U.K." (4:20)
- "Junco Partner" (4:53)
- "Ivan Meets G.I. Joe" (3:05)
- "The Leader" (1:41)
- "Something About England" (3:42)
- "Rebel Waltz" (3:25)
- "Look Here" (2:44)
- "The Crooked Beat" (5:29)
- "Somebody Got Murdered" (3:34)
- "One More Time" (3:32)
- "One More Dub" (3:34)
- "Lightning Strikes (Not Once But Twice)" (4:51)
- "Up In Heaven (Not Only Here)" (4:31)
- "Corner Soul" (2:43)
- "Let's Go Crazy" (4:25)
- "If Music Could Talk" (4:36)
- "The Sound Of Sinners" (4:00)
- "Police On My Back" (3:15)
- "Midnight Log" (2:11)
- "The Equaliser" (5:47)
- "The Call Up" (5:25)
- "Washington Bullets" (3:51)
- "Broadway" (5:45)
- "Lost This Skin" (5:07)
- "Charlie Don't Surf" (4:55)
- "Mensforth Hill" (3:42)
- "Junkie Slip" (2:48)
- "Kingston Advice" (2:36)
- "The Street Parade" (3:26)
- "Version City" (4:23)
- "Living In Fame" (4:36)
- "Silicone On Sapphire" (4:32)
- "Version Pardner" (5:22)
- "Career Opportunities" (2:30)
- "Shepherds Delight" (3:25)
- Topper Headon - drums, backing and lead vocals
- Mick Jones - guitar, lead vocals, piano, keyboard, sound effects
- Paul Simonon - bass, percussion, backing and lead vocals
- Joe Strummer - lead vocals, guitar, piano
Something About Troping:
- America Takes Over the World: "Washington Bullets" criticises America's imperialism and involvement in the Cuban Revolution (1959), the Bay of Pigs Invasion (1961), and the coup of Augusto Pinochet in Chile (1973). Yet near the end it also criticises Communist China for its treatment of pacifist Buddhist monks in Tibet and the Soviet Union for the 1979 war in Afghanistan. "Charlie Don't Surf" has the same message told from the perspective of a Vietcong soldier.
- Bystander Syndrome: "Somebody Got Murdered", about a murder nobody but Apathetic Citizens pays attention to.
- Cherubic Choir: "Career Opportunities" and the version of "The Guns Of Brixton" at the end of "Broadway"
- Cold War: "Ivan Meets G.I. Joe" has the USSR and US involved in a disco dance competition.
- Cover Version: "Junco Partner" (a blues song by James Waynes), "Look Here" (originally by Mose Allison), "Police On My Back" (written by Eddy Grant and first recorded by his early band The Equals).
- Deliberately Monochrome: The album cover is in black-and-white.
- Dogfaces: The liner notes are formatted like an issue of the fictitious newspaper "The Armegideon Times". All the pictures in this paper are of dog-faced anthro characters, rather than humans.
- Epic Instrumental Opener: The guitar/keyboard minuet that opens "Rebel Waltz"
- Excited Show Title!: "Sandinista!"
- Face on the Cover: The band, seen from a distance.
- Genre Roulette and Neo Classical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly:
- "The Magnificent Seven" is a rap song, one of the first attempts by a rock group to do one, along with Blondie's "Rapture".
- "Washington Bullets" is Reggae.
- "Living In Fame'" "Silicone On Sapphire" and "Version Pardner" are dub.
- "Ivan Meets G.I. Joe" is a Disco song.
- "The Sound Of Sinners" is uptempo gospel.
- God-Is-Love Songs: "The Sound Of Sinners".After all this timeTo believe in JesusAfter all these drugsI thought I was HimAfter all my lying and cryingAnd the sufferingI ain't good enoughI ain't clean enoughTo be Him, no, no
- Instrumental: "Mensforth Hill" and "Shepherds Delight".
- Let's Duet: "Hitsville U.K."
- Lightning Can Do Anything: "Lightning Strikes (Not Once But Twice)".
- Miniscule Rocking: 'The Leader' is 1:41 minutes long.
- Music Is Politics: Down to the album title!
- My Country Tis of Thee That I Sting: "Career Opportunities" criticises the political and economic situation in England, especially the lack of employment. "Something About England" criticises racism and the English class system that despite two world wars and industrial revolution hasn't changed much for the lower classes.
- Not So Different: After spending most of "Washington Bullets" denouncing US intervention in Latin America, the final verse takes swipes at the Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan and China's occupation of Tibet, making the point that Communist countries can also be guilty of imperialism. Then it finishes off by noting that UK also has unclean hands, from importing arms to other countries.
- One-Word Title: "Sandinista!"
- Police Brutality: "Police On My Back".Well I'm running police on my backI've been hiding police on my backThere was a shooting police on my backAnd the victim well he wont come back
- Also, "Let's Go Crazy" deals with relations between the police and black communities in the UK.The lawful force are here of courseFor special offenders for the special courtBut the young men know when the sun has setDarkness comes to settle the debtOwed by a year of S.U.S. and suspectIndiscriminate use of the power of arrestThey're waiting for the sun to set
- Protest Song: Most tracks.
- Pun-Based Title: "Hitsville U.K.", a pun on Motown's nickname "Hitsville U.S.A."
- "Washington Bullets" is often assumed to be a play on the name of the DC-based NBA team, who later changed their name to the Washington Wizards, but Joe Strummer claimed he never heard of the team.
- Rap Rock: "The Magnificent Seven" was the Trope Maker.
- Real Life Writes the Plot: The album title was inspired by the then very recent (1979) coup by the Sandinista guerrilla movement in Nicaragua. Many other songs criticize the government's policies involving warfare.
- Repurposed Pop Song: The song "Career Opportunities" had appeared earlier on The Clash's debut album from 1977, but in a different arrangement.
- The title "Sandinista" refers to the Sandinistas, the socialist guerrillas who overthrew the authoritarian US-backed dictatorship of Anastasio Somoza in Nicaragua in 1979. Their catalogue number 'F S L N 1' refers to the abbreviation of the party's Spanish name: "Frente Sandinista de Liberación Nacional".
- "The Magnificent Seven" refers to the western of the same name. It also places historical figures like Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi, Richard Nixon and Socrates in modern America, before asking in a sarcastic voice "whether Plato the Greek or Rin Tin Tin is more famous to the masses?"
- "Hitsville U.K." is a love-letter to the then-new independent label music scene, and it name checks a couple of the big players: Rough Trade, Factory, Small Wonder and Fast Product.
- "If Music Could Talk" name-drops Joe Ely, Errol Flynn, Bo Diddley, Buddy Holly, Jim Morrison and Elvis Presley's "Are You Lonesome Tonight?"
- "Ivan Meets G.I. Joe" refers to "G.I. Joe".
- The title of "Charlie Don't Surf" is a reference to a famous quote from the anti war movie Apocalypse Now. The line "Everybody wants to rule the world" would later be used by Tears for Fears as the title of one of their hit songs. When Strummer once saw Roland Orzabal from Tears For Fears in a restaurant he effectively told him: "You owe me a fiver", and Orzabal did pay him!
- "Washington Bullets" name-checks Víctor Jara.
- Something Completely Different: The band's sound had long evolved beyond its punk roots since London Calling, but "Sandinista!" was a departure into full-blown Genre Roulette. Combat Rock would step back to London Calling levels. (While Mick Jones's post-split band Big Audio Dynamite would eventually continue down a more Sandanista!-inspired road.) However, even with the Genre Roulette there are some stand-out oddities:
- "Hitsville U.K.", a surprisingly sweet song featuring a xylophone, a Motown-inspired bassline, and lead vocals by Mick and his then-girlfriend, American actress Ellen Foley. The song's style is completely different from their other work and is often considered a forerunner to the twee pop genre.
- "Lose This Skin" was written by, sung by, and prominently featured the violin playing of Tymon Dogg, with The Clash acting as his backing band.
- Special Guest: Mick Gallagher and Norman Watt-Roy from Ian Dury and The Blockheads played on the album (apparently, they were promised co-writing credit on "The Magnificent Seven" but never actually got it). Reggae singer Mikey Dread did some of the dub versions and toasting on the reggae songs. "Police On My Back" was written by Eddy Grant (later known for "Electric Avenue") and performed by The Equals. Ellen Foley, best known for singing with Meat Loaf on "Paradise By The Dashboard Light" and Mick Jones' partner at the time, also sings along. The Voidoids guitarist Ivan Julian, Eddie and the Hot Rods member Lew Lewis and musical collaborator Tymon Dogg are also present. Gallagher's children, Luke, Ben and Maria also have a guest spot. Actor Tim Curry also chants on "The Sound Of Sinners". Even drummer Topper's dog can be heard during "Somebody Got Murdered".
- Step Up to the Microphone: Topper Headon sings lead vocals on "Ivan Meets G.I. Joe". Paul Simonon sings lead vocals on "The Crooked Beat".
- Title Drop: In "Washington Bullets".Que?
- War Is Hell: "The Call Up", "Washington Bullets", "Charlie Don't Surf", "Something About England",... all criticize war and especially involvement of US and UK involvement in foreign countries.