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Music / Sandinista!

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As the smoke of our hopes rose high from the field
My eyes played tricks through the moon and the trees
I slept as I dreamt, I saw the army rise
A voice began to call, "Stand 'til you fall"
The tune was an old rebel one

"Rebel Waltz"

Sandinista! is the fourth studio album by English Post-Punk band The Clash, released in 1980. A huge departure from the group's original sound, the record took the approach of London Calling and escalated it tenfold, spanning a whopping three LPs and experimenting in a variety of styles and genres influenced by Black culture. In particular, the opening track, "The Magnificent Seven", served as the Trope Maker for Rap Rock alongside Blondie's "Rapture" that same year, blending the band's reggae-punk mix with the sound and style of the growing Hip-Hop movement.

Having already engaged in some fierce Loophole Abuse to get London Calling released as a double album and at a sharp discount, the band asked their label, CBS Records, to sell their triple LP for the price of only one. Once again, the label protested, but ultimately made good on the Clash's wishes. However, they only did so after the band agreed to an equally dramatic reduction in royalties, forfeiting all money made from the first 200,000 copies sold and surrendering 50% of royalties for all later sales of the album. This situation would ultimately motivate the more commercially-inclined direction of the band's next album, Combat Rock.

Sandinista! was supported by three singles: "The Call Up", "Hitsville U.K.", and "The Magnificent Seven". Another track from the sessions, "Bankrobber", would see release as a non-album single during the promotional cycle for Sandinista!; among the people attending the recording of this song were Ian Brown and Pete Garner, who would go on to become two of the five founding members of The Stone Roses.


LP One

Side One
  1. "The Magnificent Seven" (5:28)
  2. "Hitsville U.K." (4:20)
  3. "Junco Partner" (4:53)
  4. "Ivan Meets G.I. Joe" (3:05)
  5. "The Leader" (1:41)
  6. "Something About England" (3:42)

Side Two

  1. "Rebel Waltz" (3:25)
  2. "Look Here" (2:44)
  3. "The Crooked Beat" (5:29)
  4. "Somebody Got Murdered" (3:34)
  5. "One More Time" (3:32)
  6. "One More Dub" (3:34)

LP Two

Side Three
  1. "Lightning Strikes (Not Once But Twice)" (4:51)
  2. "Up In Heaven (Not Only Here)" (4:31)
  3. "Corner Soul" (2:43)
  4. "Let's Go Crazy" (4:25)
  5. "If Music Could Talk" (4:36)
  6. "The Sound Of Sinners" (4:00)

Side Four

  1. "Police On My Back" (3:15)
  2. "Midnight Log" (2:11)
  3. "The Equaliser" (5:47)
  4. "The Call Up" (5:25)
  5. "Washington Bullets" (3:51)
  6. "Broadway" (5:45)

LP Three

Side Five
  1. "Lose This Skin" (5:07)
  2. "Charlie Don't Surf" (4:55)
  3. "Mensforth Hill" (3:42)
  4. "Junkie Slip" (2:48)
  5. "Kingston Advice" (2:36)
  6. "The Street Parade" (3:26)

Side Six

  1. "Version City" (4:23)
  2. "Living In Fame" (4:36)
  3. "Silicone On Sapphire" (4:32)
  4. "Version Pardner" (5:22)
  5. "Career Opportunities" (2:30)
  6. "Shepherds Delight" (3:25)

Note: Most CD releases are across two discs; CD one contains sides 1-3, while CD two contains sides 4-6. A 2004 Japanese mini-LP CD reissue and the 2013 deluxe edition, meanwhile, package the album as a three-disc set, with each CD corresponding to one of the three records in the original vinyl release.

Principal Members:

  • 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:

  • Accent Upon The Wrong Syllable: "Washington Bullets"
    When they had a revolution in Nic-a-RAG-you-uh.
  • 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"
  • Face on the Cover: The band, seen from a distance.
  • Genre Roulette and Genre Mashup:
    • "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 time
    To believe in Jesus
    After all these drugs
    I thought I was Him
    After all my lying and crying
    And the suffering
    I ain't good enough
    I ain't clean enough
    To 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" Remark: 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 the 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 back
    I've been hiding police on my back
    There was a shooting police on my back
    And 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 course
    For special offenders for the special court
    But the young men know when the sun has set
    Darkness comes to settle the debt
    Owed by a year of S.U.S. and suspect
    Indiscriminate use of the power of arrest
    They'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: Together with Blondie's "Rapture" that same year, "The Magnificent Seven" was the Trope Maker.
  • Re-Cut: The US promotional sampler Sandinista Now! truncates the triple-LP down to a single disc and rearranges the track order to accommodate, among other things moving "The Magnificent Seven" from track one to track eight.
  • Repurposed Pop Song: The song "Career Opportunities" had appeared earlier on The Clash's debut album from 1977, but in a different arrangement.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: 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.
  • Shout-Out:
    • 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.
  • 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. Tim Curry does the church announcements at the end of "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". Joe Strummer's frequent collaborator Tymon Dogg sings lead on "Lose This Skin" (which he also wrote).
  • Title Drop: In "Washington Bullets".
  • 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.