In the past couple weeks, two prominent female musicians have received considerable attention for songs which liberally sample the music of The Clash. M.I.A’s “Paper Planes” (with a helpful dose of “Straight to Hell”) has gotten a second life as it’s been featured in the trailer for the upcoming movie Pineapple Express. While Santogold has exploded onto the internets with her Diplo collabo “Guns of Brooklyn,” which samples (or covers, or reinterprets, depending on how you want to look at it) “Guns of Brixton.”
Sampling the music of The Clash is nothing new. Who can forget, rather, who’d like to forget Will Smith’s sampling of “Rock the Casbah” for his ego-tastic single “Will 2k” from the ego-rific 1999 album Willenium? And as far as covers go, The Clash have been the subject of eight tribute albums, and the cover song database, Second Hand Songs, has 65 entries for The Clash, ranging from the obvious (“London Calling” and “Should I Stay or Should I Go?”) to the obscure (“The Crooked Beat” and “Charlie Don’t Surf.”)
Not all Clash samples are as repulsive as Will Smith’s “Will 2k.” While I’m glad The Clash got paid for that god-awful jam, I’d much rather wish it out of existence. Much more pleasant to the ears is “What’s Your Number, a 2004 single released by Cypress Hill, featuring a sample of “Guns of Brixton,” and a guest spot by one of The Clash’s biggest admirers, Rancid’s Tim Armstrong. Similarly, Mack 10’s re-interpretation of “Should I Stay or Should I Go” with Ice Cube, treats The Clash with the reverence they deserve.
Filed under the not so obvious sampling category is Garabage’s 1995 single, “Stupid Girl.” At the time I never realized the drum beat, so prominent in the song’s introduction, is none other than “Train in Vain.”
The early Nineties were a particularly popular time to sample the Clash, or any other band for that matter. This was a time when sampling had begun to crossover from hip-hop to more mainstream music. Furthermore, the legality of sampling, had just begun to work its way into the courts, and many records released during this era were produced before the advent of clearance fees, and before the topic of paying royalty rights to the original songwriter had entered anyone’s mind. Perhaps no one sums up the anything goes sampling attitude of that era better than Vanilla Ice, who tried to deny sampling David Bowie and Queen’s “Under Pressure,” with the famous quote,”Theirs goes, ‘Ding ding ding dingy ding-ding.’ Ours goes, ‘Ding ding ding ding dingy ding-ding.'”
Consequently, you had bands like Dee-Lite and Beat International both utilizing the sounds of The Clash. Widely known for their inescapable club anthem, “Groove Is In The Heart,” and the campy video which accompanied it, Dee-Lite sampled the Clash on the album track “Apple Juice Kisses.” You don’t have to listen that closely to hear elements of “Armagideon Time” While Beat International practically lifted the bass line of “Guns Of Brixton” note by note for their single, “Dub Be Good To Me.”
YOUTUBE: Dee Lite – Apple Juice Kissing (Armagideon Time/Justice Tonight) (Fan Video)
Coincidentally, The Clash’s own Mick Jones used liberal samples of other artists’ work in his late Eighties, early Nineties, post-Clash band Big Audio Dynamite. Two singles from the 1991 album, The Globe, contained noteworthy samples. “Rush” featured parts of “Baba O’Reilly” by The Who and “Child In Time” by Deep Purple. While, on the album’s other prominent single, “The Globe,” Jones sampled one of his own songs in “Should I Stay or Should I Go.” Remember, The Clash were one of the first rock bands to embrace hip-hop culture. The singles, “The Magnificent Seven” and “This is Radio Clash” were both inspired by early hip-hop icons like Grand Master Flash and The Sugarhill Gang.
Y! VIDEO: Big Audio Dynamite – Rush
Personally, I have no problem with any of these artists sampling the Clash. Let me re-word that. I have no problem with any of these artists sampling the Clash, with the exception of Will Smith. If I need someone to save the world, I’ll call on Will Smith, but the travesty that is “Will 2K” has earned him a lifetime ban against using the music of The Clash, listening to The Clash, thinking about The Clash, and saying the word, “Clash,” even in context of the following sentence, “Honey, does this striped shirt clash with my plaid pants?”
Smith aside, I know it’s not very rock purist of me to embrace sampling, but, what if, what if someone comes by for the MIA, or Santogold and stays for The Clash? What if another young music fan is introduced to the only band that matters through a sample? The Clash has changed the minds of many young music fans. It certainly changed mine all those years ago, and whether they discover the music of Joe Strummer, Mick Jones, Paul Simonon, and Topper Headon through an older brother with a wicked cool record collection, or through a sampled rhythm on youtube, they’re still discovering The Clash, and that’s the only thing that matters.
YOUTUBE: The Clash – Train in Vain (Live)
YOUTUBE: The Clash – Straight to Hell (Live)
Y! VIDEO: The Clash – Rock the Casbah
YOUTUBE: The Clash – Guns of Brixton (Live)
YOUTUBE: The Clash – Armagideon Time (Live)