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Saturday, 14 March 2015

Johnny Comes Marching Home

At the end of Protex Blue on The Cash's debut lp Mick Jones shouts out 'Johnny, Johnny!' Written by Mick before the band even formed Protex Blue is a homage to pub toilet condom vending machines, done and dusted in one minute and forty five seconds. Rubber Johnny.

On their second album, Give 'Em Enough Rope, Joe Strummer gets his Johnny song in, the trad. arr update English Civil War. A song that refers to the rise of the National Front and the right-wing generally, Johnny is coming 'by bus and underground'. Strummer always stressed it was a folk song, a version of a American Civil War song called When Johnny Comes Maching Home, sung by the soldiers of the south. On a US tour they tried a slowed down, acoustic take and got booed by the audience. While we're here Give 'Em Enough Rope is, I think, the worst/least good Clash album, with too many half baked songs, some silly posturing and an FM rock sheen added by Sandy Pearlman. Having said that, it's also got Safe European Home and Stay Free, so it's not all bad.

Here they perform live in 1979 on a yoof TV show called Alright Now and everyone seems to be having a really good time.

In between the first and second albums came the mighty White Man (In Hammersmith Palais) single. The b-side to their reggae influenced, state of the nation address was The Prisoner, a breathless, thrilling, careering three minutes romp with a wild, distorted guitar solo from Mick. The lyrics cram in two Johnny's, both music related at the start of the second verse...

'Johnny Too Bad meets Johnny Be Good in the Charring Cross Road'

Johnny Be Good is (obviously) from Chuck Berry's song. Johnny Too Bad is from an obscure Jamaican rocksteady group The Slickers, released in 1971 and on the magnificent The Harder They Come soundtrack, a Clash favourite. Johnny Too Bad is a rude boy- 'walking down the road with a pistol in your waist Johnny you're too bad'. I've posted it before, a long time ago.

The rest of Mick's lyrics on The Prisoner are hilarious (in a good way) and packed full of Clashery- Camden Town, Coronation Street, the Germans and the French jamming themselves down the tube to re-enact the Second World War, rude boys being rude, drug addiction and jumping the train to stardom. There's a cracking live version in the Rude Boy film and also this breakneck, amphetamine fuelled performance in Munich in 1977 (along with Janie Jones and Garageland).


Walter said...

Didn't listen to Protex Blue for a long time and had almost forgotten what great song it is.

Scott said...

Great week of Johnny themed songs SA. First time I have seen The Clash in Munich video, Strummer is like a man possessed especially during Garageland.

Echorich said...

Americans were done in by the record company with the first couple Clash albums. Give Em Enough Rope is actually the first US release followed very closely by the US version of The Clash which swaps out Protex Blue, Deny, Cheat and 48 Hours for White Man, Complete Control and I Fought The Law, Clash City Rockers and Jail Guitar Doors. My copy also came with a 7" single of Groovy Times and Gates Of The West. Of course I had bought The Clash on import and then again as a US release and I seem to remember Epic/CBS still got the track listing out of order on the back of the LP.
I'm a real fan of Give Em Enough Rope, even if it's heavy on the Punk/Metal feel at times. Stay Free is one of my top 5 Clash songs and I love All The Young Punks (Their Mott The Hoople moment) and Tommy Gun. Even with the commercial "sheen" of Pearlman, the band still managed a shambolic affair and Pearlman's decision to mix up Topper's drums over Strummer's vocal - which he hated, makes things more gloriously messy.