Top Songs

The Clash’s Top 20 Songs

on April 09, 2017, 10:45pm
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20. “English Civil War”

Give ‘Em Enough Rope (1978)

“English Civil War” is freely adapted from the American Civil War song “When Johnny Comes Marching Home”, a hopeful tune about soldiers returning from the battlefield. Strummer was wary of new political groups like the British National Front, and “English Civil War” paints a grim picture of “the new party army marching over our heads.” Strummer saw these groups as a major detriment to England’s unity and predicted that the next war wasn’t going to be on a far-off shore, but just down the street. The opening lines, “When Johnny comes marching home again hurrah/ He’s coming by bus or underground hurrah,” bring that vision to life. The Give ‘Em Enough Rope single was one of the band’s more straight-forward punk songs, but with a stronger dose of snarl than Strummer’s typically deployed. It’s a soundtrack to a revolution, and you can almost hear the bricks meeting glass.

The Only Lyric That Matters: “The sun is shining an’ the kids are shouting loud/ But you gotta know it’s shining through a crack in the cloud/ And the shadows keep falling when Johnny comes marching home”

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