Classic Clash jam with class consciousness!Posted: February 9, 2011
I always loved and respected the Clash. I always loved the way they were inspired by other musical genres, and were not afraid to incorporate different sounds into their music and not be contained by rigid punk categories. Not that punk music is this rigid thing; punk has a dynamic history generating all different forms of it from different geographical places and time periods. That said, not all punks are gonna be busting a disco beat like in the jam “The Magnificent Seven” featured below, and this is why I love The Clash. They were so conscious and intentional in their music; they were listening to the different musical forms (disco, hip hop, and reggae) that were developing and becoming more popular in NYC in the late 1970s/ early 1980’s, and they allowed it to expand their own musical orbit to produce this interesting fusion of musical stylings with political consciousness. “The Magnificent Seven” comes from their classic fourth album called Sandinista, which was released as a triple album in 1980. As much as I do love the album and how creative it was in the way it blends punk rock, jazz, dub, disco, hip hop, gospel and politics into one super package (and mother earth knows how I love hybrids of all sorts especially when they are tinted with leftist politics), but this package didn’t need to be so super. Most artists, unless you are Nina Simone or Jimi Hendrix, don’t need to be putting out double or triple albums, because its usually never quality all the way through. But that’s a nit-picky point, and I won’t hate on The Clash fellas for it.
The album title references the revolutionary Nicaraguan guerrilla organization the Sandinistas, who lead singer Joe Strummer identified with until they started fucking up mid 1980s. I think we’ve all been there. But I think it is so dope these English punk rockers were putting out music during a time of international revolutionary struggle, and they were referencing it in their music, instead of ignoring it or putting out stuff that will sell and make profit. Obviously this is capitalism so I am not trying to make it seem like they weren’t trying to make money off of their music, but it was risky for them to put out such an eclectic political punk album and I have a lot of respect for that. Lyrically ‘The Magnificent Seven’ has some embryonic class consciousness and commentary about the consumer culture under capital that drives us deeper into wage slavery. The opening lines go:
“Ring! Ring! It’s 7:00 A.M.!
Move y’self to go again
Cold water in the face
Brings you back to this awful place
Knuckle merchants and you bankers, too
Must get up an’ learn those rules”
He is describing the pain and monotony of work. Getting up early, and being ripped from your warm bed before you are ready to then having to splash your face with cold water just to wake up. He references the merchants and bankers, aka the bourgeoisie, where you will learn their rules and their bourgeois values if you want to survive in this world. He talks about the consumerism that makes the system function as well:
“Working for a rise, better my station
Take my baby to sophistication
She’s seen the ads, she thinks it’s nice
Better work hard – I seen the price”
And to top it all off he references Marx and Engels within the piece as well. I would encourage folks to check out the lyrics, because I think they accurately describe the culture of living under capitalism; the riding of the bus to work and back; the clocking in and clocking out; the slow, dreadful way the minutes pass by as you anxiously wait to be set free to do what you want with your time. Besides the content of the lyrics being political and conscious it is also just a dope jam that should be put back in the rotation. I love my disco/hip hop/ punk with some revolutionary politics…it’s just too too perfect. Enjoy!