Certain Songs #226: The Clash – “Stop The World”

13909918514_eea29b4446_bB-side, 1980.

In retrospect it seems insane that the first single — “The Call Up” for those of you keeping score at home — from Sandinista! should also include a non-album B-side that ranks with the top cuts from those sessions.

But, of course, it just goes to how incredibly prolific that The Clash were in 1979-1980 — music was spilling out from them in all directions, and only the limitations of the contemporary formats could hope to contain them. Nowadays, they probably would have been releasing those songs as they wrote them, like Ryan Adams or Kanye West, or just put out a nonstop stream of albums, like Robert Pollard.

But of course, November 1980 was a different time. I bought “The Call-Up / Stop The World” single four days after I turned 18 and had to register for the Draft, so it was lyrically apropos, to say the least, even if I wasn’t sure about the music. But the b-side hit home, especially since I was still stinging about turning 18 the week after the 1980 Presidential election, meant I was unable to vote against the new President-Elect, whom I assumed would be the most likely to bring about the horrific events described in the “Stop The World.”

The panorama of the city is wrong
In fact the city seems to be gone!
Burning rubber and smoke in my eyes
There’s a flat burning junkheap for twenty square miles!

The music of “Stop The World” was a psychedelic Clashmusic march, complete with scary sound effects, echoing vocals and a foreboding sense of doom. It’s not so much of a song as it is a nightmare parade towards armagideon time. You know you want to run away. You know you need to run away. But you’re totally drawn towards it because it’s equal parts fascinating and terrifying.

And besides, running away is of no use: the apocalypse is faster than you are.

Fan-made video for “Stop The World”

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