I haven’t really touched on the political aspect of The Clash, which of course was a huge part of their appeal to me. Not so much because I agreed with everything they sang about — I personally think that the globalization of U.S. popular culture was a huge factor in defeating Communism, so who cares if it bored Joe Strummer? — but because I loved their conviction when they were doing political songs.
And as always with me, my favorite Clash political songs were the ones I loved musically and then discovered lyrically: “White Riot,” “Clampdown” “Know Your Rights” and the utterly anthemic “Up in Heaven (Not Only Here)”
Anchored by a soaring Mick Jones guitar riff — maybe the biggest hook he ever stuck on a Clash record — “Up in Heaven (Not Only Here)” is a chorusless rant against public housing that pretty much says all it needs to say halfway through the song. I mean, what more is there to say after:
Fear is just another commodity here
They sell us peeping holes to peek when we hear
A bang on the door resoundingly clear
Who would really want to move in here?
The children play faraway, the corridors are bare
This room is a cage its like captivity
How can anyone exist in such misery?
After that, it’s just that the that great guitar hook for the rest of the song as Jones chant again and again:
It has been said not only here
“Allianza dollars are spent
To raise the towering buildings
For the weary bones of the workers
To go back in the morning
To be strong in the morning”
As the anthemic music continues to conflict (ok, clash) with the angry, despairing lyrics, “Up in Heaven (Not Only Here”) turns into one of most uplifting songs about the spiritual degradation of poverty ever performed. Which, admittedly, isn’t that huge of a category.
“Up in Heaven (Not Only Here)”