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(White Man) in Hammersmith Palais by The Clash
Album: The Clash (US version only)Released: 1978Charted:
The "Hammersmith Palais de Danse" was a famous music venue in Hammersmith, London, that hosted, among numerous others, The Sex Pistols, David Bowie, The Cure or The Rolling Stones. It was shut down on April 1 2007; the final gig was played by post-punk band The Fall.
Joe Strummer is the "white man" in this song. His lyrics were inspired by a visit to a reggae "All Niter" in which he wasn't very impressed by the performances of Dillinger, Leroy Smart and Delroy Wilson, and also received some aggro over being the only white guy in a room. He had called for white people to protest in the same way he had seen black people protest at Notting Hill in the lyrics of "White Riot," but this night was proving to him that the cultural mix he longed for was a long way off on both sides. The night ended with him attempting to stop several guys stealing some white girls' handbags.
This was one of Joe Strummer's favorites - in the post-Clash era he continued to play it with his new band The Mescaleros, and it was also played at his funeral.
The final verse deals with Strummer's disillusionment with the exploding Punk scene, and how the bands were too busy fighting to actually set about growing the scene and making Punk Rock a worldwide phenomenon ("The new groups are not concerned with what there is to be learnt, they're all too busy fighting for a good place under the lighting").
He also takes a spiteful dig at The Jam, who in 1977 had broken out and were threatening The Clash's popularity, accusing them essentially of selling out and trying to go for style to achieve better sales ("Burton suits, hah, you think it's funny? Turning rebellion into money").
The Clash were clearly quite nervous about recording the song, as it was a massive step into the unknown for them - unlike with "Police and Thieves
," this was a heavily Reggae-influenced track both written AND recorded by a white rock group.
"We were a big fat riff group, like rock solid beats," noted Joe Strummer. "We weren't supposed to do something like that."
The gamble worked - it became one of their most popular songs, and remained until his death Strummer's favorite song that he'd ever written - one he'd even have played at his funeral.
The studio recording features lead bass playing from Paul Simonon and a harmonica solo from Mick Jones.