"Police and Thieves" had already become a huge hit in the UK before the British Punk band The Clash made the song even more famous with their cover version
on their debut album. Originally recorded simply to fill space, the band were incredibly nervous about being a white rock band covering a reggae song so deeply entrenched in Jamaican roots. In the Westway to the World
documentary singer Joe Strummer explained: "We had some brass neck to do that. By all rights they should've said 'ya heathen mon, ya ruined de works of Jah!' But they were hip enough to realize that we'd brought our own music to the party."
"In the way that '60s bands would cover contemporary R&B classics, we covered the latest record from Jamaica," noted guitarist Mick Jones.
The Clash's version features rearranged guitar patterns (playing on both the on-and-off beat to set it aside from reggae, at the behest of Jones) and an opening homage to The Ramones by quoting the line "They're going through a tight wind!" from "Blitzkrieg Bop
." It became a live standard for the band, being played from April 1977 through to pretty much the end of the band, and Strummer often enjoyed improvising new sections of lyrics or music into live versions, often more parts of "Blitzkrieg Bop" or Ray Charles' "Hit The Road Jack."