Hitsville UK

Album: Sandinista! (1980)
Charted: 56
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Songfacts®:

  • The title is a homage to Motown Records; "Hitsville U.S.A." was its first headquarters in Detroit. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Martin - Rostock, Germany
  • "Hitsville UK" is a duet between Clash guitarist Mick Jones and his then-girlfriend Ellen Foley (who also sung "Paradise By the Dashboard Light" together with Meat Loaf). It was rumored that "Should I Stay or Should I Go?" is about Jones' and Foley's stormy relationship.

    Foley told Songfacts about recording the song. "That stands out as the most fun and relaxed part of the whole thing and it was fun to multitrack my vocals on that one," she said. "It was a super lighthearted song that spoke to an experience that I understood, being an American and a fan of the original Hitsville."
  • The lyrics refer to the upcoming British Indie scene in the late '70s and early '80s. There are several independent label references in the song, including Small Wonder, Rough Trade, Fast Product and Factory, which in contrast with "slimy deals with smarmy eels."

    Interestingly, The Clash themselves never signed with a Indie label, but stayed with CBS Records (Columbia, now part of Sony BMG) for their whole career.
  • "Hitsville UK" was recorded at Wessex in April 1980. It wasn't an obvious choice for second single from the Sandinista! album, and when it was released The Clash didn't do much to publicize it - it wasn't even ever performed live by the group.
  • In 1981, Ellen Foley and Mick Jones teamed up for another duet on "Torchlight," a track from Foley's solo album Spirit Of St. Louis that Jones wrote with Joe Strummer.
  • Foley said Jones' reference to Motown on this song really hit home. "For me, 'Hitsville UK' is about the history of The Clash and the beginnings of British punk rock," she told Songfacts. "How it was by kids for kids. The lyric goes, "I know the boys and girls are not alone now that Hitsville hit UK. Motown was really an early soundtrack of my youth. I loved the Miracles because of Smokey Robinson's voice and songwriting. Smokey is the consummate artist and songwriter. The Four Tops and the Temptations — that was like a battle of the bands in my mind. Having these male singing groups with the amazing harmonies and choreography was something new to me."

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