I'm So Bored With The USA

Album: The Clash (1977)

Songfacts®:

  • Originally the song was called "I'm So Bored With You", and was one that guitarist Mick Jones had written before he joined The Clash. In the first meeting of Jones with singer Joe Strummer after the latter joined the band, Jones played Strummer several of his songs, and when he played him "I'm So Bored With You," Strummer apparently misheard the lyrics as "I'm So Bored with the USA."

    Thinking that this would form a great song about the social ills of America, Strummer started coming up with new lyrics before Jones could explain that actually it was about his then-current on-off relationship.

    It appears that the song was a work in progress, as in their earlier shows in August and September 1976, the song was in it's original "You" form as a song about the end of a relationship, but by October it had fully transformed into "I'm So Bored with the USA."
  • The lyrics are a stinging diatribe about the exporting of American culture around the world either by force ("Yankee dollar talk to the dictators of the world, in fact it's giving orders an' they can't afford to miss a word"), or through media or subterfuge ("Yankee detectives are always on the TV, 'cause killers in America work seven days a week"), and advocate an attempt to reclaim culture from US dominance ("Never mind the stars and stripes, let's print the Watergate Tapes, I'll salute the New Wave, and I hope nobody escapes").

    The reference to "New Wave" is the first time anyone had used the alternative term to describe punk rock in a song, and made more sense in an earlier lyrical draft where a previous verse referenced the West Coast surfing scene. In the closing lyrical improvisations Strummer also mentions US detective shows Starsky and Hutch and Kojak, which the group professed to like.
  • Musically, the song owes a debt to "Pretty Vacant" by their contemporaries the Sex Pistols - or does it? Both songs were written and released around the same time, and both bands have speculated that the other may have ripped off their riff.
  • "I'm So Bored with the USA" was used in an interesting way when played live by The Clash. In Britain it was a concert staple from 1976 to 1978, with occasional revisits thereafter. On American tours however, it was used regularly as a set opener, to in Strummer's words "find out if they had a sense of humor." On the first tour in 1979 it was often booed by the more conservative elements of the crowd, but most people did indeed get the joke and thereafter it was often sung back at the band with gusto from the American audiences - seeming to suggest that they too were tired with America's cultural exports and oppressive cultural dominance worldwide.
  • Several cover versions of the song exist, including ones by Violent Society and XX Cortez, both recorded in the late 1990s. The indie rock band Arcade Fire also often use the song's chorus to introduce their own song "Windowsill" when performing live.

Comments: 10

  • Cam Burns from Basalt, ColoradoWhen the Clash came onstage at the US Festival in 1983, Joe Strummer bent over and tore up the playlist, which was taped to the stage. Then he said "USA" and the band played I'm so Bored with the USA." They then played the song.
  • Scott from Rhode Island@ Niko: Why does being a punk rocker require one to have disdain for the Grateful Dead? Why rebel against the rebels that came before you?
  • Niko from LondonApparently there were loads of verses written before they settled on the final version. Two went:

    So you think I care
    Where you buy your shirt
    I don't wanna use American dirt
    Oh yeah you look so cool in your cowboy boots
    You see them on James Dean
    They looked so cute

    You think I care about your latest record
    It's by the Grateful Dead
    ...
    Don't wanna wear a baseball jacket
    Don't wanna look like I'm ready to bat.
  • Mike from Matawan, NjI like the Clash...a lot actually, but talk about biting the hand that feeds. Yeah, they should have never toured the U.S. then and made all those hateful millions or sold their records here from which they made even MORE hateful millions. Even back then, hating the U.S. was cliche. Oh... and Aja? Piss off.
  • Ross from Leicester, United KingdomIn the very early days (1976) the Clash had a few love songs but encouraged by manager Bernie Rhodes
    the started writing about politiacl/social issues. The "I'm So Bored With You/USA" anecdote is a neat example of how this was happening.
    The clash were accused of hypocrisy for then spending a lot of time in the US and clearly being influenced by American music/films/style, but in fact the song is attacking the way the US was throwing it's military weight around,political corruption, and the growing dominance of US mainstream culture in the UK - all of which sounds quite familiar!!
  • Rob from Pittsburgh, PaYa this is wrong I read in let fury have the hour that mick was singing "i'm so bored with you" and joe changed it.
  • David Hughes from Alfreton, Englandthis was micks song "im so bored with you" about his girlfriend and when he played it to joe he didnt like it(to many lovey dovey songs)so they changed the words around!
  • Aja from Sloveniahehe, so am I
  • Dustinb from Hell(america), Cait IS about america......he makes references about "Yankees"
  • Marina from Seattle, WaI think that songfact is incorrect...in the Clash documentary I watched, Joe and Mick said that Mick sang the song "I'm so bored with you" and had written it as a love/hate song about a former girlfriend, but Joe misheard it as "I'm So Bored With USA" and he liked that much better.
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