Ivan Meets G.I. Joe

Album: Sandinista! (1980)

Songfacts®:

  • This song marked drummer Topper Headon's first official songwriting credit for The Clash, as he wrote all of the music for the song. A common mistake though is the assumption that as he sings lead vocals on the song (also his first vocal performance for The Clash), he was the one who wrote the lyrics. This is incorrect, as they are actually singer Joe Strummer's lyrics, unlike bassist Paul Simonon's "The Guns Of Brixton," where he wrote all the music AND lyrics.
  • "Ivan Meets G.I. Joe" started as a brief band in-joke from an interview guitarist Mick Jones had given to Rolling Stone magazine, in which he concluded that "people prefer to dance than to fight wars." ("G.I. Joe" is a term for an American soldier, and also the brand of a popular military-themed line of toys, comics books, and even a movie franchise.)

    In that regard, Joe Strummer's lyrics make perfect sense: they cast the two world superpowers involved in the Cold War into a disco dance competition, and turns their imposing chemical weapon threats into bizarre dance moves ("The Vostok Bomb, the Stalin strike, he tried every move, he tried to Hitch Hike...").

    There are also brief mentions to The Clash's own favorite nightclub haunts such as New York's Studio 54 and Le Palace in Paris. The song ends on an ironic note where the spectators of the "dance-off" get bored with America and the USSR's posturing and go "Over the road, to watch China explode!"
  • The Clash first introduced this song into their live set in April 1981, and it became a popular concert fixture for the rest of the year and into the Far East tour in 1982, becoming Topper Headon's live showcase similar to "The Guns of Brixton" for Paul Simonon.

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