Police and Thieves

Album: The Clash (1977)
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Songfacts®:

  • This was written by the reggae artist Junior Murvin, who recorded it in his falsetto style in 1976. The Clash, who were huge reggae fans, covered the song. It's the first example of The Clash incorporating reggae into their repertoire, something that can be heard in original songs like "White Man in Hammersmith Palais" and "Guns of Brixton." At the time, reggae was the music of Britain's oppressed Jamaican population.
  • The album was The Clash's first, and it was released only in the UK. As the band gained popularity in the US, there became a huge demand for it there, and about 100,000 copies were sold in the States as an import. A greatly altered version was finally released in the US in 1979.

Comments: 8

  • D from BaltimoreThe message is that they're all gangs involved in the same war and nefarious dealings, and it's everyone else who suffers.

    Some of it is specific to Jamaica in the 70's, where cops were notoriously corrupt, and warring street gangs were on the payroll of of rival political parties.

    Some of it still applies to Jamaica today.

    Most of it describes the underlying reality around the world.
  • Brandon from Colorado"From genesis to revelation" "all the peace makers, turned war officers"...what about this? Interesting.
  • Drew from B\'ham, AlAs for the police & thieves being both threats in the streets, my take is that the thieves make the streets dangerous & that without them, the police, just as dangerous, wouldn't be needed as much. After all, what if police fire at thieves, miss & instead nail innocents on accident? Of course, police are trained to have good aim, but thieves are mighty fast & tricky these days, too. It's the thieves' fault that the whole vicious cycle starts in the first place! The Clash may have been frustrated, much like the message of "War" by Edwin Starr.
  • Jay Wo from Dallas, TxWhen I first listend to the Clash first album. This was the song that immediately stood and separated itself from the yelling and screaming songs. This is the song that made me give the others another chance. Boy, am I glad.
  • Evan from Paramus, United Statesin the movie "knocked up" the original version can be heard in the background of one scene and also the clash song "Police On My Back" is played in the super market scene
  • Mudassir from Bolton, EnglandThe original lee perry/junior murvin song was all over the local underground reggae stations in the mid 70s when at the time, running battles between police and black youths were common around london. joe and paul famously joined in these riots even though they were white, joe once comically recalling how he wasted a box of matches unable to set fire to a car.
  • James from Gainford, EnglandWhat does this song represent, as in what political message is it trying to convey? That police are a lot like the thieves?
  • Nick from San Francisco, CaThough the song is written by Murvin, Joe Strummer added the line "they're going through a tight wind" as a tribute to the Ramones, already an established punk band and an influence on the Clash; the line appears in the Ramones' "Blitzkrieg Bop."
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