Remote Control

Album: The Clash (1977)

Songfacts®:

  • Written after the disastrous Anarchy Tour (where in the aftermath of the Sex Pistols' "The Filth and the Fury" scandal, most of the gigs on the tour were canceled at the last minute), "Remote Control" was a rant against oppression and conformity (standard Punk song topics) and was treated with some excitement when it first arrived in The Clash LP sessions due to it's time-signature changes and more ambitious musical ideas, including an intro/outro riff taken from a traditional football terrace chant: "You're Gonna Get Your F--kin' Head Kicked In." Original drummer Terry Chimes remembered, "Joe said 'Mick's written a mini-opera!'"
  • The song is a stinging attack on people in senior positions of power, a theme that would be revisited many times in The Clash's canon, most notably with "Clampdown." The main inspiration was the withdrawal of support and cancellation of gigs on the Anarchy tour; the lyric "They had a meeting in Mayfair" refers to a specific meeting of EMI label shareholders in December 1976 where all financial support for the tour was pulled.
  • This was one of the first songs to mention the Punk scene by name: "They think you're useless, an' so you are - puuuuuuunnnnnk!"

    The song contains heavy science-fiction references, including nods to BBC TV show Doctor Who ("Repression, gonna be a Dalek!").
  • Although The Clash initially were very proud of "Remote Control," they swiftly disowned the song when it was released without their permission as a single in May 1977. The dispute appears to be that it wasn't that The Clash didn't want another single off the album to follow "White Riot" - it was that they didn't want "Remote Control" to be the next single.

    In an interview just a few weeks before with Melody Maker magazine, the band confirmed (so they thought) that the next single would be "Janie Jones." "Remote Control" is one of the softer, less aggressive songs on The Clash album, which explains the record company's decision to release it without the band's consent. Rumor has it that the band actually went round to record shops in London and pulled the record from the shelves, such was their anger at it being released.

    What was perennially a live favorite with the band became an also-ran after 1977, only being played once more in July 1979 (a demo version also appears on the Vanilla Tapes package with the 25th anniversary of London Calling album). It has also been completely ignored on compilations, and is the only first-album track not to appear on the Clash on Broadway compilation.

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