Safe European Home

Album: Give 'Em Enough Rope (1978)

Songfacts®:

  • The meaning behind this song is made clear by a story The Clash have told about a writing trip to Jamaica gone wrong. Singer Joe Strummer and guitarist Mick Jones were sent to Jamaica for two weeks in December 1977 to write songs for their upcoming second album, which would become Give 'Em Enough Rope. The experience wasn't as positive as they'd have liked: "We must've looked like a strange pair to the locals... I'm surprised we weren't filleted and served on a plate of chips" noted Jones. "We went down to the docks and I think we only survived because they mistook us for sailors."

    This feeling of alienation and struggling to stay alive in a very hostile environment far from home is evident in the lyrics, most obviously in the chorus ("I went to the place where every white face is an invitation to robbery").

    The song also includes a reference to the Sheraton hotel in Kingston and the pair's regular trips to the cinema to watch the movie The Harder They Come ("Whoa, the harder they come, n' the home of ol' bluebeat").

    Add in to this mix bassist Paul Simonon, who as the guy in the band most into reggae music, was furious that he wasn't invited out to Jamaica with the others. Even in the Westway to the World documentary, made over 20 years after the event, he still seems angry, stating: "yeah, that pissed me off."
  • It was during the sessions to record "Safe European Home" that drummer Topper Headon gained the nickname "The Human Drum Machine."

    "(Producer) Sandy Pearlman called me The Human Drum Machine because I didn't make any mistakes on the album. It was a buzz to get a producer who got such a great drum sound" said Headon.
  • Singer Joe Strummer's improvised scat lines at the end of this track would later provide the title to a song on the follow-up album London Calling - the song being "Rudie Can't Fail".
  • An explosively punchy old-fashioned Punk Rock song, "Safe European Home" was always a live favorite for the band, even when they clearly weren't just sitting at home in Europe hating the world later in their careers.

    In 1978 it was a punchy opening song, and then with the writing of "London Calling" it was shifted down the setlist but remained an ever-present. Strummer would also often play the song with his solo band the Mescaleros.

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