Something About England

Album: Sandinista! (1980)

Songfacts®:

  • "Something About England" is one of many crazy musical variations on the Sandinista! album, with The Clash experimenting with Music Hall, one of British music's oldest genres, stretching back to Victorian and Edwardian times. The campy vaudeville elements sound an odd contrast to Punk music, but Sex Pistols singer Johnny Rotten was very open about how much Music Hall "comedy of the absurd" elements he incorporated into his stage persona.
  • The lyrics are structured as a conversation between the narrator, guitarist Mick Jones, and a wistful old tramp, singer Joe Strummer. The first verse is a putdown of lazy racism - higher social classes blaming immigration for a society's ills ("They say immigrants steal the hubcaps of the respected gentlemen, they say it would be wine an' roses if England were for Englishmen again").

    Joe Strummer's lyrics in the character of a wistful tramp are some of the most political and social commentary in The Clash's back catalogue, bemoaning how two world wars and the industrial revolution still couldn't break down the class system which causes such disharmony in England ("But through strikes an' famine an' war an' peace England never closed this gap"). Though musically the song is nothing like old Punk-Rock Clash, the lyrics stick right to the core values of Punk of anti-establishment and protest against social ills.
  • Musically "Something About England" is very complex, with Jones playing piano for the whole song, drummer Topper Headon playing a delicate 'quotation-mark' percussion beat and a horn section comprising of session musician Gary Barnacle, Gary's father Bill (a noted jazz musician) and military bandsman David Yates). Because of this complexity (and the worry that the first verse may be misinterpreted by certain sections of the audience), the song was never performed live.

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