The Card Cheat

Album: London Calling (1979)

Songfacts®:

  • Lead singer Joe Strummer, who wrote the lyrics to the song, noted in promotional interviews for the album that he had been reading the poetry of Sylvia Plath, and the darkness of her writing could well have been an influence on the dark lyrics of "The Card Cheat."
  • The song was recorded late in the London Calling sessions, and by this time according to reports, producer Guy Stevens was so inebriated he was unable to work most of the time, so guitarist Mick Jones was producing the recordings along with engineer Bill Price. It was Mick's idea to have everything in this song double-tracked, to create a Phil Spector-style "wall-of-sound" feel to the instrumentation ("That's the secret, two of everything" he said in a 1991 interview).
  • The lyrics continue the same themes of an outsider in society as other songs that proceeded it on the album, notably "Jimmy Jazz," "Rudie Can't Fail" and "Wrong 'Em Boyo." Contrasting to those other songs, however, "The Card Cheat" is incredibly downbeat, with the jaunty piano tunes contrasting with the lyrics about a lonely gambler finally running out of luck and being murdered in a card game ("The gambler is seized and forced to his knees and shot dead. He only wanted more time away from his darkest door, but his luck, it gave in").
  • The song features a horn section written and performed by The Irish Horns, who recorded all of the horn instrument sections on the London Calling album.
  • Due to the complexity of the backing track compared to the band's very spartan stage show, the song was never performed live by the Clash.

Comments: 2

  • Ct from Gnome, AlaskaI think the song concerns the death of imperial western powers.
  • Tony from San DiegoAnother true gem by the boys.
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