The Right Profile

Album: London Calling (1979)

Songfacts®:

  • "The Right Profile" is about actor Montgomery Clift (A Place in the Sun, From Here to Eternity) and his troubled life. Clift had problems with pills and alcohol. The car crash into a tree discussed in this song occurred in 1956, while he was driving home from a party at Elizabeth Taylor's house. She saved his life then, but he died in 1966 of coronary occlusion, what some have called the "slowest suicide" in cinema history.

    London Calling producer Guy Stevens had lent singer Joe Strummer a copy of Patricia Bosworth's 1978 biography of Clift, and suggested that perhaps Strummer write a song about him. With Stevens also suffering from alcohol and drug problems, perhaps Strummer saw parallels between Clift and The Clash's troubled producer? Roadie Johnny Green suggested that this was the case in his memoirs.
  • After Clift's car accident, his face was mangled and he needed plastic surgery for a broken jaw. He continued to make movies, but had to be shot from "The Right Profile" to look good, hence the name of the song.
  • Clift has been the subject of other songs as well, including R.E.M.'s "Monty Got a Raw Deal" from their 1992 album, Automatic for the People.
  • An the album cover is a photo of Clash bass player Paul Simonon smashing his instrument during a show at The Palladium in New York City. He later regretted doing it, because it was his best bass. The smashed bass is now in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
  • Musically "The Right Profile" is one of the highlights of the London Calling album, featuring heavy usage of the Irish Horns to create a swing feel. Sadly this also proved to be the song's performance downfall, as unlike other horn-heavy songs on the album (such as "Revolution Rock" and "Rudie Can't Fail"), there was no way it could be played live without the horn section.

Comments: 4

  • Scott from Palm Desert, CaI like the way Joe sings this one with kind of drunken swagger.
  • Max from Cologne, GermanyI don´t know if he was gay! But the song the right profile, remember me a little bit of Bob Dylan!
  • Mike from Richmond, VaThe picture of the afformentioned smashed bass has been argued as the best rock n roll picture ever. I agree, The Clash, much like The Who, did not smash their instruments every performance, it was a rare occasion. The picture showed the musicians frustration, anger, and emotion he put into the music, and it required the utmost timing. This picture embodies punk, a kid rejected by the pop culture expressing himself the only way he knows how: music. Amazing picture
  • Matt from London, EnglandThe albums genius producer Guy Stephens, was at the time very into the legend of Montgomery Clift, and lent Joe a book on the mans life. Joe saw a great resemblance to Guy in the pages, and wrote the song as a tribute to the errant producer.
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