(White Man) in Hammersmith Palais

Album: The Clash (US version only) (1978)
Charted: 32
  • The "Hammersmith Palais de Danse" was a famous music venue in Hammersmith, London, that hosted, among numerous others, The Sex Pistols, David Bowie, The Cure or The Rolling Stones. It was shut down on April 1 2007; the final gig was played by post-punk band The Fall.
  • Joe Strummer is the "white man" in this song. His lyrics were inspired by a visit to a reggae "All Niter" in which he wasn't very impressed by the performances of Dillinger, Leroy Smart and Delroy Wilson, and also received some aggro over being the only white guy in a room. He had called for white people to protest in the same way he had seen black people protest at Notting Hill in the lyrics of "White Riot," but this night was proving to him that the cultural mix he longed for was a long way off on both sides. The night ended with him attempting to stop several guys stealing some white girls' handbags.
  • This was one of Joe Strummer's favorites - in the post-Clash era he continued to play it with his new band The Mescaleros, and it was also played at his funeral. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Martin - Rostock, Germany, for above 3
  • The final verse deals with Strummer's disillusionment with the exploding Punk scene, and how the bands were too busy fighting to actually set about growing the scene and making Punk Rock a worldwide phenomenon ("The new groups are not concerned with what there is to be learnt, they're all too busy fighting for a good place under the lighting").

    He also takes a spiteful dig at The Jam, who in 1977 had broken out and were threatening The Clash's popularity, accusing them essentially of selling out and trying to go for style to achieve better sales ("Burton suits, hah, you think it's funny? Turning rebellion into money").
  • The Clash were clearly quite nervous about recording the song, as it was a massive step into the unknown for them - unlike with "Police and Thieves," this was a heavily reggae-influenced track both written AND recorded by a white rock group.

    "We were a big fat riff group, like rock solid beats," noted Joe Strummer. "We weren't supposed to do something like that."

    The gamble worked - it became one of their most popular songs, and remained until his death Strummer's favorite song that he'd ever written - one he'd even have played at his funeral.
  • The studio recording features lead bass playing from Paul Simonon and a harmonica solo from Mick Jones.

Comments: 4

  • Deethewriter from Saint Petersburg, Russia Federation"Strummerville" by Stiff Little Fingers: One of the more heartfelt several Strummer RIP songs – this time with a reference to "(White Man) In Hammersmith Palais": "And if music seems mundane / It's cos the companies get their own way / And all the young bands seem to say / Please turn our rebellion into money…"
  • Tim from Springfield, MaHaha very true, and thanks for the comment!
  • Jon from Hackney, United KingdomProbably years late, but I'll try to answer Tim: It's probably because it is such a Joe-being-pi**ed-off song. I mean, I love it, but understand if others don't, so much. He (Joe)does slag off just about everyone, after all (bless him).
  • Tim from Springfield, MaWhy hasn't anyone commented on this song yet?! It's one of my all time favorite Clash songs, and I just registered because it deserves a comment
see more comments

David Clayton-Thomas of Blood, Sweat & TearsSongwriter Interviews

The longtime BS&T frontman tells the "Spinning Wheel" story, including the line he got from Joni Mitchell.

Janis IanSongwriter Interviews

One of the first successful female singer-songwriters, Janis had her first hit in 1967 at age 15.

Rick AstleySongwriter Interviews

Rick Astley on "Never Gonna Give You Up," "Cry For Help," and his remarkable resurgence that gave him another #1 UK album.

Song Titles That Inspired MoviesSong Writing

Famous songs that lent their titles - and in some cases storylines - to movies.

Mike Scott of The Waterboys - "Fisherman's Blues"They're Playing My Song

Armed with a childhood spent devouring books, Mike Scott's heart was stolen by the punk rock scene of 1977. Not surprisingly, he would go on to become the most literate of rockers.

The FratellisSongwriter Interviews

Jon Fratelli talks about the band's third album, and the five-year break leading up to it.