But as the wind changed direction
The temple band took five
The crowd caught a whiff
Of that crazy Casbah jive
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The Jamkaran mosque in Iran
The official song for the place that is Iran ought to be the one by Flock of Seagulls. Because, you know, Iran, Iran's so far away!
But instead it has this, a song whose very enduring popularity is a pie-in-the-face moment for fundamentalist Islam forever. Now, before all of you God-fearing, yee-hawing, foam-finger-waving Americans and Christians get all high and mighty about how they banned rock 'n' roll in Iran because their turbans were on too tight, keep in mind that Christians in America did and still do the exact same thing. What did you think the movie Footloose
was about, huh? With all the moral panic about Satanic lyrics and playing it backwards and obscenity and drug references and rap music being about poppin' a cap in da po-lice, Americans have no call to look down their nose at one shareef who got a bee in his beard about some rock albums.
Anyway, Ayatollah Khomeini is the mad mullah who put the kibosh on all that loud rock 'n' roll nonsense, and probably shook his crooked cane at them and told those doggone kids to get off his lawn while he was at it. Considering that he was also behind some other nasty deals, including the 1981 American Embassy hostage crisis, he's never been a very popular subject.
Of course, the Clash knew better than get too specific, lest they end up with a fatwa on their heads like with Salman Rushdie. So they mix a lot of words from a lot of random Middle Eastern places and cultures, including Arabic, Jewish, Urdu, and North African terms. But don't worry; everybody - Sourpuss included - knew exactly who they were singing about.
Now, we have to keep Iran in general as the focal place of this song because, well, if we try to go looking for the actual Casbah itself, things get muddy. There's the citadel of Algiers, located in Algeria, in Northern Africa and nowhere near Iran. There's also a music venue in San Diego, named after the song. There's the music venue turned coffee shop in Liverpool, England, named because it sounds cool. Now if you spell it with a "K," you have to deal with Kasbah of the Udayas, a kasbah in Rabat, Morocco. That's right, it's also a noun, meaning a specific type of Islamic city or fortress. That kind - hold onto your burka! - is also spelled "qassabah,
You just know that that's the kind of kasbah The Clash intended, right? It was all just a matter of alternative spelling.
The Clash have "Rock the Casbah" as their only chart-topping hit in the US, making them technically one-hit wonders. This despite the huge critical acclaim elsewhere, especially in the UK. They have literally been a corner-stone influence on the entire punk rock genre, being one of those bands that are the most popular with other bands.
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