Thursday, 13 December 2012

The Clash - Know Your Rights

So lately I've been listening to an awful lot of The Clash (and material concerning their late frontman, Joe Strummer). So far I'm having a hard time deciding my list of favourite songs because there's been just so many that I've really liked, but there's something special about Know Your Rights I think. It's from their penultimate album Combat Rock, and was released as the first single from the album in April 1982, prior to the album's own release. Know Your Rights has to be one of my favourite songs from the album, almost exclusively because of the lyrics. Lyrically the song takes a very scathing view on the government, more specifically the rights that the Government bestows upon us and subsequently feels that we should be grateful to have. According to the song itself, we have three main rights (not to be killed, to food money and to free speech) and each of the song's three verses discuss and then ridicule each of these rights in turn. For instance, we have the right not to be killed but if it's carried out by a policeman or an aristocrat then it becomes acceptable. The song has a very timeless message I think, particularly the third verse, which says that we have the right to free speech so long as we're saying what people want us to say and nothing in protest. For me at the moment that particular verse carries some poignancy. Not least because of the political tension that has flared up in my hometown at the moment over a political decision. In general though sometimes I feel like here in Northern Ireland you can't really say what you feel because there can be just too much bigotry, and the last few weeks here have made me feel there's still a lot of work to be done on that particular issue. It's certainly a very disillusioning place indeed sometimes. It's a great example of what a timeless lyricist Joe Strummer was though. Know Your Rights was released in 1982 and yet thirty years later it's lyrics are still ringing true for people. For me at least, it's a song that embodies why I personally feel The Clash were superior to Sex Pistols (as much as I really like them). I can't say I've listened to a song of the Sex Pistols and felt that the lyrics really summed up my viewpoint on subjects although it happens much more frequently with The Clash. That's just me though. In any case, I think Know Your Rights is a brilliant song with just as much relevance today as it had when it was originally written.

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