English Civil War – The Clash

“When Johnny comes marching home again, hurrah, Turrah! He’ll be coming by bus or underground, hurrah, Turrah!”

The first ever Clash record I owned was the seven inch single of English Civil War. I brought it because I’d seen the movie it’s sleeve was a still from and the film had left quite a profound affect on me.

That film was an animated version of the George Orwell story Animal Farm. I’d been sat in front of it at a babysitters house in the early 80’s in the mistaken understanding it was a cartoon from the 50’s for kids, ‘you know like Disney’.

It was not like Disney.

Animal Farm blew my tiny mind. A few short years later I’m record buying age and already have the Pistols album and a couple of songs by The Ruts and The Stranglers in my collection when I see this in a bargain bin.

For a long time English Civil War was to me the biggest song in The Clash back catalog. A reworking of an American Civil War Folk Song it was updated to reference modern British life and the rise of racial tensions felt in the culture of the late seventies and early eighties.

Punk, Ska, Two-Tone and politics were as inseparable as the colours of kids skin and the prejudices of their older generations on the playgrounds in the schools of the era. I remember seeing the NF graffiti on the walls we kicked balls against (always in artless lines of white paint, never any style or flair). I remember the black or Asian kids in our school sports teams would not want to go to certain parts of town because of ‘what might happen’. I remember but I never understood it.

“It was still at the stage of clubs and fists when that well-known face got beaten to bits, your face was blue in the light of the screen as we watched the speech of an animal scream, the new party army was marching right over our heads”

I never understood how it was always the black kids who got a nose bleed first when we were playing rugby nor why some teachers would pick on Mashuk or Ashnam for misbehaving when Me and Ben were the ones dicking about the most.

It was around the time that I started listening to records that the curious regularity of these occurrences started to look like injustice, prejudice and the slight veil over late 20th century everyday British racism became transparent to me.

“When Johnny comes marching home again nobody understands it can happen again, the sun is shining an’ the kids are shouting loud but you gotta know it’s shining through a crack in the cloud and the shadows keep falling when Johnny comes marching home”

English Civil War was backed with a magnificent cover of Pressure Drop originally by Toots And The Maytals.

That song is going to get some serious SteveForTheDeaf mileage in it’s own right one day. For now though enjoy track two from Give ‘Em Enough Rope, a live TV version and a live take on the magnificent Levellers cover version (originally covered as a B-Side on the Julie EP) featuring Billy Bragg from the Beautiful Day DVD.

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3 thoughts on “English Civil War – The Clash

  1. I loved that animated version of “Animal Farm.” Times have changed but certain elements of the media would like people to believe they changed too much and went too far in the other direction. True, working as a teacher, I had a couple of Black and Asian children play the race card when I had to address their behaviour but I can count those instances on one hand. Great link of the Clash and history.

    Liked by 1 person

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