This Is England (song)
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|"This Is England"|
|Single by The Clash|
|from the album Cut the Crap|
|B-side||"Do It Now"/"Sex Mad Roar"|
|Label||CBS A 6122|
|Writer(s)||Joe Strummer, Bernard Rhodes|
|The Clash singles chronology|
"This Is England" is a song by English punk rock band The Clash, released in September 1985 as the only international single from their sixth and final critically maligned studio album Cut the Crap. It was the final release while the group were still together, in their final incarnation of Joe Strummer, Paul Simonon, Nick Sheppard, Pete Howard and Vince White.
- Joe Strummer - lead vocal
- Paul Simonon - backing vocals
- Nick Sheppard - backing vocals, guitar
- Vince White - guitars
- Pete Howard - drums
- Bernie Rhodes - synthesisers, drums, sound effects, backing vocals
Lyrics and meaning
The song comprises a list of the problems in England during the early years of the Thatcher administration, addressing inner-city violence, urban alienation, life on council estates, high unemployment rate, England's dying motorcycle industry, racism, nationalism, and police corruption—as well as two very common subject matters for mid-1980s left-wing songwriters: the Falklands War; and the consumerist, subservient mind-set of many English people at the time.
The song begins with the squeaky voice of a market hawker shouting, "four for a pound your face flannels; three for a pound your tea towels!" It is unclear whether it is the voice of a child or of an adult that has been sped-up to raise its pitch.
Reception and release
Unlike the album, which continues to receive criticism and in some cases ridicule, "This Is England" is often praised. Strummer described it as his "last great Clash song". The song was number 30 in a poll conducted by Uncut magazine in their December 2003 issue of the top 30 Clash songs (chosen by an all-star panel). However, the single's contemporary reviews were much more negative and in keeping with the general reaction to Cut the Crap, such as Gavin Martin's review in NME, who claimed that "Strummer's rant bears all the signs of aged rocker well into advance senility".
In the same year of its original release, the single was re-released in a 12" vinyl format with a different cover and an additional track on side two, titled "Sex Mad Roar".
Initially, attempts were made by the Clash and others to ignore the final incarnation of the band. As such, "This Is England" is not included on The Singles, the band's discography ends with "Should I Stay or Should I Go" / "Straight to Hell" in Clash on Broadway and Don Letts' 2000 documentary about the band, Westway to the World, totally ignores the whole period, giving the impression that the Clash broke up when Mick Jones left the group. This changed, however, with the release of The Essential Clash in 2003, which included "This Is England" as its final track, making it the first compilation to acknowledge a song from the period.
In 2006, the single was fully re-released on CD as disc 19 in Singles Box, accompanied by a faithful re-creation of the single's original artwork and the extra track "Sex Mad Roar" from the original 12" pressing. The single also appears on the 2007 collection The Singles.