Complete Control

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"Complete Control"
Completecontrolcover.jpg
Single by The Clash
from the album The Clash (US version)
B-side"City of the Dead"
Released23 September 1977 (1977-09-23) (U.K.)
Format7-inch vinyl
RecordedJuly 1977
StudioA: Sarm East Studios[1]
B: CBS Studios, London[2]
GenrePunk rock
Length3:10
LabelCBS (S CBS 5664)
Songwriter(s)Joe Strummer, Mick Jones
Producer(s)Lee "Scratch" Perry[3]
The Clash singles chronology
"Remote Control"
(1977)
"Complete Control"
(1977)
"Clash City Rockers"
(1978)
The Clash reissued singles chronology
Train in Vain
(1991)
Complete Control
(1999)

"Complete Control" is a song by The Clash, released as a 7" single and featured on the U.S. release of their debut album.[4]

Background[edit]

The song is often cited as one of punk's greatest singles and is a fiery polemic on record companies, managers and the state of punk music itself, the motivation for the song being the band's label (CBS Records) releasing "Remote Control" without asking them, which infuriated the group.[5] Stereogum described it as "this extraordinary airing of grievances, a desperately catchy cataloguing of the many ills visited upon a young band experiencing its first forays into corporate culture".[6]

The song also refers to managers of the time who sought to control their groups–Bernie Rhodes (of The Clash) and Malcolm McLaren (the Sex Pistols)–the song's title is derived from this theme. Bernie Rhodes had arranged a band meeting at the Ship, a pub in Soho's Wardour Street, where he said he wanted "complete control".

He said he wanted complete control. I came out of the pub with Paul collapsing on the pavement in hysterics over those words.

The track also refers to the band's run-ins with the police, their practice of letting fans into gigs through the back door or window for free and a punk idealism seemingly crushed by the corporate reality they had become part of and the betrayal and anger they felt.

This message was scorned by some critics as naïveté on the part of the band – the DJ John Peel was one of those, suggesting that the group must have realised CBS were not 'a foundation for the arts' – while others were strong in their support of the single.

Instead of a piece of cynicism, Complete Control becomes a hymn to Punk autonomy at its moment of eclipse.

— Jon Savage, England's Dreaming[8]

The track was recorded at Sarm East Studios in Whitechapel, engineered by Mickey Foote and produced by Lee "Scratch" Perry. Perry had heard the band's cover of his Junior Murvin hit "Police and Thieves" and was moved enough to have put a picture of the band (the only white artist accorded such an honor) on the walls of his Black Ark Studio in Jamaica. When the Clash learned that Perry was in London producing for Bob Marley & the Wailers, he was invited to produce the single. "Scratch" readily agreed.

During the tracking session, some Clash and Perry biographies claim, Perry blew out a studio mixing board attempting to get a deep bass sound out of Paul Simonon's instrument, while a 1979 New Musical Express and Hit Parader article penned by Strummer and Jones stated that Perry had complimented Jones' guitar playing, saying he "played with an iron fist". Perry's contribution to the track, however, was toned down - the band went back and fiddled with the song themselves to bring the guitars out and played down the echo Perry had dropped on it. The song was also Topper Headon's first recording with the band, following the departure of Terry Chimes.

"Complete Control" reached number 28 in the singles chart,[9] making it The Clash's first Top 30 release. In 1999, CBS Records reissued the single with a live version of "Complete Control". In 2004, Rolling Stone rated the song as No. 361 in its list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.[10] The song is featured as a playable track in the video games Guitar Hero: Aerosmith and Rock Band.[11] The Guardian described it as "the high watermark of the Clash’s punk period".[12]

In 1980, legendary guitarist Chuck Berry was asked to review some modern records by the St. Louis "Jet Lag" fanzine. After reviewing the Sex Pistols' "God Save the Queen", the next song to be reviewed was "Complete Control", his review read: "Sounds like the first one. The rhythm and chording work well together. Did this guy have a sore throat when he sang the vocals?"[13]

Personnel[edit]

"Complete Control"[edit]

"City of the Dead"[edit]

Charts[edit]

Charts (1977) Peak
position
UK Singles (Official Charts Company)[9] 28

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Gilbert 2005, p. 159.
  2. ^ The Clash (October 1980). Super Black Market Clash. album sleeve notes. Epic Records. ASIN B00004C4L1.
  3. ^ Partridge, Kenneth (10 April 2017). "How The Clash Can Lead to a Great Record Collection". Consequence of Sound. Retrieved 15 May 2019.
  4. ^ Letts, Don (2001). The Clash: Westway to the World (Film). Sony Music Entertainment. Event occurs at 11:45. ASIN B000063UQN. ISBN 0-7389-0082-6. OCLC 49798077.
  5. ^ Lucas, John (4 January 2019). "Five Songs About: the music industry". The Georgia Straight. Retrieved 7 May 2019.
  6. ^ "The 10 Best Clash Songs". Stereogum. 7 December 2002. Retrieved 9 May 2019. #6
  7. ^ Salewicz 2006, p. 178.
  8. ^ Savage 2002, p. 399.
  9. ^ a b "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company.
  10. ^ "The RS 500 Greatest Songs of All Time". Rolling Stone. 9 December 2004. Archived from the original on 20 November 2007. Retrieved 22 November 2007. 361. Complete Control, The Clash
  11. ^ Sliwinski, Alexander (11 February 2008). "The Clash, The Police and The Ramones". Joystiq. Retrieved 13 February 2008.
  12. ^ Simpson, Dave (23 September 2015). "The Clash: 10 of the best". The Guardian. Retrieved 15 May 2019.
  13. ^ Eisinger, Dale (19 March 2017). "Chuck Berry's Reviews of The Clash, The Sex Pistols, The Ramones, and More". Spin. Retrieved 15 May 2019.

References[edit]

External links[edit]