Give 'Em Enough Rope

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Give 'Em Enough Rope
The Clash - Give 'Em Enough Rope.jpg
Studio album by The Clash
Released 10 November 1978 (1978-11-10)
Recorded March–April 1978, Basing Street Studios, London; and August–September 1978 at The Automatt, San Francisco
Genre Punk rock, hard rock
Length 36:57
Label CBS, Epic
Producer Sandy Pearlman
The Clash chronology
The Clash
Give 'Em Enough Rope
London Calling
Singles from Give 'Em Enough Rope
  1. "Tommy Gun"
    Released: 24 November 1978 (1978-11-24)
  2. "English Civil War"
    Released: 23 February 1979 (1979-02-23)

Give 'Em Enough Rope is the second studio album by the English punk rock band the Clash. It was released on 10 November 1978 through CBS Records. It was their first album released in the United States, preceding the US version of The Clash. The album was well received by critics and fans, peaking at number two in the United Kingdom Albums Chart,[1][2] and number 128 in the Billboard 200.[3][4]


The album's cover art was designed by Gene Greif, the front of which was based on a postcard titled "End of the Trail", photographed by Adrian Atwater and featuring Wallace Irving Robertson. The cover of the first US pressings showed the band's name written in block capital letters. Subsequent US pressings used a faux-oriental style font, which was then replaced with the more ornate faux-oriental style font used on the UK release. The original American issue of the album also retitled "All the Young Punks" as "That's No Way to Spend Your Youth". This was revised on later editions. "Tommy Gun" and "English Civil War" were released as the album's singles, either side of Christmas 1978. They entered the UK charts at numbers 19 and 25, respectively.[citation needed]

Though the opening track of side two, "Guns on the Roof", is ostensibly about global terrorism, war and corruption, it was partly inspired by an incident that resulted in the Metropolitan Police's armed anti-terrorist squad raiding the Clash's Camden Market base. Paul Simonon and Topper Headon were arrested and charged with criminal damage (and later fined £750) for shooting racing pigeons with an air-gun from the roof of their rehearsal building.[citation needed]

The band continued to include contemporary subjects in their lyrics on the album; "Tommy Gun" deals with Middle Eastern terrorism, specifically the hi-jacking of aircraft, while "Julie's Been Working for the Drug Squad" is a commentary on the infamous "Operation Julie" drug bust that saw the largest LSD production ring in the world, based in Wales, dismantled by an undercover police operation. The song also makes a reference to the Beatles' song "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" in the opening line, "It's Lucy in the sky and all kinds of apple pie". "Julie's Been Working for the Drug Squad" was originally titled "Julie's in the Drug Squad", as listed on the original pressing of the album. The song's title was changed when Give 'Em Enough Rope was released on CD.[citation needed]

During recording of the album, Joe Strummer's trademark Telecaster guitar needed to be taken in for repairs, so he played a hired semi-hollow Gibson ES-345 for most of the sessions.[5] Sandy Pearlman, who produced the original album, was not a big fan of Joe Strummer's voice, to the point that he ensured the drums were mixed louder than the lead singer's vocals on the entire album.[6]

Other songs recorded during the sessions was the single "(White Man) In Hammersmith Palais", as well as B-sides "Pressure Drop", "1-2 Crush on You" and "The Prisoner". Four more songs were recorded: "One Emotion", "Groovy Times", "Ooh Baby Ooh (It's Not Over)" (AKA "Rusted Chrome", later reworked and released as "Gates of the West") and "RAF 1810".[citation needed]

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
AllMusic 4.5/5 stars[7]
Encyclopedia of Popular Music 3/5 stars[8]
The Great Rock Discography 8/10[8]
MusicHound 3.5/5[8]
Q 5/5 stars[9]
The Rolling Stone Album Guide 4/5 stars[10]
Spin Alternative Record Guide 7/10[8]
Tiny Mix Tapes 3/5[11]
The Village Voice A[12]

In a contemporary review for Rolling Stone, Greil Marcus hailed Give 'Em Enough Rope as a poised, unpretentious record of "straight English punk with a grip on the future" and "accessible hard rock" showcasing the Clash's unyielding, humorous "vision of public life": "The band's vision of a world strangling on its own contradictions hasn't changed, but their idea of their place in that world has."[2] Robert Christgau wrote in The Village Voice that the album's pessimistic mood and a couple of bad songs or moments made it less listenable than the band's debut record, but concluded that most of the songs were "effective melodically as anything on The Clash, and even the band's ruminations on the star as culture hero become more resonant as you hear them over and over again. This isn't among the greatest rock albums ever, but it is among the finest of the year."[12] He named it the fourth best album of 1978 in his list for the Pazz & Jop,[13] an annual poll of American critics in which Give 'Em Enough Rope also finished fourth.[14] Sounds magazine named it the year's best record.[8]

In 1993, Give 'Em Enough Rope was named the 87th greatest album of all time in NME magazine.[15] Q included the record in their "100 Best Punk Albums" list,[16] and wrote in retrospect, " more punk than Blondie...[it] shined of quality....their drumming problems were over with the arrival of jazz-trained [Topper] Headon."[9]

Track listing[edit]

All songs written and composed by Joe Strummer and Mick Jones, except where noted. All lead vocals by Strummer, except "Stay Free" by Jones. 

Side one
No. Title Length
1. "Safe European Home"   3:50
2. "English Civil War" (Traditional; arranged by Jones and Strummer) 2:35
3. "Tommy Gun"   3:17
4. "Julie's Been Working for the Drug Squad"   3:03
5. "Last Gang in Town"   5:14
Side two
No. Title Length
1. "Guns on the Roof" (written by Topper Headon, Jones, Paul Simonon, Strummer; contains the main riff from The Who's "I Can't Explain") 3:15
2. "Drug-Stabbing Time"   3:43
3. "Stay Free"   3:40
4. "Cheapskates"   3:25
5. "All the Young Punks (New Boots and Contracts)"   4:55
Total length:



  • Sandy Pearlmanproducer
  • Corky Stasiak – engineer
  • Paul Subblebine – mastering engineer
  • Dennis Ferranti – sound engineer
  • Gregg Caruso – sound engineer
  • Kevin Dalimore – sound engineer
  • Chris Mingo – sound engineer
  • Gene Greif – cover designer
  • Hugh Brown – concept designer, cover photograph


Year Chart Position
1978 Swedish Albums Chart[17] 36
1978 UK Albums Chart[1] 2
1979 Billboard Pop albums[3] 126


  1. ^ a b "UK Chart Archive". Retrieved 17 February 2008. 
  2. ^ a b Marcus, Greil (25 January 1979). "The Clash Give 'Em Enough Rope > Album Review". Rolling Stone (283). Archived from the original on 29 June 2007. Retrieved 20 January 2007. 
  3. ^ a b The Clash > Charts & Awards > Billboard Albums at AllMusic. Retrieved 26 October 2008.
  4. ^ Letts Don; Joe Strummer, Mick Jones, Paul Simonon, Topper Headon, Terry Chimes, Rick Elgood, The Clash (2001). The Clash, Westway to the World (Documentary). New York, NY: Sony Music Entertainment; Dorismo; Uptown Films. Event occurs at 41:00–45:00. ISBN 0-7389-0082-6. OCLC 49798077. 
  5. ^ Sounds Magazine 17 June 1978
  6. ^ NME Magazine 16 March 1991
  7. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. Give 'Em Enough Rope at AllMusic. Retrieved 13 September 2004.
  8. ^ a b c d e "Give 'Em Enough Rope". Acclaimed Music. Retrieved 10 September 2015. 
  9. ^ a b Q (London): 152–3. December 1999. 
  10. ^ Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian, eds. (2004). "The Clash". The New Rolling Stone Album Guide. London: Fireside. pp. 167–168. ISBN 0-7432-0169-8. Retrieved 24 September 2011.  Portions posted at "The Clash > Album Guide". Retrieved 24 September 2011. 
  11. ^ Rosegen, Jeff. "Give Em Enough Rope". Tiny Mix Tapes. Retrieved 10 September 2015. 
  12. ^ a b Christgau, Robert (25 December 1978). "Christgau's Consumer Guide". The Village Voice (New York). Retrieved 10 September 2015. 
  13. ^ Pazz & Jop 1978: Dean's List
  14. ^ Pazz & Jop 1978
  15. ^ "Greatest Albums of All Time". NME (London): 29. 2 October 1993. 
  16. ^ "100 Best Punk Albums". Q (London): 135. May 2002. 
  17. ^ "Discography The Clash". Retrieved 23 February 2008. 

Further reading[edit]