Should I Stay or Should I Go

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"Should I Stay or Should I Go"
Should I Stay or Should I Go by The Clash 1991 rerelease.png
Standard artwork for 1991 re-release
Single by the Clash
from the album Combat Rock
ReleasedMay 1982
February 1991 (re-release)
Recorded1981[1]
Genre
Length3:06
Label
Songwriter(s)
  • Topper Headon
  • Mick Jones
  • Paul Simonon
  • Joe Strummer
Producer(s)The Clash
The Clash singles chronology
"Rock the Casbah"
(1982)
"Should I Stay or Should I Go" / "Straight to Hell"
(1982)
"This Is England"
(1985)

"Return to Brixton"
(1991)

""Should I Stay or Should I Go" (rerelease)"
(1991)

""Rock the Casbah" (rerelease)"
(1991)
Music video
"Should I Stay or Should I Go" on YouTube

"Should I Stay or Should I Go" is a song by English punk rock band the Clash, from their album Combat Rock, written in 1981 and featuring Mick Jones on lead vocals. It was released in 1982 as a double A-sided single alongside "Straight to Hell", performing modestly on global music charts. In the United States, "Should I Stay or Should I Go" charted on the Billboard Hot 100 without reaching the top 40. The song received greater attention nearly a decade later as the result of an early-1990s Levi's jeans commercial, leading to the song's 1991 re-release, which topped the UK Singles Chart and reached the top ten in New Zealand and many European charts. The song was listed in Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time in 2004.

Background and production[edit]

Many rumours have arisen about the song's content, such as Jones' impending dismissal from the Clash or the tempestuous personal relationship between Jones and American singer Ellen Foley.[5] "Should I Stay or Should I Go" was thought to be written by Jones about Foley, who sang the backing vocals on Meat Loaf's Bat Out of Hell LP.[5] However, Jones himself said:

It wasn't about anybody specific and it wasn't pre-empting my leaving The Clash. It was just a good rockin' song, our attempt at writing a classic ... When we were just playing, that was the kind of thing we used to like to play. – Mick Jones, 1991[6]

The Spanish backing vocals were sung by Joe Strummer and Joe Ely:

On the spur of the moment I said 'I'm going to do the backing vocals in Spanish' ... We needed a translator so Eddie Garcia, the tape operator, called his mother in Brooklyn Heights and read her the lyrics over the phone and she translated them. But Eddie and his mum are Ecuadorian, so it's Ecuadorian Spanish that me and Joe Ely are singing on the backing vocals. – Joe Strummer, 1991[7]

Releases[edit]

The song had various single releases. In North America, the American record label Epic Records released one edition with "Inoculated City" as its B-side in May 1982.[8] Another edition by Epic with "First Night Back in London" as its B-side, released in July 1982,[8] peaked at number 45 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart on the week ending 18 September 1982, the edition's tenth week on the chart.[9] Another edition by Epic with "Cool Confusion" as its B-side, released in February 1983, peaked at number 50 in the Billboard Hot 100.[8] Elsewhere, the international record label CBS Records released the song in September 1982 as a double A-side with "Straight to Hell".[8] The double A-side release peaked at number 17 in the UK Single Chart on the week ending 17 October 1982, the release's fifth week on the chart.[10]

Historically, the band rejected companies' requests to use their songs to advertise products, like Dr Pepper and British Telecom. Then in the early 1990s the company Levi's asked the band members' permission to use the song for a jeans commercial for the British audience. Despite the band often prioritising "creativity and idealism over commercial exploitation", the band members left the decision to the main songwriter Mick Jones, who approved the permission, rationalising that Levi's jeans had been part of the rock music culture rather than something to "object on moral grounds".[11] The song was played for the Levi's commercial and then reissued in February 1991[11] as a single, a decade after its original release, reaching number one on the UK Singles Chart.[12][13] It became the band's only number-one single on the UK Chart.[14] In that same year, Jones told NME' journalist James Brown that he included BAD II's "Rush" in the single re-release to promote his newer band.[11]

A live recording of the song was included on the album Live at Shea Stadium, which featured a concert performed on 13 October 1982 in New York. The song's music video[15] from that performance was included on the DVD The Clash Live: Revolution Rock. Both discs were released on 6 October 2008.[16]

Year B-side Format Label Country Note
1982 CBS logo etched into vinyl 45 rpm 7-inch vinyl Epic ENR-03571 US One Sided Single - Epic's Get the Hit - Special Low Price
1982 "Cool Confusion" 45 rpm 12-inch vinyl Epic 07 5P-223 JP
1982 "Straight to Hell" (Edit) 45 rpm 12-inch vinyl CBS CBS A13 2646 UK
1982 "Inoculated City" 45 rpm 7-inch vinyl Epic 14-03006 US Released in May 1982[8]
1982 "First Night Back in London" 45 rpm 7-inch vinyl Epic 34-03061 US Released in July 1982[8]
1982 "Straight to Hell" (Edit) 45 rpm 7-inch vinyl CBS CBS AII 2646 UK Picture disc
1982 "Straight to Hell" 45 rpm 7-inch vinyl CBS CBS A 2646 UK Released in September 1982[8]
1983 "Cool Confusion" 45 rpm 7-inch vinyl Epic 34-03547 US Released in January 1983
1991
  1. "Rush (Dance Mix)" (Big Audio Dynamite II)
  2. "Protex Blue" (The Clash)
45 rpm 12-inch vinyl CBS / Sony UK A-side
  1. "Should I Stay or Should I Go" (The Clash)
  2. "Rush" (Big Audio Dynamite II)

Reception[edit]

NME journalist Adrian Thrills in 1982 gave the double A-side single release "Straight to Hell"/"Should I Stay or Should I Go" four-and-a-half stars out of five. Despite "Should I Stay or Should I Go" having received more radio airplay, Thrills stated that the single's other A-side track "Straight to Hell" was "the reaffirmation that there is still life in The Clash."[17]

In November 2004, the song was ranked number 228 on "Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time" list.[18] In 2009 it was ranked 42nd on VH1's program 100 Greatest Hard Rock Songs.[19]

Scholar Theodore Gracyk wrote in 2007 that the song "is not [as] overtly political" as most of the band's other songs, especially from the album Combat Rock, which carries the song. Gracyk further wrote that new listeners familiar with and praising the song and then wanting to buy Combat Rock or one of compilation albums containing the song would be surprised by the band's "strong critique of dominant Western values."[20] Vulture writer Bill Wyman in 2017 ranked the song number 19 of all the band's 139 songs.[21]

Charts[edit]

Certifications[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/sales
Italy (FIMI)[51] Platinum 50,000double-dagger
New Zealand (RMNZ)[52] Gold 5,000*
United Kingdom (BPI)[53] Platinum 600,000double-dagger

* Sales figures based on certification alone.
double-dagger Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.

Opening riff similarity[edit]

Twitter users accused One Direction's 2012 hit single, "Live While We're Young", of copying the song's opening guitar riff, which caused controversy.[54] According to Alexis Petridis of The Guardian, the guitar is played thrice between the riff with the plectrum stroking the strings, while it is pressed. One note in the chord is changed, which Petridis surmised was probably to avoid paying any royalty to the Clash.[55]

In other popular culture[edit]

The song was featured in the first season of the Netflix series Stranger Things. The song has shown up multiple times in the series and is a significant part of the storyline.[56][57][58]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "The Brexit Vote Is the Perfect Excuse to Revisit This Song by the Clash". Time. 23 June 2016. Retrieved 4 September 2017.
  2. ^ Rowley, Scott (13 September 2017). "The Clash Albums Ranked from Worst to Best – The Ultimate Guide". Classic Rock. Retrieved 29 September 2017.
  3. ^ Donati Jorge, Fernando (26 March 2019). "Modeling (Punk) Decisions: Should I Stay or Should I Go?". Medium. Retrieved 25 September 2020.
  4. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "The Clash – Combat Rock". AllMusic. Retrieved 29 September 2017.
  5. ^ a b "The Uncut Crap – Over 56 Things You Never Knew About the Clash". NME. Vol. 3. London. 16 March 1991. ISSN 0028-6362. OCLC 4213418. 'Should I Stay or Should I Go' was written by Mick about American singer Ellen Foley, who sang the backing vocals on Meatloaf's Bat Out Of Hell LP.
  6. ^ Clash on Broadway Box Set liner notes (Media notes). Sony Music Entertainment Inc.
  7. ^ Moser, Margaret (22 May 2000). "Music: Lubbock Calling (Austin Chronicle. 05-22-00)". The Austin Chronicle. Retrieved 22 November 2007 – via Weekly Wire.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g Strong, Martin C. (2006). "The Clash". The Essential Rock Discography. p. 208. ISBN 978-184195-860-6.
  9. ^ a b "Billboard Hot 100". Billboard. Vol. 94 no. 37. 18 September 1982. p. 66. ISSN 0006-2510.
  10. ^ a b "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 15 July 2013.
  11. ^ a b c Gray, Marcus (2004) [1995]. The Clash: Return of the Last Gang in Town (Extensively revised and updated ed.). Hal Leonard. p. 458. ISBN 0-634-04673-X. LCCN 2002008977.
  12. ^ Zadeh, Joe (4 August 2011). "Jean Spirit: The Music Behind Levi's Adverts". Clash. Retrieved 8 August 2017.
  13. ^ a b "Official Singles Chart Top 100". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 15 July 2013.
  14. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. pp. 524–5. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  15. ^ The Clash's official music video for 'Should I Stay or Should I Go' on YouTube
  16. ^ "New Live Clash Album and DVD". Ultimate-Guitar.com. 8 June 2008. Retrieved 16 September 2015.
  17. ^ Du Noyer, Paul (1997). "The Music – Singles". Modern Icons: The Clash. Virgin Publishing. p. 79. ISBN 0-312-17939-1.
  18. ^ "The RS 500 Greatest Songs of All Time (1-500)". Rolling Stone. 29 December 2004. Archived from the original on 25 October 2006.
  19. ^ Winistorfer, Andrew (5 January 2009). "VH1's 100 Greatest Hard Rock Songs list only slightly less annoying than their hip-hop list". Prefix Magazine. Retrieved 3 January 2021.
  20. ^ Gracyk, Theodore (2007). "Clearing Space for Aesthetic Value". Listening to Popular Music or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Led Zeppelin. Ann Arbor, Michigan: University of Michigan Press. p. 65. ISBN 978-0-472-06983-5. LCCN 2006032063.
  21. ^ Wyman, Bill (October 2017). "All 139 the Clash Songs, Ranked From Worst to Best". Vulture. Retrieved 19 March 2020.
  22. ^ "Forum – ARIA Charts: Special Occasion Charts – CHART POSITIONS PRE 1989". Australian-charts.com. Hung Medien. Archived from the original on 20 October 2013. Retrieved 16 June 2014.
  23. ^ "Top RPM Singles: Issue 6196." RPM. Library and Archives Canada. Retrieved 15 July 2013.
  24. ^ a b "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Should I Stay or Should I Go". Irish Singles Chart. Retrieved 15 July 2013.
  25. ^ "Rock Albums & Top Tracks". Billboard. Vol. 94 no. 35. 4 September 1982. p. 33. ISSN 0006-2510.
  26. ^ "CASH BOX Top 100 Singles – Week ending MARCH 26, 1983". Cash Box. Archived from the original on 13 September 2012.
  27. ^ "Austriancharts.at – The Clash – Should I Stay Or Should I Go" (in German). Ö3 Austria Top 40. Retrieved 16 June 2014.
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  29. ^ "Top 10 Sales in Europe" (PDF). Music & Media. Vol. 8 no. 19. 11 May 1991. p. 19. Retrieved 16 December 2018.
  30. ^ "Eurochart Hot 100 Singles" (PDF). Music & Media. Vol. 8 no. 18. 4 May 1991. p. 25. Retrieved 13 July 2020.
  31. ^ Nyman, Jake (2005). Suomi soi 4: Suuri suomalainen listakirja (in Finnish) (1st ed.). Helsinki: Tammi. ISBN 951-31-2503-3.
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  35. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 – week 16, 1991" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40 Retrieved 16 June 2014.
  36. ^ "Dutchcharts.nl – The Clash – Should I Stay Or Should I Go" (in Dutch). Single Top 100. Retrieved 16 June 2014.
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  38. ^ "Norwegiancharts.com – The Clash – Should I Stay Or Should I Go". VG-lista. Retrieved 16 June 2014.
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  41. ^ "Swedishcharts.com – The Clash – Should I Stay Or Should I Go". Singles Top 100. Retrieved 16 June 2014.
  42. ^ "Swisscharts.com – The Clash – Should I Stay Or Should I Go". Swiss Singles Chart. Retrieved 16 June 2014.
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  44. ^ "Eurochart Hot 100 Singles: 1991" (PDF). Music & Media. Vol. 8 no. 51–52. 21 December 1989. p. 21. Retrieved 17 January 2020.
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  46. ^ "Top 100-Jaaroverzicht van 1991" (in Dutch). Dutch Top 40. Retrieved 11 March 2021.
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  49. ^ "Chart Archive – 1990s Singles". everyHit.com. Retrieved 26 August 2019.
  50. ^ "End of Year Charts 1992". Recorded Music NZ. Retrieved 3 December 2017.
  51. ^ "Italian single certifications – The Clash – Should I Stay or Should I Go" (in Italian). Federazione Industria Musicale Italiana. Retrieved 12 December 2018. Select "2017" in the "Anno" drop-down menu. Select "Should I Stay or Should I Go" in the "Filtra" field. Select "Singoli online" under "Sezione".
  52. ^ "New Zealand single certifications – The Clash – Should I Stay or Should I Go". Recorded Music NZ. Retrieved 13 November 2019.
  53. ^ "British single certifications – Clash – Should I Stay or Should I Go". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 22 May 2020.
  54. ^ Bychawski, Adam (29 September 2012). "One Direction respond to claims they ripped off the Clash on 'Live While We're Young'". NME. Retrieved 1 August 2016.
  55. ^ Petridis, Alexis (8 November 2012). "One Direction: Take Me Home – review". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 March 2020.
  56. ^ Gidick, Sarah (3 August 2016). "5 Things to Know About Winona Ryder's Stylish Comeback Show, 'Stranger Things'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 22 August 2016.
  57. ^ Reed, Ryan (1 August 2016). "Hear 'Stranger Things'-Inspired Mixtape Featuring Smiths, Clash". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 22 August 2016.
  58. ^ Minsker, Evan (10 August 2016). "Netflix's Stranger Things Soundtrack Detailed". Pitchfork. Retrieved 11 February 2017.