Spasticus Autisticus

Is this cheating? I’m counting it as Latin.

Ian Dury’s primal rage, ‘ a battle cry and an appeal for understanding’ to quote wiki, standing up and being counted as a disabled person…’ I’m Spasticus!’. Written in 1981 as a protest, deliberately provocative, fed up with being patronised, it got little airplay or record company support. It popped up in 2012, performed by Orbital at the London Paralympics opening ceremony.

As the parent of a disabled child, a carrier of the gene that caused it, I can empathise.

>The Great Sandinista Parlour Game

While driving to the campsite during half term I made my family listen to Sandinista. All six sides, one hundred and forty four minutes, over two cds. No-one really objected. Mrs Swiss hummed along to the songs she knew. I continued to find songs I didn’t know. While settling down outside our tent I did think about instigating the Great Sandinista Parlour Game but thought it might be pushing it.

The Great Sandinista Parlour Game- in other words, can the six sides and thirty six songs of The Clash’s fourth album be trimmed and condensed into one twelve track killer album? Joe Strummer thought not- in Westway To The World he said some people thought it would’ve made a better double album or single album or e.p. but he rated it as ”a magnificent achievement” and loved it ”warts and all”. Topper reckons it could be a lot shorter, as does Paul. Mick thinks it’s perfect for people living on oil rigs or who are away from home a lot. In typical Clash style they thought that by insisting on a triple album, following London Calling (a double), selling at ‘no more than £5.99’ they’d be sticking it to CBS. CBS agreed on the proviso that they waived all royalties on UK sales until it sold 300,000 copies. To date it still hasn’t. They also became obsessed in the studio with it having six songs per side, thirty six in total, which probably explains the inclusion of some songs. Anyway, here we go…
The Magnificent Seven- Invents rockers do rap, with Mickey Gallagher & Norman Watt Roy. In.
Hitsville UK- Mick’s lightweight, poppy tribute to UK indie scene, sung by Ellen Foley. Out.
Junco Partner- bluesy/reggae cover of New Orleans song. Good. Maybe.
Ivan Meets G.I. Joe- Cold War disco face off, sung by Topper. Out.
The Leader- rattling two minute rockabilly version of Profumo affair. Maybe.
Something About England- lost masterpiece, tale of the 20th Century, sung by Mick & Joe. In.
Rebel Waltz. A waltz. Out.
Look Here. Jazzy stomp. Fun but inessential. Out.
The Crooked Beat- Paul’s tribute to reggae and south London. Great bassline. Maybe.
Somebody Got Murdered- sublime guitar rock with great Mick vocal. In.
One More Time- Heavy reggae ghetto rocker. In.
One More Dub- Dub version of above. Out but only because of duplication.
Lightning Strikes (Not Once But Twice)- funk rock, Blockheads again. Out I think.
Up In Heaven (Not Only Here)- Mick’s attack on poverty. Post-punky. Out.
Corner Soul- militant reggae rock (again). Good but… Out.
Let’s Go Crazy- Clash samba. Who else did this kind of thing? Still, out.
If Music Could Talk- Mad talking blues, with squawky saxophone. Joe’s favourite, so…In.
The Sound Of Sinners- So they did a gospel song. Because they felt like it. Out.
Police On My Back- blistering cover of Equals song. Clash albums need great cover versions. In.
Midnight Log- cool dubby rockabilly. Maybe.
The Equaliser- dub but not about Edward Woodward. Maybe.
The Call Up- disliked by some, but a dead groovy anti-war song. In.
Washington Bullets- laid back history of Latin America. Name of album comes from this. In.
Broadway. 2am in a bar in New York song . Great Joe vocal. In.
Lose This Skin- Tymon Dogg’s fiddle song due to chance meeting in NY. Diverting but…Out.
Charlie Don’t Surf- Apocalypse Now inspired fluid funk-rock. Maybe.
Mensforth Hill- Something About England played backwards. Listening Squire & Brown? Out.
Junkie Slip- skiffle anti-drug song. Out.
Kingston Advice- sparkling Clash reggae. Yes.
The Street Parade- superb, dreamy, melancholic, steel band, ode to being lost in the crowd. In.
Version City- dub. Out.
Living In Fame- more dub, with Mikey Dread. Out. Probably.
Silicone On Sapphire- sci-fi, fx, dubish. Out.
Version Partner- dub version of Junco Partner. Out. It’s not that I don’t like the dubs but…
Career Opportunities- Mickey Gallagher’s kids sing old Clash song. Fun but… Out.
Shepherd’s Delight- weird, acoustic/found sound/tape manipulation track. Far out but Out.
Which gives us…
Side 1 The Magnificent Seven, Junco Partner or The Leader (New Orleans blues or rockabilly? I can’t choose between them, help), Something About England, The Crooked Beat, Somebody Got Murdered, One More Time, If Music Could Talk.
That’s seven songs on side 1, one must go- sorry Paul, it’s The Crooked Beat I think.
Side 2
Police On My Back, The Call Up, Washington Bullets, Broadway, Kingston Advice, The Street Parade.
Which makes a damn good Clash album. With a dub version as a limited edition follow-up. But without the anything goes, try everything spirit which makes Sandinista so bewildering and unwieldy but so good and so interesting. It’s been said before but if anyone tried this today they’d have critics and the Mercury prize falling over themselves to praise it. As it is, it was slammed at the time and still has a mixed reputation today. Maybe the Sandinista Parlour Game is futile, maybe Mick and Joe’s opinion is the right one. And, as for this post, in the words of Joe halfway through the first track, ‘fucking long this innit?’

>All My Brain And Body Needs


I’ve never really delved at all into Ian Dury’s music. I’ve got a 7″ of Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick, and there are songs that have always been around but I never felt the need. A while back I saw the Ian Dury film Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll for three quid in the supermarket so I bought it, and the other night Mrs Swiss and I finally got around to watching it. It was really good. Obviously rock biopics tend to follow a certain line- dingy gig, band splits up, new band forms, on the up, bigger gigs, record deal, sex & drugs etc, crash and burn, some wisdom is gained- but it was done very well, and the whole polio and Dury’s childhood backstory were well handled. Andy Serkis is excellent as Dury and Bill Milner is outstanding as Baxter Dury, Ian’s son. Recommended.

So, when I was passing Fopp recently I popped in and bought a cheap compilation cd and now I can’t believe I got to neary forty one years old without these songs being a part of my musical life- Wake Up And Make Love With Me, Sweet Gene Vincent, There Ain’t Half Been Some Clever Bastards, Spasticus Autisticus, I Want To be Straight and a load of others. Ian Dury’s lyrics, wordplay and delivery were something else and those Blockheads could whip up a storm, and a funky storm at that. I suppose now I can begin the fun of delving into the back catalogue properly.

02 Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll.wma