Sunday, February 15, 2009

Exploring Rock's Clichés: Sandinista! as a Single LP

I've mentioned before that London Calling by The Clash was a monumental album for me. Unfortunately, Sandinista! didn't have the same effect. With 36 varied tracks sprawling over three LPs—requiring six needle drops!—it was just too much. Sure, I knew there were plenty of good songs on Sandinista!, but the presentation dulled their impact. (What can I say? I was lazy.) But I wasn't alone. One of rock's famous clichés is that there is a great single LP buried within those six sides.

This weekend I happened to hear The Call Up, which reminded me of the many other great songs "hidden" on the album. Never being one to shy away from clichés, I decided to "find" that great single LP. This post shows the track listing I came up with. While I hate to second guess major rock legends, I do have a blog...

Verdict: The cliché is true. A streamlined forty minutes of then-cutting-edge rock power would've been a better way to follow London Calling. (And just think about all of the bonus tracks that could have been included years later in the "deluxe reissue"!)

You always want to leave them wanting more.

In putting this together I followed the time-honored rules for creating a classic rock LP (pre-CD-era): (1) Use just ten songs, five per side, (2) put strong songs at the beginning and end of each side, with the best attention grabber as Track 1/Side A, and (3) make it flow nicely from song to song.


Side A
1. Police On My Back
2. One More Time
3. Washington Bullets
4. Somebody Got Murdered
5. The Call Up

Side B
1. The Magnificent Seven
2. Hitsville U.K.
3. Something About England
4. Charlie Don't Surf
5. The Leader

Buy Sandinista! (It's full of great music, and then some.)

If you're fan of The Clash, give this track listing a try and let me know what you think. Would a single-disc Sandinista! be regarded right up there with London Calling as one of the greatest rock albums?

What would your single disc Sandinista! look like?

Am I just full of it today?


Matt.H said...

I'm with you on this one Paul, though I would certainly have also added 'the Equaliser' and 'Sound Of Sinners', the latter if only for the novelty value of the Clash incorparating gospel into their broad cabaret of delights.A leaner
Sandinista is a much better album overall no doubt, but the sprawling ambition of the Clash is something I miss, and something that is sadly lacking in many of today's generation of rock bands. Too many play it safe, and stick to a dreary formula of conformity that is all too predictable, paling in comparison. The Clash's self titled debut and London Calling were such monumental landmarks that they may have left the band an almost impossible legacy to fulfil and Sandinista was probably judged harshly as aresult.
Having said that, I love flawed masterpieces, and love the Clash for the same reason I love the Byrds, Gram Parsons and Hank Williams. Instead of being daunted
by expectations, they thrived on them and were driven by a constant desire to experiment and break new ground. It didn't always come off, no, but as you've proved here, there is a great album in Sandinista if you look hard enough.

godoggo said...

Well I love Lose this Skin, and Crooked Beat, and Something about England, and the wacky dub stuff... Actually, I really like most of the songs on Sandinista, so I reject the concept. Not that I've listened to it lately.

Paul said...

Thanks for the great comments guys. That's exactly what I was hoping for.

I also like a lot of the songs I didn't include above. Maybe it's just three-volume LP sets that I am opposed to. Even in the classic 10-song, single-album mode, Sandinista! would stand out as being, dare I say it, revolutionary.

Wardens World said...

I'd have to squeeze in Sound of the Sinners and Midnight Log in there. I think it's more a case of there being a good DOUBLE album there. Single album is giving it short shrift. Good post, tho...

Stewart said...

I always thought Sandinista was close to perfect! My favourite Clash product by a long way.

BWR said...

I'm with Stewart: As amazing (and comparatively "perfect") as London Calliing is, Sandinista is still my favorite Clash offering. I might get rid of Mensforth Hill, One More Dub, and a few others, but there are a minimum of two great discs in there.

I also love Matt H's comments. It was so awesome to be around to watch the development of such a courageous and self-confident band. I don't know many bands that can compete with them in that department.

Great post, Paul.

b said...

This is awesome- like others, I definitely love the whole big Sandinista for what it is- the way it sounds, what it was trying to do, what it failed at, and the parts I secretly like a lot that I was once told I should be embarrassed about ("Lose this skin"!)

But if you were to make this into a single LP, I agree with what you've got here, though I would also add "Sound of Sinners," though I wouldn't know what to replace (maybe the Call Up or One More Time, but that's getting into the realm of personal preference rather than awareness of groundbreakingness or quality ;)

Now that I think of it, it must have been a much different experience with those six needle drops! I guess the sprawling massive-ness is much more physical and tangible when you're listening to it on record!

"While I hate to second guess major rock legends, I do have a blog..."

Haha, well I'm glad you have this forum! Keep up the great work and second guessing those rock legends :)

Glenn said...

Gotta say that side 4 is one of the best album sides around: Police On My Back through Broadway. It just builds and builds into the climax: "I CAAAAAN'T SEE THE LIIII-IIGHT!!!!!"

And "Corner Soul" is one of the best Clash songs--not sure why that one rarely gets a shout-out.

I like to start the album somewhere in the middle and go from there.

Nazz Nomad said...

When Sandanista came out, I was disgusted that there were NO punk songs on it (I don't count Police On MY Back as a punk tune).
I have softened my stance somewhat.
Here's my Sandanista single:

side 1
1. "The Magnificent Seven" –
2. "Hitsville UK"
3. "The Leader" –
4. "Something About England"
5. "Somebody Got Murdered" –

side 2
1. "The Sound of Sinners"
2. "Police on My Back"
3. "The Call Up"
4. "Washington Bullets"
5. "Charlie Don't Surf"

BigSteve said...

This single album is certainly good, but it leaves out too many good songs, some of which others have mentioned. Maybe the rule of 'a double album that should have been a single album' in this case should be revised to 'a triple album that should have been a double.' I think the full version runs out of steam a bit. The kiddie version of Guns of Brixton for example is something I don't need to hear more than once. But a double album would still be enough to take advantage of the scope of the Clash's reach. And if it were me I would use the 12" version of The Magnificent 7. Aren't there extended dub versions of both that and The Call Up?

I for one don't yearn a return to the vinyl days. Now with digital files of these tracks you can make any number of playlists from them to create any version of the 'album' you want.

steven said...

I did this exact same thing about a year ago.
You blew my mind because you start side 1 and side 2 exactly like mine. However I used 12 tracks because Sandinista! has 12 tracks per lp. Mine times out at 51.4 minutes, which is the length of album 2 of the 3 lp set, so I figured I was safe. On the Mag Seven I used the single edit which ends cold instead of fading out, and reduced the time by over a minute. Also I cut out the kids singing Guns of Brixton at the end of Broadway. I am egocentric enough to think that this version would have had the critics raving!
Please don't think me lazy for keeping some of the track order the same as original, I really believe they work this way.
Here is mine
Side 1
Police On My Back -
The Leader -
The Crooked Beat -(gotta give Paul a track!)
Somebody Got Murdered -
The Equaliser -
The Call Up -
Side 2
The Magnificent Seven -
Up In Heaven (Not Only Here) -
One More Time -
Charlie Don't Surf -
Washington Bullets -
Broadway -
Let me know what you think
Steve Alejandro

Paul said...


I'm pretty much on the same page with you.

Big Steve,

The double LP option probably would have been best, but it would have made for a less controversial post here. I think it would be pretty easy to cut it down to 2 LPs and keep the essence of Sandinista in place.


Your track listing looks great. Also, I like your reasoning for including 12 songs. If I was going to add two more it would be The Sound of Sinners and Broadway (without the kid singing at the end).

Thanks for all the great comments.

Mark said...

I can't agree with this because I'm one of those rare people that think Sandinista is not only the best Clash album, but the best album of all time. I love it to death, every single thing about it. Especially the length. It is a master piece.

If I did have to take an axe to it, I think the only songs I could cut are the 'remix' songs, ie when the same song appears twice on the album but in a different mix, or 'dub' version, or backwards, or whatever.

But still if I did this I'd want to still release it as a bonus dub record.

So maybe it could work as a double record + a bonus dub version record. It would only be changing song order.

But again, I wouldn't even want to do that! Don't mess with something perfect.

Jordy said...

I would add "If Music Could Talk."

Yosemite said...

Kinda stumbled on this late but...

I appreciate the deliberate, playful antagonism in asking people to whittle Sandinista! down to one LP. I'm one of those that love this album from start to finish - even the dub side (which people leads to people often overlooking Version City, a great track!). For me, it's the most ambitious, eclectic, enthusiastic record ever made. Yes, it's scattershot, but that's part of the appeal and why it moves along so well! Anyway, I made my single LP and it looks like such:

Side A

1. The Magnificent Seven
2. Somebody Got Murdered
3. The Equaliser
4. The Call Up
5. Washington Bullets
6. The Street Parade

Side B

1. Police On My Back
2. Lightning Strikes (Not Once But Twice)*
3. Up In Heaven (Not Only Here)
4. Charlie Don't Surf
5. Broadway*
6. The Sound Of Sinners

*I removed the DJ voiceover at the beginning of Lightning Strikes and the kids singing at the end of Broadway.

Finally, if you asked me which of the three LPs were the strongest? The second one. Kicking off with Lightning Strikes and ending with Broadway. Perhaps that's the single LP hidden with Sandinista!...

Duff said...

Mine goes like this:
Side A
1.The Magnificent Seven
2.Charlie Don't Surf
3.Washington Bullets
4.Corner Soul
5.Somebody Got Murdered
Side B
1.Police On My Back
2.Let's Go Crazy!
3.Lightning Strikes (Not Once But Twice)
4.The Call Up
5.Up In Heaven (Not Only Here)