Jagged Time Lapse
Crossed Channels with Tony Fletcher and Dan Epstein
The Clash's Sandinista! - Masterpiece or Mess?

The Clash's Sandinista! - Masterpiece or Mess?

Episode 7 of CROSSED CHANNELS looks back at the legendary English punk band's 1980 magnum opus.

Welcome to Episode 7 of the CROSSED CHANNELS podcast, in which two music journalists/obsessives, Dan Epstein (the Yank) and Tony Fletcher (the Brit) clash and connect over music from either side of the pond.

A free preview of Episode 7 is available to all listeners, but the episode is only available in its entirety to paid subscribers of Jagged Time Lapse or Tony Fletcher, Wordsmith. If you’re already a free subscriber to either of these Substacks (or better yet, both), upgrade your subscription now to hear the whole thing. As always, we are immensely grateful for your encouragement and support! Cheers!

(Oh yeah — paid subscribers should scroll down to find out how to win a copy of Tony’s book on The Clash: The Music That Matters.)

In Episode 6, we discussed Blondie, a band from the NYC punk scene that hit it big in the UK before most Americans had ever heard of them. This time, we’re tackling one of the most important bands from the original wave of British punk: The Clash.

After making their live debut with a July 4, 1976 performance at The Screen on the Green in London (at which they supported the Buzzcocks and the Sex Pistols), the Clash quickly gained a massive UK following on the strength of their high-energy gigs and outspoken left-wing ideology. But Epic Records, the American arm of their label CBS Records, flat-out refused to issue the band’s self-titled 1977 debut album, assuming that it had no commercial potential in the US.

By 1980, however, the Clash had become immensely popular in the States — their third album, 1979’s double-length London Calling, made it all the way to #27 on the Billboard 200, thanks to the surprise radio hit “Train in Vain” — and the band spent so much time on the road there that they were regularly accused of forsaking their homeland in pursuit of the Yankee dollar.

This transatlantic shift in the band’s fortunes was underlined by the December 1980 release of Sandinista!, the most politically-charged and stylistically wide-ranging album that the band ever made. The three-LP set received rave reviews in the US, surpassed London Calling on the Billboard 200, and went on to sell over 500,000 copies; in the UK, however, Sandinista! was poorly received by critics and fans alike, and would become the lowest-charting album of the band’s career.

Though often hailed as a masterpiece, Sandinista! has been almost equally criticized as a mess. Many folks think it would have been a far better listening experience as a double LP, or even a single album. On this episode of CROSSED CHANNELS, we dig deep into this incredibly diverse record, and attempt to assemble the ideal single-album version of Sandinista! by slimming it down from 36 tracks to 12. As it turns out, however, we have wildly divergent opinions on which tracks should make the cut…

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