The Clash: Sandinista! (1980)

When London Calling came out in late '79 (early '80 here in the States), it was a revelation, a belated introduction to punk via one of the greatest straight-out rock & roll records ever; to this day, it remains my favorite album.

But I'll admit being a little bewildered (and disappointed) when they dropped Sandinista barely a year later. At 3 LPs, it was even longer than the double-LP London Calling; but even with 50% more music, it seemed to have far fewer good (much less great) songs.  Sure, a few jumped out even on that first listen -- their rousing cover of Eddy Grant's "Police On My Back" was as terrific as anything they'd done so far; Mick Jones' operatic "Somebody Got Murdered" was bittersweet pop and immensely catchy; the pithy "The Leader" was a perky, rockabilly-tinged little nugget; and songs like "Up In Heaven," "Kingston Advice," and "Washington Bullets" felt like major steps forward in terms of sophistication yet still compelling rock songs. And while I was less enthralled by the band's funky side, I eventually came around on "The Magnificent Seven."

But it was hard to objectively assess the overall work because the highlights seemed buried in a mess of self-indulgence, none of the dub or dance tracks approaching the rock and roll majesty of the predecessor.

For a long time, the more rock-oriented highlights aside, I spent very little time listening to this (certainly relative to London Calling and the self-titled debut, but even relative to Give 'em Enough Rope and, later, Combat Rock). But it's grown on me over time. Like (I'm assuming) all but the true fanatics, I ended up distilling the 3-LP set down into a more manageable mix. And once you purge the stuff that seems to weaken the impact of the stronger tunes (in my own case, mostly the dub stuff), there's a surprisingly coherent, compelling album underneath.  It's not London Calling (an impossible standard), but intriguing nonetheless, and certainly not lacking in variety.
I've included the back cover art from my own mixdown version; but even the 80-minute single-CD version I compiled for myself (with some rejiggering of the playing order to give it a more organic feel) is over-long; I'd probably pare this down to an amazing hour of music if pressed, per the Spotify playlist below.

Here's "The Magnificent Seven":
Here's a live "Police On My Back":
 ...and a live "Somebody Got Murdered":
And here's my modified Spotify playlist.


  1. I totally understand where this exercise comes from, but I deeply love this - warts and all. Sure, I hardly play sides 5 and 6 these days, but I do find some joy there when I do. If I were to tackle this exercise, it would be more in line with your 80 minute CD exercise. Make this a double LP and it would slay.

  2. Sandinista is like the kind of Communist regime the title refers to--you have to take the good with the bad, the free health care and education with the restricted free speech, etc. Your edit is the Bernie Sanders version--the socialism without losing the democratic process. More of a communist myself!

    1. Ha! Personally, I was shooting for the Elizabeth Warren remix, but I'm giving up hope that America is ready for the Elizabeth Warren remix.


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