My Top 1000 Songs #304: The Card Cheat

[I've been writing up my Top 1000 songs on a daily basis--you can see them all in descending order by hitting the All My Favorite Songs tag.]

Once again breaking one of the guiding principles of this Top 1000--don't just list every single song on your all-time favorite album! But the flesh is weak.

While much of 1979's London Calling was a deliberate pivot by the Clash from their punk roots into flat-out rock & roll, "The Card Cheat" was arguably the biggest departure. The song rests upon a piano-based hook, not to mention some well-deployed horns, with the guitars taking a back seat. Yet as much as any of the guitar-based rockers on the LP, it's an incredibly rousing epic, traversing from its initial titular card cheat imagery to broader, ambiguous themes of war and solitude. Most of all, it just feels massive (no small thanks to some wall-of-sound double-tracked ambience), tragic and triumphant, cinematic and visceral. 

Given its relative complexity, the Clash never played it live, but here's a pretty great cover (with some amazing vocals by Pennsylvania singer Katie Seifarth):