Train In Vain – The Clash

THIS DAY IN MUSIC……………………………….on January 26th of 1977 as the Punk music movement continued to grow, The Clash sign a 100,000 Pound contract with CBS Records, a remarkable amount for a band that had played a total of about thirty gigs and very few as a headliner. From their 1979 LP “London Calling” comes the song “Train In Vain”. Clash guitarist Mick Jones sang lead vocals on this song, and the lyrics appear to be a reference to the end of his on-off relationship with Viv Albertine (which he also referenced in “I’m Not Down”). It also contains a pointed reference to his flat being burgled in early 1979 and his feelings of depression also referenced in “I’m Not Down” (“I need new clothes, I need somewhere to stay”). The R&B-flavored tune introduced The Clash to a new audience. “We couldn’t believe how popular it became, especially in America,” Jones said. “That broke us in there. They thought it was a regular R&B song, then they found out it was The Clash.” The album cover for “London Calling” was designed as a tribute to Elvis Presley’s first album. The words “London” and “Calling” are displayed the same way “Elvis” and “Presley” were on his 1956 debut. Instead of a photo of Elvis, however, the text frames a shot of Clash bass player Paul Simonon smashing his bass during a show at The Palladium in New York. That bass is now in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. You’d think a big hit like “Rock the Casbah” or “Should I Stay or Should I Go” would be the most covered Clash song, but it’s actually “Train in Vain.” Cover versions exist by Third Eye Blind, Ill Rapture, Dr. Haze/DJ X-Cel, The Sabrejets, Dwight Yoakam, Annie Lennox, The Manic Street Preachers, Jones Crusher and Kirsty MacColl. The song became a firm live favorite for the band, introduced to their live set in December 1979 and being played consistently after that until Mick Jones was fired in 1983. The music video is taken from one of these many live performances, a February 1980 show in Lewisham filmed by Don Letts and featuring an amusing introduction from Joe Strummer: “We’d like to take the soul train from platform one… and if you don’t want to come, there’s always the toilet!” This was the first US Top 40 hit (#27) for The Clash. They had only one more – “Rock The Casbah” in 1982.