The Clash’s “Garage Land” is not only one of the best songs off of their debut, but it’s also one of the best responses to a harsh review. In 1977, New Musical Express wrote that The Clash were “the kind of garage band who should be speedily returned to their garage.” While it probably bothered The Clash they got bad press, they certainly weren’t pissed at being called a “garage band” as the lyrics suggest. Not only do they play garage music, “we come from garage land” snarls Joe Strummer in the chorus.
Funnily enough, “Garage Band” starts off with a riff that sounds pretty mainstream. The riff that Mick Jones plays seems destined to be played to on the radio. But after a few seconds, it’s clear that the riff is deception and the song quickly reveals itself to a be a jagged mid-tempo rocker. The first verse describes the love of being inside the garage, even as carbon monoxide hangs in the air, and people knock on the doors. And if there’s any question about their motives, Strummer declares, “We’re a garage band. We come from garage land.”
Luckily Strummer is smart, and can sense his detractors’ criticism before they have the time to pronounce. Some might suggest that being inside the garage is just a bubble, and that The Clash would perhaps be jealous of other bands. “I don’t want to go where the rich are going. I don’t want to go where the rich are going,” Strummer spits out. “They think they’re so clever. They think they’re so bright.”
Here’s the original studio version:
And a version from 1977, which shows why The Clash were one of the greatest live bands ever: