Complete Control (3:13)

Cover of The Clash

From The Clash and 52 other releases

“Complete Control” is a song by The Clash, released as a 7” single and featured on the U.S. release of their debut album.

The song is often cited as one of punk’s greatest singles, and is a fiery polemic on record companies, managers and the state of punk music itself, the motivation for the song being the band’s label (CBS Records) releasing “Remote Control” without bothering to ask them, something that infuriated the group. The song also refers to managers of the time who sought to control their groups–Bernie Rhodes (of The Clash) and Malcolm McLaren (the Sex Pistols)–indeed, the song’s very title is derived from this theme:

“ Bernie had a meeting in The Ship in Soho after the Anarchy Tour. He said he wanted complete control…I came out of the club with Paul collapsing on the pavement in hysterics at those words.”

The track also refers to the band’s run-ins with the police, their practice of letting fans into gigs through the back door or window for free and a punk idealism seemingly crushed by the corporate reality they had become part of and the betrayal and anger they felt. The overriding message of the song can be recognised in this couplet from the song:
“ They said, we’d be artistically free / When we signed that bit of paper.”

This message was scorned by some critics as naïveté on the part of the band - legendary DJ the late John Peel was one of those, suggesting that the group must have realised CBS were not ‘a foundation for the arts’, while others were strong in their support of the single, for example:

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