(White Man) in Hammersmith Palais (3:59)

Cover of The Clash

From The Clash and 52 other releases

“(White Man) in Hammersmith Palais” is a song and single by The Clash, self produced and first released as a 7” single, backed with similarly themed track “The Prisoner”, in June 1978.

The song was later added to the American version of the band’s debut album The Clash sandwiched between the single version of “White Riot” and “London’s Burning”.

Inspiration and composition

The song showed considerable musical and lyrical maturity for the band at the time and is stylistically more in line with their version of Junior Murvin’s “Police & Thieves” as the powerful guitar intro of “(White Man) in Hammersmith Palais” descends into a slower ska rhythm, and was disorienting to a lot of the fans who had grown used to their earlier work. “We were a big fat riff group,” author Joe Strummer noted in The Clash’s film Westway to the World. “We weren’t supposed to do something like that.”

“(White Man) in Hammersmith Palais” starts by recounting an all-night reggae “showcase” night at the Hammersmith Palais in Shepherd’s Bush, London that was attended by Joe Strummer, Don Letts and roadie Rodent and was headlined by Dillinger, Leroy Smart and Delroy Wilson. Strummer was disappointed and disillusioned that these performances had been more “pop” and “lightweight” similar to Ken Boothe’s brand of reggae with Four Tops-like dance routines, and that the acts had been “performances” rather than the roots rock rebellion that he had been hoping for.


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