"Straight to Hell" is a song by The Clash, from their album Combat Rock. It was released as a double 'A' side single with "Should I Stay or Should I Go" on September 17, 1982 in 12" and 7" vinyl format (the 7" vinyl is a picture disc).
Like those of many songs by the Clash, the lyrics of "Straight to Hell" decry injustice. The first verse refers to the shutting down of steel mills in Northern England and the alienation and racism suffered by immigrants despite their attempts to integrate into British society. The second verse concerns the abandonment of children in Vietnam who were fathered by American soldiers during the Vietnam War. The third verse contrasts the American Dream as seen through the eyes of an Amerasian child with a dystopian vision of American reality. The final verse considers the plight of immigrants throughout the world. Due to this difficult subject material, as well as the slow, aching beat, the song is one of the most downbeat tracks in the Clash's history.
The reference to "Amerasian Blues" describes the abandonment of children fathered by American soldiers stationed in Vietnam during the Vietnam War: an Amerasian child is portrayed as presenting an absent American father, "papa-san," with a photograph of his parents, pleading with his father to take him home to America. The child's plea is rejected. "-san" being a Japanese rather than Vietnamese honorific that was used by US troops in Vietnam who referred to Vietnamese men and women especially older men and women and "mama-san" and "papa-san".
When Strummer sings of a "Volatile Molotov" thrown at Puerto Rican immigrants in Alphabet City as a message to encourage them to leave, he is referring to the arson that claimed buildings occupied by immigrant communities – notably Puerto Rican – before the neighborhood was subject to gentrification. Hence, the ironic reference to "dead-head," the removal of dead flowers to encourage further blooming, at the end of the verse.
The last line of the song, "King Solomon never lived 'round here," condenses at least three attributes associated with the biblical figure of King Solomon: his love of dance (thus referring back to the singing and dancing of immigrants throughout the song), his purported wisdom and justice, and finally the promise of a return from exile to a land or, as Strummer would suggest, a world of peace and prosperity.
The song, whose full version lasted 7 minutes (which can be found on the Clash on Broadway box set or Rat Patrol from Fort Bragg (bootleg) - the double album that Combat Rock was going to be), had a lingering violin background that distinguished it from most other Clash songs.
Covers and samples
Also, Jakob Dylan and Elvis Costello performed a cover of the song on Costello's show Spectacle: Elvis Costello With… Dylan and Costello talked about Joe Strummer on the show. Jakob is a big fan of Joe Strummer and The Clash.
The song has been refashioned by Mick Jones, featuring Lily Allen, for the War Child - Heroes Vol.1, released in the UK on February 16, 2009, and in the U.S. on February 24, 2009 by Astralwerks. Allen's godfather was Joe Strummer.
The song has also been covered by American Punk Rock band The Menzingers.
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