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Ghetto Defendant - MOJO, September 2020

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Title: Ghetto Defendant
Publication: MOJO
Date: September 2020
Writer: Keith Cameron
Photos: S Mark Gubb


Manic Street Preachers' James Dean Bradfield on Sandinista!'s "bittersweet vision".

I was 16 when I first listened to Sandinista! - hearing Washington Bullets and thinking "The Clash are singing about something serious..." I wanted to know what the lyrics were about. By the time we'd all got Sandinista! and had a discussion, [future Manics' drummer] Sean [Moore] said it was his favourite Clash album so far. Me, Nick [Wire] and Richey [Edwards] weren't so sure. Like everybody else - big cliche - we thought there was a killer single album in there. In fact, we played that game on the Manics tour bus in 1991: The Magnificent/Seven/Hitsville UK/Rebel Waltz/Somebody Got Murdered/One More Time/Lightening Strikes/Up In Heaven/The Call Up/Washington Bullets/Lose This Skin. That's my single album Sandinista! tracklisting.

I loved Hitsville UK. That linked into my bittersweet vision of what The Clash could do. It has a rush of emotion, and a melancholic observational quality too. Not many bands can do that. I remember Nick obsessively practising One More Time - that is a great Clash song. Washington Bullets is beautiful, really pastoral. It ties in to the Victor Jara thing [Bradfield's new solo album is inspired by the murdered Chilean singer-poet] he's name-checked along with Castro; they're talking Nicaragua, Chile, Cuba...it has that slight calypso angle - playing it their way. They're not worried about somebody saying "Hey that's cultural appropriation." It was so unself-conscious. They've turned that song into their music.

Sandinista! is absolutly ripe for rediscovery, because it's a post-mix tape generation record: collaborators, different vocalists, The Clash remixing The Clash. The sound is great; it's expansive, claustrophobic, modern. None of the tracks stand still. Bill Price and Topper really knit it together. Mark Freegard, who mixed [1994 Manics album] The Holy Bible was one of the tape ops. After 10 minutes of me asking questions, he said "James I can't remember much. It was such a weird session, everybody was so stoned and drunk." He did say that, despite his problems, Topper was still the one - if Topper got his part right, you'd get everything done in two takes.

When The Magnificent Seven kicks in - and Joe's vocal is amazing - it's musically perfect. That's where their legacy is stowed: The Clash were a great rock 'n' roll band, one of the very few bands to transcend punk. The four of them would find something really special, something nobody else is going to find. And that's the attraction of Sandinista!: it really is chemistry. It's magic waiting to be found.