Ongoing History of New Music

Ongoing History Daily: Was this the inspiration for “Rock the Casbah?”

One of the greatest Clash songs of all time is “Rock the Casbah” from the band’s 1982 album, Combat Rock.  Topper Headon, the drummer, is the guy who came up with the piano boogie that forms the base of the song.  Joe Strummer wrote the lyrics after he heard a news report about how people in Iran were sentenced to flogging for owning a rock or disco album.  But that may only be part of the story. 

In 1981, the Clash played a show in Paris.  Afterward, an Algerian singer-songwriter named Rachid Taha, leader of a French-Arab punk band called Residence Permit handed Joe a demo of his stuff.  Rachid never heard back from Joe, but a year later he turned on the radio and heard “Rock the Casbah,” which–stylistically, anyway–sounded a lot like what he was doing with Residence Permit.  Was “Rock the Casbah” partly inspired by what was handed to Joe on the sidewalk that night?  Maybe. 

Oh, and Taha covered “Rock the Casbah.”

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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One thought on “Ongoing History Daily: Was this the inspiration for “Rock the Casbah?”

  • And Mick Jones played with Rachid.

    Reply

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