Why Is That Clash Song Called “Train in Vain?”

The hidden track on the Clash’s London Calling album is “Train in Vain.”  Even though it was never listed in the original liner notes, the song ended up becoming a top 25 hit in Canada in the spring of 1980. 

But that’s a weird title.  Why is it called “Train in Vain” when those words are never mentioned anywhere in the lyrics?

According to singer Mick Jones, it was just an afterthought.  It was originally scheduled to be a freebie giveaway through one of the British weekly music papers, but the band decided it was too good for that, which is how it ended up as a last-second (and unlisted) selection on London Calling.  

They also didn’t want to call it something obvious like “Stand by Me.”  Instead, they co-opted the title of an old blues song by Robert Johnson called “Love in Vain.” 

I wish there were more to the story, but there isn’t.  It was just the Clash trying not to do the obvious.

The Clash – Train In Vain by Lartmement

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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.