Almost Hits: The Clash - Should I Stay Or Should I Go (1982)

The Clash were the only punk band I could ever listen to. Perhaps it was because they could find melody, a little bit of harmony and even some thought provoking lyrics and combine them with hooks that could grab you instantly - something no other punk group was ever able to do. Whether they realized it or not The Clash possessed songcraft and that is always a very good thing.

The quartet even had a sense of humor and "Should I Stay Or Should I Go" is a good example of that. I'm not sure the song was intended to be funny, but for some reason it always struck me that way.

Mick Jones combined his sneering vocals with lyrics such as "If I go there will be trouble, and if I stay it will be double." He's telling his girl that she loses either way. 

"Should I Stay Or Should I Go" is from Combat Rock, the last album The Clash recorded with their classic lineup of Jones, guitarist and singer Joe Strummer; bassist Paul Simonon, and Topper Headon - a drummer with a really great name.

The song has been interpreted to be about a breakup with singer/actress Ellen Foley, Jones' girlfriend at the time, or about his imminent departure from the band. Jones has said that neither story is true and that it's just a good song that rocks. 

For those of you who don't remember Foley, she was the female singer who duetted with Meat Loaf on "Paradise by the Dashboard Light" and she also portrayed a public defender on TV's Night Court in the mid-80s.

"Should I Stay Or Should I Go" was released as a double "A" sided single with "Straight To Hell"  that peaked at only #45 on the American Billboard Hot 100 in 1982. It did better worldwide when it was re-released after appearing in a Levi's blue jeans commercial in 1991, reaching the top ten in Europe and #1 in its homeland.

Product endorsement was not something that The Clash would normally agree to but in this case Jones justified the song's usage in an advertisement because blue jeans were heavily associated with the rock music scene.

"Should I Stay Or Should I Go" placed at #228 on Rolling Stone Magazine's list of 500 Greatest Songs of  All Time. 


Almost Hits is an occasional exploration into songs that failed to reach the top 20 on the American Billboard Hot 100. Many have become classics despite what their chart position would indicate.