"The Guns of Brixton
" is a song by The Clash
on their third album, London Calling
, released in 1979. It was written and sung by bassist Paul Simonon
, who grew up in Brixton
, south London
. It has a strong reggae
influence, reflecting the culture of the area, with a knowing nod to the classic reggae gangster film, The Harder They Come
. A somewhat heavier, faster version than the one found on London Calling
appeared on the live compilation From Here to Eternity: Live
, released in 1999.
The song pre-dates the race riots that took place in the 1980s in Brixton but the lyrics depict the feelings of discontent that were building due to heavy-handedness of the police that lead to the riots, the recession and other problems at that time.
Not originally released as a single in 1979 when London Calling was released, The Guns of Brixton was released by CBS Records as a CD single from the remastered version of the album in July 1990 (catalog number 656072-2), to reach #57 in the UK Singles Charts. The track listing is:
- "Return to Brixton" — 3:47
- "Return to Brixton" — 6:55
- "Return to Brixton" (SW2 Dub) — 6:00
- "The Guns of Brixton" — 3:09
It was the only track written solely by Simonon to be released on any original Clash album.
When playing the song live Simonon used to switch instruments with Strummer because he felt uncomfortable playing the bassline and singing lead vocals.
A section of "The Guns of Brixton" appears as a reprise at the end of the song "Broadway" on the Clash's album Sandinista!, sung by a very young Maria Gallagher, with a simple keyboard accompaniment.
The song has been covered by numerous bands over the years, including Arcade Fire
, Unwritten Law
, Dropkick Murphys
, Jeff Klein
, The Bandits
, Nouvelle Vague
, Optimus Rhyme
, My Red Hot Nightmare
punk band Die Toten Hosen
, Polish street punk
band The Analogs
, the German hardcore punk
band The Deadstock
band Los Fabulosos Cadillacs
, Polish ska
, The Libertines
, and the italian singer Enrico Ruggeri
In 1981 a German punk band named Soilent Grün used the melody of "The Guns of Brixton" for their song "Spitz Wie Lumpi".
Sydney born band The Beautiful Girls released a cover version in 2003 entilted "Guns of Brixton / Dub Be Good to Me".
The bass line was also sampled for Beats International's 1990 hit "Dub Be Good to Me" and Cypress Hill's 2004 hit "What's Your Number?".
French dub-rock outfit Guns of Brixton formed in 2004 took their name from that song.
In 2006, MC Chris used "The Guns of Brixton" as a beat on the song "Blastic", from the album Dungeon Master of Ceremonies.
Arcade Fire's acoustic version of the song was likely played for the first time during their 5 day mini-tour of London in early February 2007; it was also used to close their 4 night stint at Brixton Academy in March 2007. They also performed it on the BBC's Culture Show.
In January 2007, NME reported that The Good, the Bad and the Queen, which features Simonon on bass, ended the first set of their UK tour (Trinity Hall, Bristol) in promotion of their debut album with this song (and Simonon on vocals).
Santogold covered the song in 2008 for her Top Ranking mixtape with Diplo. The lyrics were changed from Brixton to Brooklyn.
- Gilbert, Pat (2005). Passion Is a Fashion: The Real Story of The Clash. 4th edition, London: Aurum Press.
- Gray, Marcus (2005). The Clash: Return of the Last Gang in Town. 5th revised edition, London: Helter Skelter.
- Green, Johnny; Garry Barker (2003). A Riot of Our Own: Night and Day with The Clash. 3rd edition, London: Orion.
- Gruen, Bob; Chris Salewicz (2004). The Clash. 3rd edition, London: Omnibus.
- Needs, Kris Joe Strummer and the Legend of the Clash. London: Plexus.
- Topping, Keith (2004). The Complete Clash. 2nd edition, Richmond: Reynolds & Hearn.