Joe Strummer of The Clash fame has a massive box set coming out chronicling all of the things he did outside of that seminal UK punk band. There’s a lot to touch on, from his early work with the pub rock band The 101ers to his immediately post-The Clash solo work to his world music influenced late era with The Mescaleros. The latest song to be released from the box set is a demo from Strummer entitled “Czechoslovak Song / Where Is England,” which bears an uncanny similarity to The Clash’s final album Cut The Crap‘s stand-out “This Is England.” The song featured The Clash bassist Paul Simonon and drummer Pete Howard.
While the actually-released version of the song is a fine composition (much like the rest of the sub-par Cut the Crap) the demo is apparently, tragically, a once-lost piece of timeless art. The original is a domestic backlash against the UKs conservative rule in the ’80s, but Strummer’s demo creates a vision from the perspective of the immigrant. This is a theme that current punk bands have been channeling perhaps due to our even-more-urgently pressing needs to address them. It the message all the more poignant that one of, if not the godfather of punk was trying to express it decades ago.
Unlike the original which is oversaturated with ’80s production “perfections,” the demo has a really refreshing dancehall echo that would reappear on many Mescaleros songs and was a little reminiscent of the production of Sandinista!. Other than Strummer’s iconic, distinct vocal delivery there’s little more than snare drumming and a thumping bass line. In the choruses a sparse guitar enters the mix. While it’s basically the same song as “This Is England,” it’s simultaneously and altogether different composition.