Experiencing Sandanista! While Stoned and Walking San Francisco

Listen to this while high: Sandinista! by The Clash

Behind the buzz: In the most literal sense, Sandinista! is the dopest punk album of all time. The Clash's fourth studio LP is a six-sided monstrosity alternately damned upon its 1980 release by purists as a sellout of punk verities, and damned later by the likes of Kurt Cobain for pretty much the same offense. The most dated and topically political of all Clash records, this one is paradoxically the only one that sounds in any way current in both matter and manner, as the band's prototypical hustle 'n slam is entirely submerged in the dub-laden, disco-ratcheting ambiance of the London metropolis that birthed it. This insight is available to anyone who takes a leg around the city with this 144-minute extravagonzo on MP3 as soundtrack, as I did only yesterday. To paraphrase the late Spaulding Gray, it was the first day off in a very long time and I hadn't heard this beast of an album in its entirety in far longer, so I took it with.

Today's weed: One third of one bar of Bhang Medical Cannabis Dark Chocolate, a tasty little dollop of pure indica, and surprisingly palatable as nom.

"If music could talk": I consumed the above outside Amoeba on Haight Street a little after noon and dallied a while in the country section. The store P.A. groaned with Townes Van Zandt laments morbid enough for me to reflexively score a Jonathan Richman CD I didn't already own and lope outside, cueing up Sandinista! as I went. This choccie worked fast on an empty stomach and the wakey-wakey disco hammer of "The Magnificent Seven" and "Hitsville U.K." set the pace as I footpadded it downhill past scores of smiling people, their faces one long cheerful smear. This was far better than any "mike 'n boom in your living room," and the feeling of being simultaneously in someone else's repressive, exuberant London and the giddy but well-mannered free-for-all that is 2011 San Francisco got stronger with each turn in my preplanned three-mile route. Boys were chatting up girls, other girls were walking hand-in-hand, and Ivan was meeting G.I. Joe nearly everywhere I looked.

Bummer reverie: The sour thoughts expressed in "Something About England" -- about a class divide that seemingly goes on unchanged forever despite war and upheavals -- seem almost inadequate today. Especially after thirty-odd years of encountering bundles of dirty old clothes with people in them.

High point:
Backing all the way up to "Junco Partner" and dancing in the rows at Bibliohead bookshop. Those wheezing strings and Joe Strummer's hammy vocals make this reggae version one of the most head-ringing psychoactive joints on the first disc of the old LP. This compares to the original Champion Jack Dupree version the same way PBR stands up to white mule.

"We don't want no gang boss/We want to equalise":
My destination was the picket action at the Palace Hotel downtown on New Montgomery Street, where members of Unite Here Local 2 marching and chanting in support of a boycott that fittingly cut "The Equaliser" short. The substance of their case is the same as that of workers all over the country -- massive profits aren't being shared, and workers work for what many a better-heeled Bay Area resident would regard disdainfully as squat. Police loitered lazily, as if they expected no trouble, while marchers' cries of "Tomorrow it could be you!" rang throatily. After a few minutes of standing around grinning with a number of other suddenly festive bystanders, I replaced the earbuds and let the opening bass throb of "Charlie Don't Surf" play me around the corner to Mission Street and the long float home.


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Tim Merrick
Tim Merrick

Surely 36 tracks merit 18 paragraphs?

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