"Rock the Casbah" is a song by the English punk rock band The Clash, released in 1982. The song was released as the third single from their fifth album, Combat Rock. It reached number eight on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the U.S. (their only top 40 as well as only top 10 single in the United States) and, along with the track "Mustapha Dance", it also reached number eight on the dance chart.[4] It is the band's highest charting single worldwide.


 [hide*1 Origin


The song gives a fabulist account of a ban on rock music by the Sharif or King being defied by the population, who proceed to "rock the casbah." The King orders jet fighters to bomb any people in violation of the ban. The pilots ignored the orders, and instead play rock music on their cockpit radios.

The song's lyrics feature various Arabic, Hebrew, Turkish, and Sanskrit loan-words, such as sharifbedouinsheikhkosherrāgamuezzinminaret, and casbah.[5]

According to the album notes in the box set The Clash on Broadway, "Rock the Casbah" originated when the band's manager Bernie Rhodes, after hearing them record an inordinately long track for the album, asked them facetiously "does everything have to be as long as this rāga?" (referring to the Indian musical style known for its length and complexity). Joe Strummer later wrote the opening lines to the song: "The King told the boogie-men 'you have to let that rāga drop.'" The rest of the lyrics soon followed.[6][7]

The instrumental opening was a tune that drummer Topper Headon had written on the piano some time earlier and had toyed with during rehearsals before being incorporated into the song. In the 2000 documentary Westway to the World, Headon said he played drums, bass and piano on the record for the song. Headon claims that, while he thought he was merely playing the song for the band, his performances were recorded without his knowledge. All that was left to record were the guitar parts and the vocals. However, in The Future Is Unwritten (a documentary on Strummer), he states that he was in the studio waiting for the rest of the band to come to record, got sick of waiting, so recorded the parts himself.[8]


The Clash made low-budget music videos for several of their songs, and the one for "Rock the Casbah" may be their most memorable. Filmed in Austin, Texas, it depicts an Arab and aHasidic Jew befriending each other on the road and skanking together through the streets to a Clash concert at Austin's City Coliseum, often followed by an armadillo, interspersed with the band performing in front of an oil well.

The U.S. Air Force became an unwitting participant in the video. Two RF-4C aircraft landing at Bergstrom Air Force Base (near Austin) from the east are featured in the portion of the video with the lyrics "the King called out his jetfighters..."


The single version has more pronounced bass. Also when Joe Strummer screams "The crowd caught a whiff / Of that crazy casbah jive" at the end of the third verse the word "jive" is sustained for several seconds with digital delay. Additionally, the sound effects of the jet fighters in the last verse are lower in the mix, particularly just after "drop your bombs between the minarets." The single version of the song is what is played in the music video.

"Mustapha Dance", which features in many releases of the single, is an instrumental remix of the song.

Single issues[edit]Edit

The single has several issues, all with different cover, format and B-side (see the table below).[9]

Year B-side Format Label Country Note
1982 "Rock the Casbah" 45 rpm 7" vinyl Epic 34-03245 CAN/USA Promo
1982 "Mustapha Dance" 45 rpm 12" vinyl CBS/Sony Records Inc. 07.5P-191 JP
1982 "Mustapha Dance" 45 rpm 7" vinyl Epic 49-03144 USA
1982 "Mustapha Dance" 45 rpm 12" vinyl Epic 49-03144 CAN
1982 "Mustapha Dance" 45 rpm 7" vinyl CBS A112479 UK Picture disc
1982 "Red Angel Dragnet" 45 rpm 7" vinyl Epic 34-03245 CAN
1982 "Long Time Jerk" 45 rpm 7" vinyl Epic 34-03245 USA In blue Epic generic die cut sleeve
1982 "Mustapha Dance" 45 rpm 12" vinyl CBS A 13-2479 UK
1982 "Long Time Jerk" 45 rpm 7" vinyl Epic 15-05540 USA
1991 "Mustapha Dance" 45 rpm 7" vinyl Columbia 656814-7 UK Reissue
  1. "Mustapha Dance"
  2. "The Magnificent Dance"
45 rpm 12" vinyl Columbia 656814-6 UK
  1. "Mustapha Dance"
  2. "The Magnificent Dance"
CD Columbia 656814-2 UK

Cultural impact[edit]Edit

The song was chosen by Armed Forces Radio to be the first song broadcast on the service covering the area during Operation Desert Storm. In one of the campfire scenes late in the 2007 documentary Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten, a Granada friend states that Strummer wept when he heard that the phrase "Rock the Casbah" was written on an American bomb that was to be detonated on Iraq during the 1991 Gulf War.[10]

Following the terrorist attacks on 11 September 2001, the song was placed on the list of post-9/11 inappropriate titles distributed by Clear Channel. In 2006, the conservative National Review released their list of the top 50 "Conservative Rock Songs", with "Rock the Casbah" at No. 20, noting the Clear Channel list as well as frequent requests to the British Forces Broadcasting Service during the Iraq War.[11]

Cultural reviewer and political analyst Charlie Pierce commented that "the notion of the Clash as spokesfolk for adventurism in the Middle East might have been enough to bring Joe Strummer back from the dead."[12]

In 2011, Robin Wright's book[13] on the Arab Spring was named after this song.[14]

In The Simpsons episode "Natural Born Kissers", Bart asks Homer "Did you Rock the Casbah?" in reference to sex. The track also plays over the ending credits of the episode. Earlier in the same episode, while Homer and Marge are debating whether or not to have sex, Marge says "I suppose we should rock the casbah". In an episode of King of the Hill, Kahn, bored by Hank's speech in a focus group, starts singing the chorus and spinning around in his chair before falling over.

In the video game Sin and its expansion pack Wages of Sin, JC says "Rock the Casbah!" over the radio sometimes when Blade (the player) destroys a crate which contains an item: weapon, armor, health item or ammo.

The song title has inspired the name of an annual fundraiser named Rock the Kasbah which is hosted by Sir Richard Branson.

Rock the Kasbah will also be the title for an upcoming movie starring Bill Murray and directed by Barry Levinson.[15]

Cover versions[edit]Edit

Other versions of "Rock the Casbah" have been recorded by the Austin, Texas band One Bad Pig, on the 1992 album Blow the House Down; the Australian band Something for KateSolar Twins on the movie soundtrack for the 1999 filmBrokedown Palace; the American band Trust Company; the Japanese duo Tica recording a version in 2000 sampled by the English drum and basstrip hop group from Bristol, Smith & Mighty;[16] and the Asturian studio project Soncai System, who did an Asturian language version of the song on the album Clashturies (2007).

The Algerian rock singer Rachid Taha covered the song (in Arabic) on his 2004 album Tékitoi. On 27 November 2005 at the Astoria, London, during the Stop the War Coalition Benefit Concert, "...for the night's grandstanding conclusion, the Clash legend Mick Jones strides on in a skinny black suit and plays probably the most exciting guitar he has delivered in years. He and the band are brilliant on Taha's definitive take on "Rock the Casbah", for which the audience goes berserk."[17] They played again the Taha's version of the song, "Rock el Casbah", on February 2006, at the France 4 TV show Taratatà.[18] In 2007 at the Barbican, ".... The band were later joined by special guest Mick Jones from The Clash who performed on "Rock El Casbah" and then stayed on stage for the remainder of the show."[19][20]

Will Smith's song "Will 2K" of the Willennium album samples "Rock the Casbah" both instrumentally and in some of the lyrics.[21] "It's Gonna Be Alright" by house act Pussy 2000 also samples the song.[22] Richard Cheese recorded alounge cover of the song on his 2004 album I'd Like a VirginU2 have also played a snippet of the song on their 2005–2006 Vertigo tour. After hearing the crowd singing the song as it was played over the loudspeaker before the start of the concert, Bono, the lead singer of U2 started singing "Rock the Casbah" in the middle of one of their songs during a concert in Melbourne. It has also made appearances on their 360° Tour. It has been played in Sunday Bloody Sunday, which shows clips from Iranian protests. Green Day covered the song near the end of their AOL Sessions, and also performed it during a 2004 concert at The Warfield San Francisco.

Howlin' Pelle Almqvist of The Hives covered the song with some members of another Swedish Band, Randy for a Joe Strummer Tribute concert at The Debaser in Stockholm.

A cover version was also recorded by Ranking Roger and Pato Banton in 1999 for the Clash tribute album Burning London: The Clash Tribute.

On some album versions ("Combat Rock" as well as the double CD set "The Essential Clash") you can hear the monophonic sound of a watch playing the song "Dixie" in the background. Supposedly it is Jones' watch and intentional.

Other references[edit]Edit

In The Refreshments song "Preacher's Daughter", the protagonist, who was arrested by a sheriff who had eyes for the same preacher's daughter, was sent to prison. After he was released, he met up with and "stole a kiss or two" from the daughter, who by then was married to the sheriff, and about the kisses he exclaimed (paraphrasing The Clash): "Sheriff don't like it"[23]


Rel. Year Chart Peak


1st 1982 Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[24] 21
1982 Netherlands (Mega Single Top 100)[25] 21
1982 Sweden (Sverigetopplistan)[26] 16
1982 UK (Official Charts Company)[27] 30
1982 US Billboard Hot 100[28] 8
1982 US BillboardHot Dance Club Play[28] 8
1982 US BillboardHot Mainstream Rock Tracks[28] 6
1983 Australian Kent Music Report[29] 3
1983 Canadian RPM Top Singles[30] 17
1983 New Zealand (Recorded Music NZ)[31] 4
2nd 1991 Belgium (Ultratop 50 Flanders)[32] 22
1991 Irish Singles Chart[33] 10
1991 UK (Official Charts Company)[27] 15


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