Should I Stay Or Should I Go was track three on The Clash's 1982 album, Combat Rock. It was released as a single in September of that year, and reached number 17 in the U.K. charts. Ten years later, the track was licensed by Levi's for use in an ad for their fine denim products (yes, I own about 5 pairs of Levi jeans and I'm very satisfied with them), and was released as a single - and reached number one, giving The Clash their first and only number one single six years after their break-up, and nine years after Mick Jones had left the band.
Should I Stay Or Should I Go is one of those classic rock songs that almost everybody recognises from the opening riff - hence its selection by Levi's, who also used songs like Johnny Cash's Ring Of Fire, T Rex's 20th Century Boy, and Joker by the Steve Miller Band. The song is indicative of Mick Jones' desire for The Clash to become a classic rock band, in the vein of The Who, which went against Joe Strummer's interest in dub, reggae, funk and even rap music. In terms of writing credits, Should I Stay Or Should I Go was credited to the entire band (like the majority of their post-London Calling material), but was actually written and sung by Mick Jones.
Apart from the riff, one of the first things you notice about Should I Stay Or Should I Go are that the backing vocals are in Spanish (Well, ok, you mightn't notice it straight away, but listen carefully next time you hear it, and you'll notice them for sure). Sung by Joe Strummer and Texan country-rocker Joe Ely (who was touring with The Clash at the time, joining Bo Diddley, The Treacherous Three and The Jam in the rather mixed pantheon of bands who supported The Clash), and Kosmo Vinyl (who also did an amusing Robert De Niro impression for Red Angel Dragnet, also on Combat Rock), the backing vocals are the lyrics translated into either Ecuadorian or Puerto Rican Spanish, depending on who you believe. Joe Ely claims that they were translated by himself, Joe and the studio engineer, who was Puerto Rican, whereas Kosmo Vinyl, in the sleevenotes to On Broadway, the 3-CD Clash box set, claims that they were translated into Ecuadorian Spanish by the sound engineer's mother, over the 'phone. Apparently, Joe Strummer originally intended to echo everything Jones sang in Spanish, just to piss him off, which would have grown very tedious. Happily, he relented and only did some of the song, which works well, IMHO.
Another mildly amusing anecdote about the recording of the song...during the instrumental break, Strummer and Ely both snuck up on Jones in the recording booth, scaring the shit out of him. Jones responded with a filthy look, and told them to "split!", which was captured on the mic, and left in the final version of the song. Should I Stay Or Should I Go was recorded in Jimi Hendrix's old Electric Ladyland studios in New York, and produced and mixed by Glyn Johns.
- The booklet that came with On Broadway, the Clash box set.
Dedicated to Glowing Fish - you were wrong, dude!