Complete Control

Complete Control
"Complete Control"
Single by The Clash
from the album The Clash (US ver.)
B-side "City of the Dead"
Released 23 September 1977 (U.K.)
Format 7" single
Recorded In 1977 at Sarm East Studios, Whitechapel, London, England
Genre Punk rock
Length 3:10
Label CBS S CBS 5664
Writer(s) Joe Strummer/Mick Jones
Producer Lee "Scratch" Perry
The Clash singles chronology
"Remote Control"
"Complete Control"
"Clash City Rockers"
The Clash reissued singles chronology
"Train in Vain" (rerelease)
"Complete Control" (live)

"Complete Control" is a song by The Clash, released as a 7" single and featured on the U.S. release of their debut album.[1]

The song is often cited as one of punk's greatest singles, and is a fiery polemic on record companies, managers and the state of punk music itself, the motivation for the song being the band's label (CBS Records) releasing "Remote Control" without bothering to ask them, something that infuriated the group. The song also features perhaps the earliest usage of the phrase "guitar hero" in rock music, as sung by Joe Strummer to Mick Jones. The song also refers to managers of the time who sought to control their groups–Bernie Rhodes (of The Clash) and Malcolm McLaren (the Sex Pistols)–indeed, the song's very title is derived from this theme:

Bernie [Rhodes] had a meeting in The Ship in Soho after the Anarchy Tour. He said he wanted complete control...I came out of the club with Paul [Simonon] collapsing on the pavement in hysterics at those words.

The track also refers to the band's run-ins with the police, their practice of letting fans into gigs through the back door or window for free and a punk idealism seemingly crushed by the corporate reality they had become part of and the betrayal and anger they felt. The overriding message of the song can be recognised in this couplet from the song:

They said, we'd be artistically free / When we signed that bit of paper.

This message was scorned by some critics as naïveté on the part of the band - legendary DJ the late John Peel was one of those, suggesting that the group must have realised CBS were not 'a foundation for the arts', while others were strong in their support of the single, for example:

Instead of a piece of cynicism, Complete Control becomes a hymn to Punk autonomy at its moment of eclipse.

The track was recorded at Sarm East Studios in Whitechapel, engineered by Mickey Foote and produced by Lee "Scratch" Perry. Perry had heard the band's cover of his Junior Murvin hit "Police and Thieves" and was moved enough to have put a picture of the band (the only white artist accorded such an honor) on the walls of his Black Ark Studio in Jamaica. When the Clash learned that Perry was in London producing for Bob Marley & the Wailers, he was invited to produce the single. "Scratch" readily agreed.

During the tracking session, some Clash and Perry biographies claim that Perry had blown out a studio mixing board attempting to get a deep bass sound out of Paul Simonon's instrument, while a 1979 New Musical Express and Hit Parader article self-penned by Strummer and Jones stated that Perry had complimented Jones' guitar playing by describing it as someone who "played with an iron fist". Perry's contribution to the track, however, was toned down - the band went back and fiddled with the song themselves to bring the guitars out and played down the echo Perry had dropped on it. The song was also Topper Headon's first recording with the band, following the departure of Terry Chimes.

"Complete Control" reached number 28 in the singles chart, making it The Clash's first Top 30 release. In 1999, CBS Records reissued the single with a live version of "Complete Control". In 2004, Rolling Stone rated the song as #361 in its list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.[2][3] The song is featured as a playable track in the video games Guitar Hero: Aerosmith and Rock Band.[4]


Chart Peak
UK Singles Chart 28


  1. ^ Letts Don; Joe Strummer, Mick Jones, Paul Simonon, Topper Headon, Terry Chimes, Rick Elgood, The Clash (2001). The Clash, Westway to the World (Documentary). New York, NY: Sony Music Entertainment; Dorismo; Uptown Films. Event occurs at 11:45–13:30. ISBN 0738900826. OCLC 49798077. 
  2. ^ "The RS 500 Greatest Songs of All Time". RollingStone. 2004-12-09. Retrieved 2007-11-22. "361. Complete Control, The Clash" 
  3. ^ "Complete Control The Clash". The RS 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. RollingStone. 2004-12-09. Retrieved 2007-11-22. 
  4. ^ Sliwinski, Alexander (2008-02-11). "The Clash, The Police and The Ramones". Rock Band Weekly. Joystiq. Retrieved 2008-02-13. "Complete Control - The Clash (160 MS points/ $2)" 


  • Gilbert, Pat (2005) [2004]. Passion Is a Fashion: The Real Story of The Clash (4th edition ed.). London: Aurum Press. ISBN 1845131134. OCLC 61177239. 
  • Gray, Marcus (2005) [1995]. The Clash: Return of the Last Gang in Town (5th revised edition ed.). London: Helter Skelter. ISBN 1905139101. OCLC 60668626. 
  • Green, Johnny; Garry Barker (2003) [1997]. A Riot of Our Own: Night and Day with The Clash (3rd edition ed.). London: Orion. ISBN 0752858432. OCLC 52990890. 
  • Gruen, Bob; Chris Salewicz (2004) [2001]. The Clash (3rd edition ed.). London: Omnibus. ISBN 1903399343. OCLC 69241279. 
  • Needs, Kris (2005-01-25). Joe Strummer and the Legend of the Clash. London: Plexus. ISBN 085965348X. OCLC 53155325. 
  • Topping, Keith (2004) [2003]. The Complete Clash (2nd edition ed.). Richmond: Reynolds & Hearn. ISBN 1903111706. OCLC 63129186. 

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