Rock the Casbah

Rock the Casbah
"Rock the Casbah"
Single by The Clash
from the album Combat Rock
B-side "Long Time Jerk"
Released 11 June 1982
Format Vinyl, CD single
Recorded 1981
Genre Disco-punk
Length 3:43
Label CBS, Epic
Writer(s) The Clash[1]
Producer The Clash
The Clash singles chronology
"Should I Stay or Should I Go"
"Rock the Casbah"
"Straight to Hell"
The Clash reissued singles chronology
"Should I Stay or Should I Go" (rerelease)
"Rock the Casbah" (rerelease)
"London Calling" (2nd rerelease)
Music sample
The Clash "Rock the Casbah" (1982)

"Rock the Casbah" is a song by the English punk rock band The Clash in 1982. It was released as the third single from their fifth album, Combat Rock. The song reached number eight on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the U.S. (their only top 10 single Stateside) and, along with the track "Mustapha Dance," it also reached number eight on the dance chart.[2] It is the band's highest charting single worldwide.



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 sharif, bedouin, sheikh, kosher, rāga, muezzin, minaret, and casbah.[3]

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.[4]

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.[5]

Popular culture

The song was chosen by Armed Forces Radio to be the first song broadcast on the service covering the area during Operation Desert Storm.


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, played by Austin actor Titos Menchaca, and a Hasidic Jew, played by local stage director Dennis Razze, befriending each other on the road and skanking together through the streets to a Clash concert at Austin 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. 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

The single has several issues, all with different cover, format and B-side (see the table below).[6]

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

In 2006, the conservative National Review released their list of the top 50 "Conservative Rock Songs," with "Rock the Casbah" at #20, noting its frequent requests during the Iraq War.[7] "Rock the Casbah" also was one of the songs deemed inappropriate by Clear Channel following the September 11, 2001 attacks.[8]

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.[9] 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."[10]

Popular Culture has made use of the term "Rock the Casbah" in a number of ways. Most commonly, it means to perform an act which while not within the law may be regarded as "correct". It has also come into use as a euphemism for sexual intercourse. 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. In 2011, a book[11] on the Arab Spring was named after this song.[12]

Cover versions

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 Kate; Solar Twins (band) on the movie soundtrack for the 1999 film Brokedown Palace; the American band Trust Company; the Japanese duo Tica recording a version in 2000 sampled by the English drum and bass, trip hop group from Bristol, Smith & Mighty;[13] 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."[14] They played again the Taha's version of the song, "Rock el Casbah," on February 2006, at the France 4 TV show Taratatà.[15] 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."[16][17]

Will Smith's song "Will 2K" of the Willennium album samples "Rock the Casbah" both instrumentally and in some of the lyrics. "It's Gonna Be Alright" by house act Pussy 2000 also samples the song. Richard Cheese recorded a lounge cover of the song on his 2004 album I'd Like a Virgin. U2 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 360o 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 have performed it live.

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.

The Hungarian singer Varga Zsuzsa covered this song on her album called "Szívadóvevő." It's mostly an energetic, electronic version.[18]

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.


Chart (1982/3) Peak
Australian Singles Chart[19] 3
Canadian Singles Chart 26
Netherlands MegaCharts[20] 21
New Zealand Single Chart[21] 4
UK Singles Chart[22] 30
U.S. Billboard Hot 100[23] 8
U.S. Billboard Hot Dance[23] 8
U.S. Billboard Main[23] 6
Chart (1991, Re-release) Peak
Irish Singles Chart[24] 10
UK Singles Chart[22] 15



  1. ^ Topper Headon is said to have written the main piano riff, but he as well as the rest of the band are credited
  2. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Hot Dance/Disco: 1974-2003. Record Research. p. 59. 
  3. ^ "Rock the Casbah". Combat Rock Lyrics. Retrieved 2008-01-20. 
  4. ^ The Clash (1991-11-19). Clash on Broadway (CD). New York, NY: Epic. OCLC 25248082. 
  5. ^ Letts Don; Rick Elgood, Joe Strummer, Mick Jones, Paul Simonon, Topper Headon, Terry Chimes, The Clash (2001). The Clash, Westway to the World (Documentary). New York, NY: Sony Music Entertainment; Dorismo; Uptown Films. ISBN 0738900826. OCLC 49798077. 
  6. ^ "Rock the Casbah / Mustapha Dance by The Clash : Reviews and Ratings - Rate Your Music". Retrieved 2007-12-27. 
  7. ^ Miller, John J. (2006-05-26). "John J. Miller on Music on National Review Online". Rockin' the Right – The 50 greatest conservative rock songs.. National Review Online. Retrieved 2008-01-20. "20. “Rock the Casbah,” by The Clash.
    After 9/11, American radio stations were urged not to play this 1982 song, one of the biggest hits by a seminal punk band, because it was seen as too provocative. Meanwhile, British Forces Broadcasting Service (the radio station for British troops serving in Iraq) has said that this is one of its most requested tunes."
  8. ^ "Songs with Questionable Lyrics". Retrieved 2008-01-20. "The Clash "Rock the Casbah"" 
  9. ^ Ty, Burr (November 9, 2007). "Joe Strummer: The Future is Unwritten Movie Review". Boston Globe. Retrieved September 24, 2010. 
  10. ^ Charles P. Pierce, Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free (Doubleday, 2009), chapter 5.
  11. ^ Robin Wright (2011). Rock the Casbah: Rage and Rebellion Across the Islamic World. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-1-439103166. 
  12. ^ "'Rock the Casbah' Author: Hip-Hop Has Been the Rhythm of Arab Spring". PBS News Hour. PBS. July 21,2011.
  13. ^ "Tica – Rock the Casbah (Smith & Mighty Steppers mix) – Music at". Retrieved 2007-12-27. 
  14. ^ Cumming, Tim (2005-11-29). "A riotous night for peace". Review: A riotous night for peace. The Independent, and Stop the War Coalition. Archived from the original on 2008-01-23. Retrieved 2007-09-06. 
  15. ^ Videos: Rachid Taha & Mick Jones - Rock El Casbah and Rock El Casbah - Rachid Taha & Mick Jones - Taratata)
  16. ^ "BBC - Africa On Your Street - Features - Rachid Taha" (SHTML). AFRICA ON YOUR STREET Celebrating African Music in the UK. Retrieved 2007-09-06. "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." 
  17. ^ Video: Rock The Casbah,Rachid Taha,Barbican,2007,mick jones,guest
  18. ^ Video: Varga Zsuzsa - Rock the Casbah live at Zöld Pardon 2007.05.11.
  19. ^ "Discography The Clash". 
  20. ^ "Discografie The Clash". 
  21. ^ "Discography The Clash". 
  22. ^ a b "Chart Stats - The Clash". 
  23. ^ a b c "The Clash > Charts & Awards > Billboard Singles". Allmusic.
  24. ^ "The Irish Charts". IRMA. 

External links

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