When she was a kid, Lily Allen knew her stepdad as “Uncle Joe”, the benevolent, whisky-glugging neighbour who was always hanging out with her dad Keith.
Uncle Joe was, of course, Joe Strummer, ex of The Clash. Years later, Lily Allen cribbed some of The Clash’s moves for her debut album. Like them, she delivered second-wave ska in a demotic London accent, guided by an instinct for a sweet pop hook (though with the politics scooped out).
So it makes sense that she’s now hooked up with another Clash member, Mick Jones, for a cover of ‘Straight To Hell’, one of the band’s most passion-filled, yet seldom heard, songs.
Originally released as a double-A side with ‘Should I Stay Or Should I Go’ in 1982, it exhibits none of the radio-friendly punch of its twin. Seven minutes long in its original state, lyrically the song is a scabrous, globe-spanning roll-call of social injustices, from industrial decline in the North of England to the persecution of Puerto Rican immigrants in New York.
It was sampled by M.I.A. on her track ‘Paper Planes’. Perhaps it’s typical of a noughties pop magpie such as Lily Allen to cover a song that has already been absorbed into a hipster classic.
Lily’s version was recorded for the charity album ‘War Child Heroes’, which also features covers by Duffy (doing Paul McCartney’s ‘Live And Let Die’), Franz Ferdinand (Blondie’s ‘Call Me’) and Elbow (an elegant, smoky-voiced rendition of U2’s ‘Running To Stand Still’).