The Clash’s ‘Should I Stay or Should I Go’ has been a gateway song for incoming punk fans since its release in 1982.
First recorded at Electric Lady in Greenwich Village, New York – an iconic recording studio which had previously played host to Jimi Hendrix, Blondie, Rolling Stones and Lou Reed – it was written for the band’s fifth album ‘Combat Rock’. While much of the rest of the record was filled with references to the Vietnam War and American politics, this jangling single combined the snarl of punk with giant power-pop melodies, rockabilly and Spanish backing vocals.
Though recording sessions for ‘Combat Rock’ were often tense elsewhere, ‘Should I Stay Or Should I Go’’s greatest quirks came about as a result of playful studio experimentation.
For example, while laying down the track, the band decided they wanted to perform the backing vocals in Spanish. In need of a translator, they called up friend Joe Ely – a Texan musician known for playing honky-tonk and rock’n’roll. “My Spanish was pretty much Tex-Mex,” Ely told Song Facts, “so it was not an accurate translation. But I guess it was meant to be sort of whimsical, because we didn’t really translate verbatim.”
For the latest installment of NME Explains, we take a deeper look at how The Clash wrote ‘Should I Stay or Should I Go’, revisiting their recording sessions and taking a look at the song’s long standing legacy. Watch the video in full above.