The Clash – Should I Stay or Should I Go
Should I stay or should I go now?
(yo me enfrio o lo soplo)
If I go there will be trouble
(si me voy va a haber peligro)
And if I stay it will be double
(Si me quedo sera el doble)
So you gotta let me know
Should I stay or should I go?
It is absolutely fair, talking about 80s music, to mention as well some good 80s punk, a genre not so mainstream as metal, perhaps because it is often politicized and against the system, despite having become famous for the aesthetic reasons, with great performers that became icons for those who loved this kind of music (and it definitely took more courage and some sort of vocation to wear a Mohican, rather than simply having long hair).
Spanish has probably been the second national language of the 80s, and it ended up in many songs, which we listened to and continue to listen to. We can’t avoid awarding The Clash with the honor of being absolutely pioneers in using Spanish within songs.
Maybe because “la Revolución habla español”, revolution speaks Spanish, but it’s a fact that The Clash began to make extensive use of references to Hispanic texts starting from a resounding album of 1979, London Calling, which the magazine Rolling Stone ranked eighth among the 500 best albums ever. In this album we find Spanish Bombs, dedicated to the Spanish Civil War, seen from the republican perspective.
The next album, in 1980, also had a clearly evocative title (Sandinista, ranking 407 in the forementioned list, and let’s consider that we are talking about a triple album!!!), which puts it directly in the Spanish strand, making it a clear declaration of love for the victorious Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua and a blatant challenge to the Iron Lady, Margaret Thatcher, who has just entered in charge in the British government, and was planning to ban the use of that term across the UK. In this perspective, this song could be considered the first shot of that protest feeling that gave birth to songs like When all’s Well by Everything But the Girl, or even Tears for Fears’ Sowing the Seeds of Love.
Here we come to this song, Should I stay or should I go, released in June 1982, certainly lighter and not by chance written by Mick Jones, who asks the question of the title and the chorus thinking of a disputed relationship with a singer with whom he was having an affair; according to some speculation, Jones himself (who during an instrumental tour shouts “Split”) would be announcing with this song his departure from the group, which will eventually happen a year and a half later.
Both meanings can be true, but there is something we are absolutely sure of: the one who decided to insert the Spanish translation of the verses sung by Mick Jones as an echo was the leader of the group, Joe Strummer, born in Turkey and raised in Spain (following his father’s career in diplomacy). He got help in the translation work by a couple of friends. Actually these friends were from Ecuador, so the lyrics are closer to the dialect of those zones, rather than the Spanish spoken in Madrid.
The result is an extremely original and winning artistic masterpiece, which, for example, reached the platinum award in the UK and Italy, ranked 228th among the top 500 songs ever of “Rolling Stone”, and 42nd among the 100 best hard rock songs of VH1.
And the story goes on: in 1991 the band decided to re-release the single, taking advantage of the notoriety brought to it by a Levi’s denim advertisement: finally The Clash reached the top of the UK charts: the market definitely answered “Stay!” to the famous question.
The Clash on Wikipedia