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Greatest Song At This Moment - The Clash's "Drug-Stabbing Time"

Dedicated to those songs that I can't stop playing, humming, or thinking about; the 4+ minutes you fall head-over-heels in love with. Past instances have included Weezer's "El Scorcho," Ronnie & The Daytona's "Little G.T.O.", and Tender Box's "Spectacular Spider-man Theme."

I'm breaking yet another rule for myself. After breaking the no-repeating-artists rule a few weeks back, I thought I could at least hold off on repeating tracks from the same album. I've removed all previous G.S.A.T.M.'s from my world, and it was enough to broaden my horizons. Until this week. Not only is this song from the same album as previous G.S.A.T.M. "Guns On The Roof", it's the track immediately following. I am a shallow, uncultured, sheltered person, but I don't care. When you fall this hard, nothing else matters.

And while I'm at it, I'm going to continue this semi-insulting tirade by suggesting that a signature moment in film could have been made better: if Danny Boyle had used The Clash's "Drug-Stabbing Time" instead of "Lust For Life" for the opening chase scene in Trainspotting, then the world would be better for it. Right from the start, The Clash song feels so much like a dead sprint from cops that the only reason for Boyle not to use it must have to be it's title, and good for him. It's too on the head. One of my biggest pet peeves in movies is when songs are chosen for their lyrics and/or title appropriateness instead of for their true sonic mood. Just because a song is called "I Feel Good" does not mean that everyone feeling good at that moment should want to play that song. There are many other songs which display good feeling. Furthermore, not every song about, say, sleeping with girls actually feels like it's about sleeping with girls. Most of those songs are about talking about sleeping with girls. If the opening chase in "Trainspotting" had only been about running at a full sprint from the cops and had nothing to do with drugs, then "Drug-Stabbing Time" would have fit perfectly. Lyrically, the song claims to be all about, well, the time to stab drugs. Emotionally, it feels like running for your life.

I generally listen to fast songs, exciting songs and songs that get me yelling along. "Drug-Stabbing Time" fits every one of these criteria better than nearly any other song I can or will ever imagine. It drives out ever conceivable alternative through 3 minutes and 43 seconds of fury, and then repeats with ease. A friend might recommend an exciting song, or a fast song, or a song to get me yelling along, and I would agree that I would do all those things to this certain song... but I wouldn't get as excited, jump as fast or yell as loudly as with "Drug-Stabbing Time". This tune feels like a laundry list of "That's the Greatest Part Of the Song" moments that attempting to give it descriptive, mind-blowing justice, I must momentarily regress to my 10-year-old self: "First it opens like a nuclear explosion, then there's some subdued cowbell, but then you can't hear it 'cause everything's too loud (but how could this ever be 'too loud'), then there's that 'Paying off the big fi-i-i-i-ine' bit from Mick Jones with that jump-off-the-cliff style of finish -- sounding like the kind of vocals everyone should do all the time -- and really that's kinda what the song feels like anyway, and then sometimes the vocals work together and then other times they deviate by design, and then comes the first of many 'And-They're-Off-AGAIN!' moments at around 2:30, and the song could've stopped there, but instead gives us our FIRST encore before getting even greater with Strummer's spoken-word story, which includes that 'bamp-uh-bump-ah-bamp-uh-bump-uh-bam-bam!' exchange of hard-ass guitar badness. And the band could have stopped right there, too. In fact, the more ambitious Clash of later days might have, but these guys were smarter than that, 'cause then the whole damn band -- vocals, drums, horns, everything -- all build to the FINAL encore and everything great about everything is exciting and you're beaming and screaming out loud, and the song still manages to end too soon."

The first time I heard "Drug-Stabbing" was a late Saturday night, cruising home on the 90/94 highway into Chicago. I was listening to Rancid Radio (a possible casualty of the Sirius/XM Radio merger), it was dark, I was speeding and nothing sounded better at that moment than this song. After racing home, I quickly searched for the song to recapture this greatness, but sitting at my computer wasn't the same. A few years later after purchasing "Give 'Em Enough Rope", I wasn't let down by "Drug-Stabbing Time", but I wasn't enamored either. That's because of the relationship between music and the accompanying physical activity. Chamber music was designed for people to sit and listen. Dance music is for people to dance. Some music is for cleaning dishes, dusting, drawing doodles, playing drums, typing and re-writing dramatic scenes, while other music demand high speeds. Picture the graphics from antacid commercials, where a cartoon human body injests the pill and we not only follow it down the pipe, but we see the "upset tummy" waves disappear. Some music enters the body and creates "jump around" waves, "punch the air" waves and "grab a girl" waves. "Drug-Stabbing Time" happens to create "sprint down the hall, out the door, and down the street" waves. Anything less feels wrong, or at least "less great." Listening to it while sitting is difficult, and walking is wrong. To fully appreciate the song, you must be traveling at the right speed or doing the correct physical activity.

As I listen to the song again and again, I go through my stages of Song Love.
01. - hear the song/moment of Wow!
02. - move it to High Priority level in iPod
03. - play all the time
04. - grab guitar, try to figure out song, learning the lyrics and chords
05. - playing along at semi-top volume
06. - playing along at top volume
07. - re-enter society unable to concentrate on anything but playing the song/playing along with the song.

But these stages are a lie to the truth, and deep down I know it. I've now had a taste of the speed/song/phsycal activity vortex, and I want a whole meal. I want to jump into traffic, dodge cars, grab a purse and run into the alley. I want to make daring escapes, unplanned window exits and kick in doors. Someone should be after me, we should be on foot, then slide down a banister and jump over a car. I've got what they want, and they want it back. I'm in less-than-Olympic physical shape, so my legs can't keep this up forever. I need an edge, and that edge is my "repeat" button. My lungs burn, but I do not slow. Suddenly I'm like that "Transporter" movie, where if I stop I blow up or something. This bus has to stay above 50 mph because it has the need for speed. "They" are after me, but They'll never catch me. The best They could hope for is a tie, but only if They're listening to "Drug-Stabbing Time" at full blast, too. And if that's the case, then at least we can agree on something.




The Clash

Written By Phillip Mottaz

Posted:
Greatest Song At This Moment - The Clash's "Drug-Stabbing Time"