We sat down with the two surviving members of The Clash, Paul Simonon and Mick Jones, to discuss life after fame, future musical endeavors, and what the living fuck a casbah is. Mick, Paul, thanks for being with us.
Simonon: All right.
Interviewer: So, let’s get this out of the way. You were involved in some of the greatest rock albums of all time, with singles like London Calling, Bankrobber, and of course, Rock the Casbah. You’ve been involved in fun projects afterward, like the Gorillaz live band. What does the future hold for you now? Also–and I know this is embarrassing–can someone finally explain what a casbah is? *laughs*
Jones: Casbah? Buggered if I know. Anyway, I’ve been making some appearances on newer albums by–
Interviewer: Hold on. You don’t know what it is? I thought you guys wrote that song.
Jones: Well, we did, but we don’t know why. Have you ever found yourself singing a catchy song without even knowing what it means? That’s just how it was.
Simonon: Plenty of our audience doesn’t understand it, that’s for sure. We can tell from the vacant gaze they have during the chorus. Honestly, let’s not pretend any of us have a clue what “Shareef don’t like it, rock the casbah” means. No one does, including us. Let’s just all agree it’s fun to sing and leave it at that.
Interviewer: So, what was your thought process behind writing and performing such a catchy song with lyrics you yourselves didn’t understand?
Simonon: Joe was playing chords on his guitar and accidentally coughed, and it kind of came out as “casbargh.” We didn’t know what that meant, but we liked the sound of it, so we all started chanting “casbah, casbah, casbah,” and then it naturally developed from there. No idea what it means, but it’s fun to sing, innit?
Jones: It was the ’80s. There was a lot of one-hit wonders and new-wave rubbish, and we just wanted to mess things up. Triple-album about Nicaragua here, drunk frontman there, and, in this case, a made-up word about something that doesn’t exist.
Interviewer: Your band has written powerful, political, and often witty music in the past. Surely there’s some kind of deeper meaning to this song that you’re not discussing.
Interviewer: Aren’t you at least curious to find out what your own lyrics mean?
Simonon: Like 30 years ago, just for a laugh, I asked me mum what a casbah was and she went, “Oh, just like in that song! Shareef don’t like it…” Then she hummed a bit, trailed off, said “Yeah, good song,” and forgot my question! Honestly, I reckon nobody knows.
Interviewer: I have my phone here. I could look it up right now.
Simonon: Yeah, but what’s the point?
Jones: It’s been almost 40 years, mate. Let’s just put it to bed. No point complicating things now.
Interviewer: It says right here your song was written about a citadel in the Middle E-
Jones: I don’t know nothing about that, and you’d be wise to stop probing about. What was the point even asking us if you were gonna go and ruin it by looking it up anyway?
Interviewer: Okay, let’s move on. Any idea what a Wrong ‘Em Boyo is?
Simonon: We’re done here.