“I was saying us rock ‘n’ rollers are all posers and egomaniacs, but we know that terrorists are as bad, or worse than we are. They definitely love to read their own press… I know they dedicate their life to a cause, but they’re always posing for pictures.”
— Joe Strummer, on Tommy Gun
It’s always hard for me to listen to The Clash without also thinking about the way that Johnny Lydon dismissed them as not being a real punk band. (Lydon was fond of pointing out that Strummer was a diplomat’s son and that he had previously been in a “pub band” before getting involved with punk scene.) Johnny may have had a point about The Clash never really being as working class as they claimed to be, though that didn’t stop him from collaborating with members of the band on a few projects after The Clash broke up. Still, I’ve always liked The Clash’s music.
Tommy Gun was the band’s take on international terrorism. When it was first released, there was some controversy over whether the band was pro-terrorism or anti-terrorism. As with many of The Clash’s songs, it could be read both ways. It was The Clash’s first top twenty hit in the UK, peaking at #19.
This video was one of the first of many to be directed by Don Letts. Some sources say that this was the first video that Letts shot for the band, though Lett’s video for The Clash’s White Riot was actually released before the video for Tommy Gun. I don’t know how true that is but I do know that Letts went on to direct several videos for both The Clash and Mick Jones’s Big Audio Dynamite.