Track of the Day: 'Rock el Casbah'

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Past TracksI'd evidently repressed the memory, but in 2006, National Review put out a list of "the 50 greatest conservative rock songs." Without there being anything wrong with that in principle, it's a sign of how much stretching it took to fill this particular list out that coming in at No. 20 was the (indeed so great) 1982 Clash single "Rock the Casbah." I suppose it's not hard to imagine a resolutely conservative author, writing for a devoted conservative readership, convincing himself and his editors that a song evoking the disturbance of a sharif's political and cultural hegemony somewhere in the Arab world must somehow be "conservative." Or maybe NR's John J. Miller was just finding license in the fact that "Casbah" had been the first song broadcast by Armed Forces Radio during Operation Desert Storm. Joe Strummer himself is in any case said to have wept after hearing that the track's title had been painted on the side of an U.S. bomb to be used in Iraq. If we want to conjure up real political associations for "Rock the Casbah," I'd say Robin Wright has the better sense of its spirit.


Today is a good day to play it again. Here's Algerian superstar Rachid Taha's awesome cover.


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J.J. Gould is the editor of TheAtlantic.com. More

He has written for The Washington MonthlyThe American ProspectThe Moscow Times, The Chronicle Herald, and The European Journal of Political Theory. Gould was previously an editor at the Journal of Democracy, co-published by the Johns Hopkins University Press and the National Endowment for Democracy, and a lecturer in history and politics at Yale University. He has also worked with McKinsey & Company's New York-based Knowledge Group on global public- and social-sector development and on the economics of carbon-emissions reduction. Gould has a B.A. in history from McGill University in Montreal, an M.Sc. from the London School of Economics, and a Ph.D. in politics from Yale. He is from Nova Scotia.

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