Meaning of The Guns of Brixton – The Clash

It is said that The Clash bassist Paul Simonon was jealous of Joe Strummer and Mick Jones, who were the main songwriters and received large royalties for them. He decided to try his hand at writing to keep up with his colleagues. Thus was born the composition “The Guns of Brixton” (“Weapons of Brixton”), which became the hallmark of the famous British punks and an indispensable element of the band’s concert performances.

The song is about police brutality towards the people of Brixton. Paul grew up in that area of ​​London and was well acquainted with the rules that prevailed there.

He mentions the Jamaican crime drama The Harder They Come starring reggae singer Jimmy Cliff. His character, Vincent “Ivanho” Martin, becomes a criminal, kills several policemen and dies in a shootout.

The author notes that many of his young compatriots follow the path of the hero of the film, and warns of future armed clashes. Needless to say, his predictions came true. Shortly after the release of the song, riots really broke out in Brixton.

Paul was initially reluctant to sing “The Guns of Brixton” himself, but Strummer said, “Your words – you sing them.” Simonon later recalled what made the song so emotional:

The vocal microphone was just opposite the glass panel of the control room, and some guy from the American CBS was sitting half a meter behind the glass. That’s probably why the vocals turned out the way they did.

The band worked on the London Calling album at Wessex Studios under the direction of producer Guy Stevens. He then constantly used drugs and drank a lot, as a result of which he was not prone to perfectionism. They made the whole record in just a few weeks, and some songs, including “The Guns of Brixton”, were recorded in a couple of takes.

The composition was released as a single only in 1990, with the re-release of the London Calling album.

Interesting Facts

  • David Bowie was also born and spent his childhood in Brixton.

The Guns Of Brixton LyricsThe Guns Of Brixton LyricsWhen they kick at your front door
How are you going to come?
With your hands on your head
Or on the trigger of your gun
How do you get out:
Putting your hands behind your head
Or on the trigger of a gun? When the law break in
How are you gonna go?
Shot down on the pavement
Or waiting on death row
What will you do:
Wallow shot on the pavement
Or expect to be executed on death row? Chorus:
You can crush us
You can cruise us
But you’ll have to answer to
Oh, the guns of Brixton
You can crush us
You can beat us
But you will have to answer
Brixton GunsThe money feels good
And your life you like it well
But surely your time will come
As in heaven, as in hell
And you like your life too
But your time will surely come
Heaven or Hell You see, he feels like Ivan
Born under the Brixton sun
His game is called survivin’
At the end of “The Harder They Come” See, he feels like Ivan
Born under the Brixton sun
His game is called “Survival”
At the end of the “Thorny Path” You know it means no mercy
They caught him with a gun
No need for the Black Maria
Goodbye to the Brixton sun
He was caught with a gun
“Black Raven” is not needed,
Goodbye Brixton Sun

Song quote

You don’t get paid to design posters or clothes. You get paid to make songs.

Paul Simonon, Bassist Magazine, 1990

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