Straight to Hell
"Straight to Hell" is a rock song by The Clash, from their album Combat Rock. It was released as a double A-side single with "Should I Stay or Should I Go" on 17 September 1982 in 12" and 7" vinyl format (the 7" vinyl is also available in picture disc) format.
Like many songs by the Clash, the lyrics of "Straight to Hell" decry injustice. The first verse refers to the shutting down of steel mills in Northern England and unemployment spanning generations, it also considers the alienation of non English speaking immigrants in British society. The second verse concerns the abandonment of children in Vietnam who were fathered by American soldiers during the Vietnam War. The third verse contrasts the American Dream as seen through the eyes of an Amerasian child with a dystopian vision of American reality. The final verse broadly considers the life of immigrants throughout the world.
The reference to "Amerasian Blues" describes the abandonment of children fathered by American soldiers stationed in Vietnam during the Vietnam War: an Amerasian child is portrayed as presenting an absent American father, "papa-san," with a photograph of his parents, pleading with his father to take him home to America. The child's plea is rejected. "-San" is a Japanese rather than Vietnamese honorific, but it was used by US troops in Vietnam who referred to Vietnamese men and women, especially older men and women, as "mama-san" or "papa-san".
When Strummer sings of a "Volatile Molotov" thrown at Puerto Rican immigrants in Alphabet City as a message to encourage them to leave, he is referring to the arson that claimed buildings occupied by immigrant communities – notably Puerto Rican – before the area was subject to gentrification.
The song's full version lasted 7 minutes, and can be found on the Clash on Broadway box set. It had a lingering violin background. The band intended for the full version to be on Combat Rock, but the record company declined.
"Straight to Hell" has been covered or sampled by many artists. Heather Nova and Moby covered the song in 1999 for the Clash tribute album Burning London. In 2007, British singer M.I.A.sampled "Straight to Hell" in her song "Paper Planes" (which like "Straight to Hell" deals with the topic of immigration)--and as a result "Straight To Hell" "grandfathered" T.I.'s 2008 song "Swagga Like Us". Philadelphia punk rock band The Menzingers later covered the song on their album A Lesson in the Abuse of Information Technology. Several folk artists have covered the song, including Josh Rouse, Emm Gryner, and Will Kimbrough.
The song has been refashioned by Mick Jones, featuring Lily Allen, for the War Child: Heroes album, released in the UK on 16 February 2009, and in the U.S. on 24 February 2009 by Astralwerks. Joe Strummer was Allen's godfather.Jakob Dylan and Elvis Costello performed a cover of the song on season 1, episode 12 of Costello's show Spectacle: Elvis Costello with..., entitled "She & Him, Jenny Lewis and Jakob Dylan" and aired on Channel 4 in the UK, CTV in Canada and the Sundance Channel in the United States in 2008–2009.