In Hear This, A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well—some inspired by a weekly theme and some not, but always songs worth hearing. This week: For Breaking Bad week, we talk about our favorite songs about troubles with the law.
The Clash already had two incredible singers—Joe Strummer and Mick Jones—who also delivered solidly in the songwriting department, but that didn't stop bassist Paul Simonon from stepping up to the mic with “The Guns Of Brixton” on 1979’s unstoppable London Calling. But rather than being relegated to a deep cut or euphemistic “fan favorite,” “Guns” became a legitimately huge, important part of the Clash catalog and legacy. (It appears both on Essential Clash and the upcoming hits set Hits Back.) Simonon doesn’t have what you’d call a “good” singing voice, but his flat intonations about police injustice in the multi-ethnic London neighborhood ring true. A couple of years after the song was released, its tales proved prophetic: There was a huge riot in the city—one of many that would plague it for years to come. Over dubby, reggae-influenced guitar, Simonon asks the residents of the crime-plagued area: “When they kick out your front door / How you gonna come? / With your hands on your head / or on the trigger of your gun?” If that isn’t a spirited call to arms, I don’t know what is. The song took on a life of its own in the years that followed: Its bass line was lifted wholesale for Beats International’s “Dub Be Good To Me,” a song perhaps best known as a hit for Fatboy Slim before he took that name. And eventually—in 1990—“Guns” was released as a single, and charted in the U.K.