The Spanish lyrics in that Clash song
February 10, 2008 12:33 AM   Subscribe

Is there a definitive text of the intended Spanish lyrics in The Clash's Spanish Bombs?

I always thought they were just mispronouncing quiero as "kwero", but it turns out the web has a bunch of theories, including some involving recordar and acordar and various Spanish tenses I'm uncomfortable around. Does anyone know for sure now that Joe has left us?

The fucking liner notes say "yo te querda". The web does not seem to think that querda is valid Spanish, and I would tend to agree. But again, man, those tenses make me uncomfortable. Catalan, maybe? I wouldn't know.

Maybe they were just some kids who really knew music but really didn't know Spanish...
posted by mr_roboto to Media & Arts (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Uno, dos, tres, catorce!

(Before this is flagged as noise - the point: musicians, particularly punk musicians, regularly make mistakes and leave them in place. I'd be inclined to go with the mispronounced "quiero" as it passes Occam's Razor, makes the most sense in Spanish and sticks with the devil-may-care "good enough for punk!" attitude the Clash so embodied.)
posted by benzo8 at 1:05 AM on February 10, 2008

(One final thing - liner notes are often not written by the band, or, in fact, anyone who knows anything about the band, their music, or what they were thinking when something was recorded. Lyrics on liner notes are regularly wrong, often because they're written by some office intern who transcribes them by listening to the album...)
posted by benzo8 at 1:06 AM on February 10, 2008

I'm looking through both Redemption Song (the recent Strummer bio) and Last Gang in Town (on the Clash) and I can't find anything definitive about the lyrics. I suspect it's just mangled Spanish (Joe had spent some time in Spain by the time "Spanish Bombs" was written, but I doubt he would have spoken it properly, and certainly neither he nor Mick would have learned it in school); in a similar vein, regarding the Spanish lyrics in "Should I Stay or Should I Go," Redemption Song has this to say:
By chance Joe Ely ran into Mick and Joe in New York when they were recording "Should I Stay or Should I Go." Arbitrarily Joe had decided that his section of the tune should be in Spanish and asked Ely for help. "So me and Strummer and the Puerto Rican engineer [Eddie Garcia, who was in fact Ecuadorian] sat down and translated the lyrics into the weirdest Spanish ever."
posted by scody at 1:57 AM on February 10, 2008

"Spanish Bombs" was written when Joe Strummer was still with Palmolive (according to the liner notes from "Clash on Broadway"), who as a native speaker of Spanish probably could have given him good translations. A good bet is that someone else wrote the liner notes based on what they heard: Joe wasn't always good at singing comprehensibly, even when he understood what the words were himself. Give him a phonetic translation and you can see how it would be impossible to know what was originally said after a few performances evolved it.
posted by Mayor Curley at 5:45 AM on February 10, 2008

What I read -- and of course I can't find where this was -- was that his friend's mom did the translating. Strummer didn't find out until after that the mom spoke Catalan. I remember reading this in some liner notes, but don't remember which album (my copy of London Calling was a cassette, so that's not it).
posted by The corpse in the library at 6:35 AM on February 10, 2008

This is from the booklet of the 25th anniversary edition of London Calling, and it of course doesn't match what they actually say.

I seem to remember seeing Mick Jones saying somewhere that on the night they were recording the song they called an Ecuadorian cousin of the recording engineer, and that they asked him for a few phrases and he translated over the phone (which explains the spelling mistakes).

FWIW, I grew up speaking Spanish and I've always thought it said "yo te quiero infinito, yo te quiero, oh, mi corazón", which is in itself kinda crooked.
posted by micayetoca at 6:38 AM on February 10, 2008

> Strummer didn't find out until after that the mom spoke Catalan. I remember reading this in some liner notes

Querda is not a Catalan word - closest I can come up with is esquerda which is "rent", but I'm still much more inclined to the "mispronunciation" explanation and to dismiss transliterations after the fact as fanciful attempts to find a deeper meaning in everything...
posted by benzo8 at 8:08 AM on February 10, 2008

Well, micayetoca solved it -- it's "Clash Spannish" and they were drunk.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:39 AM on February 10, 2008

Well, micayetoca solved it -- it's "Clash Spannish" and they were drunk.

No, no. Those are the spanish lyrics to "Should I Stay or Should I Go." That's a famous story. They got drunk and called Eddie Garcia's mom to get the ecuadorean spanish translation.

posted by Mayor Curley at 9:23 AM on February 10, 2008

You are absolutely right, Mayor Curley, but the image I linked to is from Spanish Bombs, and that's where the "Clash Spanish and drunkenness" explanation came from.
posted by micayetoca at 10:06 AM on February 10, 2008

micayetoca: It looks like that image has been removed from Flickr. Could you repost it or describe it?
posted by mr_roboto at 10:23 AM on February 10, 2008

Here it is in It's a page of the booklet of that 25th anniversary edition of London Calling, and it explains in someone's handwriting (signed Joe) that it was written in an airplane, in "Clash Spannish" and induced by those "grapes of wrath".
posted by micayetoca at 10:41 AM on February 10, 2008

OK; that's pretty damn good evidence that it would be a mistake to keep trying to parse it as if it were proper Spanish.


For reference to future viewers of this thread in case the image goes away again, the note in the booklet says:

This song was written in seat 18B of a Brannif Airlines DC10--the Spanish is Clash Spannish and it means--"I love you and goodbye! I want you but--oh my aching heart!" Induced by those grapes of wrath.

posted by mr_roboto at 11:26 AM on February 11, 2008

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