“It’s perfect,” Joe Strummer insisted about The Clash’s fourth album, the sprawling, 36-song triple album set, Sandinista!, over beers in an East Village bar back in the early 1990s.

    While Strummer’s tongue was firmly in cheek, he wasn’t backing down on his claim. He loved his former band, and Sandinista! loomed large in the legend about everything they stood for – the good and the bad, planting feet firmly in the future while still honoring the past, not to mention both their collective creativity and rock star excess – and still stands today as a remarkable, if beguiling, achievement.

    Featuring forays into everything from jazz and gospel to hip-hop and rockabilly, Sandinista! was the ultimate rock and roll indulgence by a band that had only just started to crack the big time after releasing the near-perfect double album London Calling, which still stands as both their greatest moment and their manifesto.


    Sandinista! represents an amazing moment in time for us,” Strummer recalled that afternoon. “In less than a month, we recorded all that music.”

    For all the genre-hopping and experimentation across its six sides of vinyl, Sandinista!, which actually took about six months to record and was named in honor of Nicaragua’s freedom fighters, featured an astonishing amount of highlights. The Eddy Grant/Equals cover “Police on My Back” and “Somebody Got Murdered” were instant hits with the AOR rock crowd. “Bankrobber”, “The Call Up”, “Hitsville U.K.”, “Washington Bullets”, “Ivan Meets G.I. Joe”, and “The Sound of Sinners” picked up where London Calling left off. Meanwhile, “Junco Partner” and “One More Time” – bearing the heavy influence of co-producer Mikey Dread – whetted the appetite of many of the band’s fans who were only just discovering reggae in a serious way.

    But perhaps more than any other song, it was the lead-off track, “The Magnificent Seven”, that epitomized everything Sandinista! was about and all it has come to stand for in the now 40 years since its release on December 12, 1980.