This week in Texas music history: The Clash film ‘Rock The Casbah’

Middle Eastern politics, English punks and Austin audiences converge in an iconic 80s music video.

By Jason Mellard, Avery Armstrong and Alan SchaeferJune 4, 2024 12:59 pm, ,

From KUTX:

On June 8 and 9, 1982, the English punk band the Clash filmed the video for 80s anthem “Rock the Casbah” in Austin. It wasn’t their first encounter with the Lone Star State. While the rival Sex Pistols booked a 1978 Texas tour to start fights and make headlines, what drew Joe Strummer and the Clash was a genuine affection for Buddy Holly, Texas rockabilly, and Western mythology. When they met Lubbock’s own Joe Ely in London in 1978, the band’s affair with the state kicked into high gear.

Cover for The Clash’s ‘Combat Rock,’ which features ‘Rock The Casbah.’

They first came to Austin the next year for a show at the Armadillo World Headquarters, and a picture from that date figures into the album art for the classic Clash album London Calling. In 1982, they launched the Combat Rock tour in Amarillo, and their Texas appearances encompassed Wichita Falls and Laredo, sites not typically on the itineraries of globe-trotting rock stars.

Which means it would be no surprise when the Clash chose Austin for the “Rock the Casbah” video, directed by their producer and musical partner, punk icon Don Letts.

Cover for ‘London Calling’ featuring a image taken during The Clash’s show at
Armadillo World Headquarters

The song’s undeniable groove stirs underneath a lyrical stew that encompasses everything from the Iranian Revolution’s censorship of rock music to the band’s frustrations with manager Bernie Rhodes. The video projected those themes onto a Texas landscape of oil, cowboy hats, and Cadillacs.

A scurrying armadillo kicks the whole thing off, as figures representing the Arab-Israeli conflict drive and dance together through an adorably modest Austin skyline.

In the process, we see a hotel pool, a convenience store, a dive bar, jets from Bergstrom Air Force Base, a campus area fast food joint—a scavenger hunt of locales for curious fans ever since. It culminates in the band’s concert at City Coliseum, an exuberant snapshot of Austin in its provincial youth, still finding a way to take center stage.


Joe Ely with Alex Rawls, “Texas Calling,” Oxford American, December 15, 2014.

Margaret Moser, “Lubbock Calling: Joe Ely Remembers the Clash,” Austin Chronicle, May 19, 2000. 

Bryan Parker, “The Clash’s Legendary Austin Show,” Austin Monthly, October 2019.

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