Outside are the dogs, and those who make use of evil powers, those who make themselves unclean…and every one that loveth and maketh a lie. – Revelation 22:15
Say you stand by your man
Tell me something I don’t understand
You said you love me and that’s a fact
Then you left me, said you felt trapped
Ouch…not much else to say. But certainly something we’ve all experienced at one time or another.
The Clash laid it out there for us, pure, simple and not-so-sweetly in 1979. The track was a last minute throw-in on their breakthrough album London Calling; so late that the title did not show up on some of the record sleeve song listings because they had already gone to print. A hidden bonus.
It was called “Train In Vain” but everybody knew it as “Stand By Me”. The label decided to add the (Stand By Me) in parentheses to the record along with the true title due to the fact that the “train in vain’ part never shows up in the song’s lyrics. And, of course, they didn’t want the song to be confused with Ben E. King’s classic. Seriously?
i totally understood the “train” part…that low driving backbeat was definitely off the rails. And that harmonica. Most of all, the message was simple…even primal. The harsh and wounded wail of someone loved and left.
And surely, this has to be one of the hardest hearted sins. Loss of love served with a big honkin’ side dish of betrayal, disrespect and total selfishness.
Well some things you can explain away
But my heartache’s in me till this day
And no excuses will do, so don’t even try. Might as well keep your edge and upper hand. There’s no sense in trying to apologize; it just makes you look weak and doesn’t make me feel any better.
I see all my dreams come tumbling down
I won’t be happy without you around
So all alone I keep the wolves at bay
There is only one thing I can say
And so we fall to the bottom and we share the only perspective we can,
Did you stand by me
No, not at all
Did you stand by me
The whole “train in vain” thing really came from a Mick Jones relationship where he often had to take a train across town to see his girlfriend. Many of these trips were fruitless and ended with Mick never seeing her, or only seeing her briefly and having an argument.
You must explain why this must be
Did you lie when you spoke to me
And finally, you break down and ask for an explanation; You gotta know. Why?
This is the last step. Afterwards you move on. Because there is no real answer, nothing satisfactory, nothing to salve this wound. It really just “must be”. And that’s it.
But you don’t understand my point of view
I suppose there’s nothing I can do
“Train In Vain” was the first Clash song to reach the top 30 on U.S. charts and was ultimately ranked number 298 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. It was the third (and last) single released from London Calling. but I think it defined The Clash and the punk rock movement in its sheer, raw and basic form. It was covered by a diverse group of artists ranging from Annie Lennox to Third Eye Blind to Dwight Yoakam. Annie Lennox’s smooth and funky version is my personal fave, as featured on Saturday Night Live.
So, take solace in the knowledge that this is nothing new; we’ve all been there. And those guilty of same?
You, my former friend, are destined to remain on the outside forever…looking in.
Annie Lennox, SNL live version:
Third Eye Blind: