"Rudie Can't Fail" as written by Joe Strummer, Mick Jones, Paul Simonon and Topper Headon....
Sing, Michael, sing
On the route of the nineteen bus

Hear them sayin'

How you get a rude and a reckless?
Don't you be so crude and feckless
You been drinking brew for breakfast
Rudie can't fail

We reply

I know that my life make you nervous
But I tell you that I can't live in service
Like the doctor who was born for a purpose
Rudie can't fail

I went to the market to realize my soul
What I need I just don't have
First they curse, then they press me till I hurt
We say Rudie can't fail

First you must cure your temper
Then you find a job in a paper
You need someone for a savior
Oh, Rudie can't fail

We reply

Now we get a rude and a reckless
We been seen lookin' cool an' speckless
We been drinking brew for breakfast
Rudie can't fail

I went to the market to realize my soul
'Cause what I need I just don't have
First they curse, then they press me till I hurt
Rudie can't fail

Okay! Okay!
So where you want to go today?
Hey boss man!
You're looking pretty smart
With your chicken skin suit

You think you're pretty hot
In the pork pie hat

Rudy can't fail
Rudy can't fail
Rudy can't fail
Rudy can't fail
Rudy can't fail
Rudy can't fail
Rudy can't fail
Rudy can't fail
Rudy can't fail
Rudy can't fail
Rudy can't fail
Rudy can't fail
Rudy can't fail


Lyrics submitted by aebassist

"Rudie Can't Fail" as written by Mick Jones Joe Strummer

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

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Rudie Can't Fail song meanings
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58 Comments

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  • +4
    General Commentit means that people tell the rude boys that they need to get a real job instead of slacking off all day listening to ska and riding the bus all over town. The rude boys say no way, that's not the life for us, we like our fun.
    Hooper_Xon September 28, 2002   Link
  • +3
    General Commentok lets do a lil history lesson
    In jamaica around this time and still today a "rudy" is someone who is the equivalent of an american punk.
    and with all the jamaican reggae influence the Clash use can this really suprise you
    great song Everyone should own the best album ever "London Calling" there is no excuse
    hpw101on June 07, 2003   Link
  • +1
    General Commentthe rudies [or rude boys] were the cats who were out and about being good fer nothin bums [don't take offence, i consider myself a rudie, too] when the ska scene in jamaica was just starting about. they were the ones starting riots and fights in the streets, pretty much. they were rude. now, that term is used to define anyone with sufficiant knowledge of ska or those who listen to ska. for those who are SAT inclined, rudie:ska :: hipster:indie
    ilovethevalleyohon October 26, 2004   Link
  • +1
    General CommentAnatriptic, they're not all wrong. Words, like music, progress and take on new meanings as time goes by. When the Clash and English white boys took on the term en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…">Rudy/Rude boy, it had a much different meaning 20 years later. In short, it became what ilovethevalleyoh said - people who like ska. rootsworld.com/rw/feature/…">Like it or not.

    In addition, my bullshit detector went off when i read your "rude boy" definition (bad child that would be abandoned on the side of the road). I've never heard that. Anyone else? Do you have a source, or did you just make it up?

    Anyway, please realize, that the clash did not play "ska."
    but this is a ska, or at least ska-influenced song...that's why everyone's talking about ska in this thread. See feckless.
    Chinupon December 02, 2004   Link
  • +1
    General Commentregular_freak - these are difinately the lyrics.

    the "Doctor born for a purpose" refers to Dr. Alimantado, a reggae singer from the 1970's.
    Johnny_Boyon August 01, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentRudie (a.k.a. Rude boy) was generally a Jamaican "wide boy" that could equally be called a gangster, wastrel or ne'er do well. In the U.K., or more pertinently London, a rude boy would be a young up and coming sharp talking wise cracking black lad with attitude. Nowadays, with cross culturalisation, the kid may even be white. However back in the late 70's when Strummer and Jones came across such young lads, they were almost certainly first generation black West Indians.

    The Rudie in the song is half cut from being on the polish for breakfast. He's got attitude and he's on the no. 19 which (correct me if I'm wrong) runs from Victoria to N19, which is Finsbury. So the "market" our young turk is going to is Camden probably. He appears to be going there to "realise his soul" which probably means he's after uppers or smoke of some kind.

    The phrase "Rudioe can't fail" is repeated throughout the song....yet the moral is that he inevitably already has by not being able to break free of the stereotype.

    Although "brew" can mean a cup of tea or indeed a pint of beer (i.e. "fancy a brew?), in this case it refers to "Carlsberg Special Brew", the original cheap, superstrength canned lager. It's the one with the "purple" crest and is/was often drunk at length by the male Anglo/Jamaican culture of West London.

    The song ends sadly in that it doesn't matter how "sharp" Rudie looks, he still succumbs to the cheap sky juice (i.e. Special Brew again).

    Certainly Joe/Mick/Paul were heavily influenced by ska having spent most of their latter youth around West London. Of the 3, Paul was most heavily influenced and penned "Guns of Brixton". He was livid when the other 2 went to the Indies and came back with "Safe European Home" amongst others as he more than the other 2 was influenced by ska and reggea. Joe was more influenced by hillbilly which comes across in other tunes. At the time it was dubbed "skank" or "skunk" but to me the song is a ska song.

    Joe Strummer R.I.P.....love you man.
    Fatboyonadieton September 25, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General CommentMike Dirnt, Green Day's bassist, owns a restaurant in Emeryville, California called Rudy's Can't Fail Cafe, obviously named after this song.
    JohnnyLurgon September 26, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General Commentfeck·less [féklss ] adjective

    1. ineffective: unable or unwilling to do anything useful

    2. unlikely to be successful: lacking the thought or organization necessary to succeed feckless attempts at starting a business
    aebassiston June 06, 2002   Link
  • 0
    General Commentwow cool now i know what feckless means (no seriously...i didn't know) but i like this song.
    cherrypunkker07on June 15, 2002   Link
  • 0
    General Commentthis song is cool! i liekt he clash, and this is my favorite song by them, but when i first heard this song i had no idea what he was saying accept for rudie can't fail.
    UnwrittenMestUpGurlyon July 13, 2002   Link

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