"Straight to Hell" as written by Joe Strummer, Mick Jones, Paul Simonon and Topper Headon....
If you can play on the fiddle
How's about a British jig and reel?
Speaking King's English in quotation
As railhead towns feel the steel mills rust
Water froze
In the generation
Clear as winter ice
This is your paradise

There ain't no need for ya
There ain't no need for ya
Go straight to hell, boys, go straight to hell, boys

Wanna join in a chorus
Of the Amerasian blues?
When it's Christmas out in Ho Chi Minh City
Kiddie say papa papa papa papa pappa-san, take me home
See me got
Photo photo photograph of you and mamma mamma mamma-san
Of you and mamma mamma mamma-san
Let me tell you 'bout your blood, bamboo kid
It ain't Coca-Cola, it's rice

Straight to hell
Go straight to hell boys
Go straight to hell
Go straight to hell boys

Oh Papa-san
Please take me home
Oh Papa-san
Everybody, they wanna go home
So Mamma-san says

You want to play mind-crazed banjo
On the druggy-drag ragtime U.S.A.?
In Parkland International
Ha, junkie-dom U.S.A
Where pro-caine proves the purest rock man groove
And rat poison
The volatile Molotov says

Straight to hell

Can you really cough it up loud and strong?
The immigrants, they wanna sing all night long
It could be anywhere
Most likely could be any frontier any hemisphere
In no-man's-land
There ain't no asylum here
King Solomon he never lived 'round here

Straight to hell, boys
Go straight to hell, boys
Go straight to hell, boys
Go straight to hell, boys
Oh, papa-san, please take me home


Lyrics submitted by aebassist

"Straight to Hell" as written by Mick Jones Joe Strummer

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

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Straight to Hell song meanings
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41 Comments

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  • +7
    General CommentFolks who are focusing on the Amerasian verses are only getting part of the song. As a whole, it's about the underdog getting fucked by society.

    Verse 1 is about the collapse of British industry, the callousness of the Thatcherite response, and the hopelessness of those coming of age at that time due to their lack of prospects.

    Verse 2 is about the plight of mixed race offspring of US servicemen, post-Vietnam War. Outcasts in their mother's homeland, they're also abandoned by their father's.

    Verse 3 is about falling into addiction - perhaps due to the horrors of Verses 1 and 2 -, and how once there, predatory pushers make life even harder, even deadlier, with violence and poisoned product.

    Alphabet City is then used as a stand-in for all the violent, impoverished inner cities of America, and elsewhere, that were particularly nasty at the time this song was written.

    The final verse talks of the hardships endured by immigrants struggling to make it, working soul-crushing hours, at back breaking jobs, without even a minimum of protection from exploitation.
    FuTooon January 31, 2009   Link
  • +4
    General CommentWrong-o boyo... It's about Amerasian kids orphaned by the war, or rejected by their culture, because mom banged a GI. Empty promises of GIs to take women home, and leaving a legacy of neglect.
    arfarfon June 05, 2004   Link
  • +2
    General CommentCombat Rock is an angry, brilliant album.
    The very beginning of this song hints at British Imperialism, specifically how Britain was still regarded as some great power while it’s ‘steel mills’ were rusting under Thatcher. I agree that this song is mainly about kids fathered by GIs during the Vietnam war wanting to go ‘home’ to the states. The US is the hell that the song talks about, not a kingdom nor a republic, but a ‘junkiedom’. It’s also about the difficulty finding asylum in the US.
    Alphabet City is in New York, it was a pretty rough area in the 80s, there was a lot of drug dealing. The refernce to the volatile Molotov seems to suggest some of the racial tensions in NY back then.
    The song makes a lot more sense when you listen to the rest of the songs on the album, a lot of stuff about cultural imperialism, war and drugs.
    J_Ron July 06, 2005   Link
  • +2
    General CommentM.I.A. is sampling this in "Paper Planes".
    feel me loudon August 08, 2007   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI know I'm probably gonna get chewed out for even uttering this, but...

    Lily Allen's cover is quite good.

    (hides from flying objects and gun-fire)
    [Music]Junkie09on March 14, 2009   Link
  • +1
    General Commentafter reading a lot about this song I think I finally get it. Okay, so it is simply about Amerasian kids fathered by US soldiers during the Vietnam war. The verses showcase the despair that these children go through, not being accepted by either side, american or vietnamese. The "There ain't no need for ya/Go straight to hell boys" part is to the soldiers who fathered the kids then neglected them, telling them that there is no need for them doing things like that , and that they should go "straight to hell" for their actions.
    Icheadle1990on June 17, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General Commenti agree it's stealing not sampling. i had straight to hell and paper planes on a mix which made me first realize the similarities and they aren't EXACTLY the same, which is what a sample would be. mia tweaks the beat a la vanilla ice and "under pressure"
    caitybateson September 28, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General CommentHey all I just "discovered" this song fairly recently on Sirius, great haunting song.
    Came here trying to decipher meaning, found a misplaced comma that skews the meaning of the line:
    Let me tell you about your blood bamboo, kid

    Should be
    Let me tell you about your blood, bamboo kid
    It (blood) aint Coca Cola, its Rice

    Ok so its a small thing but changes the meaning significantly.
    musicnmeon August 24, 2009   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI kind of read the part about America as what the Vietnamese mother would be telling their child.

    'Everybody they want to go home
    So Mamma-san says

    You want to play mind-crazed banjo...'

    It's kind of like the kid is begging his father to take him to America with him, and the mother is saying 'Why would you want to go there?' because of what would become of the kid if they were to live there.

    Eh, I'm pretty sure it's not too accurate, based on the other interpretations, but I thought I'd throw it out there.
    AgentFloridaon August 10, 2010   Link
  • +1
    General CommentAlthough the first verse is about the declining economy in Britain at the time and their steel mills and other factories closing, the rest of the song was definitely about the Ameriasian children of the Vietnam War who wanted to come to the USA to be with their fathers. They were either orphaned, stopped by their mothers or the Gov't. They were the children of the dust.

    It was what Joe called his masterpiece. He used to sing it with his right hand over his right eye as a powerful statement and it was amazing to watch him do it.
    layla12961on March 17, 2017   Link

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