Been Drinking Brew for Breakfast

My brother Dana bought London Calling right when it came out. The 1979 Clash album hit the record stores in December. By the time Dana returned to college at the end of January, I was hooked. Our bedrooms sat across the hall from each other—his room facing the street, my room facing the back yard. When my parents bought the house eight years earlier, I snagged the best bedroom. My older brothers both passed on it. My room did double-duty as the guest room. Every time someone visited overnight, I got kicked out. I slept in the spare bed in Dana’s room. Eventually, my grandmother moved in, and I lost my room for good. I think that was right after London Calling; I’m sure we were still in separate rooms at that point.

The best adjectives for high-school-me are immature and insecure. I searched for an identity. Something cool, aloof, outside the mainstream. I had to be different. If I parroted the other kids, acted like them, I’d compare unfavorably. Enter punk rock. No punk kids went to my suburban high school. Hippies, jocks and burnouts with their folk, disco and metal covered ninety-some percent of the student body. I didn’t fit into those categories. I was different. The Clash sat on the bleachers waiting for me to notice them.

That January, I noticed a new group of songs coming through Dana’s shut bedroom door. Different from the mellow Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young songs from the year before, this music rocked. Over and over, side one from London Calling. Five songs. The first two, London Calling and Brand New Cadillac are hard rockers. Next comes a slow reggae-ish song called Jimmy Jazz, and then a couple of upbeat pop/rock songs to finish the side: Hateful and Rudie Can’t Fail. These songs set the groundwork for the new identity I launched the following autumn at college—I became a punk.

Rudie Can’t Fail is my response to Jim Adams’ Song Lyric Sunday prompt.  Today’s theme is Meals (well actually it’s Breakfast, Brunch, Dinner, Lunch, Snack, Supper, but that includes every meal I can think of, so I’m going with Meals).

My new identity with its no-future nihilism included an unreasonable propensity to abuse substances. Alcohol to the extreme, and most of those other substances that will here remain nameless because I’m now a middle-aged father living and working in a small conservative town. Rudie Can’t Fail includes a lyric that instantly grabbed me and established a blueprint for my life. A lesson, a bar for me to clear day in and day out.

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

I’m sober now. My long, slow journey started in 1994 when I met Susan. I drank less and then less again. I gave up drunkenness when the babies came nineteen years ago. I quit altogether in 2016. But I still love that lyric. I view it, and the rest of the song, as poetry, as creative writing. Painting a relatable picture with words. Listen to Rudie Can’t Fail by the Clash and read along with the lyrics printed below.

Now, sing, Michael, sing
On the route of the nineteen bus
We 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 (no, no)

We reply
I know that my life make you nervous
But I tell you I can’t live in service
Like the doctor who was born for a purpose
Rudie can’t fail (ok)

I went to the market to realize my soul
What I need I just don’t have (oh no)
First they curse, then they press me ’til I hurt
They say, Rudie can’t fail

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

We reply
Now we get a rude and a reckless
To be seen lookin’ cool an’ speckless
And drinking brew for breakfast
Rudie can’t fail (no, no, no)

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 ’til 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

Rudie can’t fail x 12

Photo credit: Pennie Smith. This photo adorns the cover of London Calling. It’s often cited as the best rock photo of all time (at least by me).

18 thoughts on “Been Drinking Brew for Breakfast

  1. Yay! I’m glad you were inspired🎶💃🏼
    I went and listened to the song, and loved it. I’ve probably heard it before but didn’t remember. I never owned London Calling, though friends did.

    I could never handle brews at breakfast. Shots of gin, vodka, even Jack Daniels I could do, but not beer for some reason🤷🏼‍♀️

    I was a chameleon in school. I hung out with all the different cliques, but never really belonged to any of them. I was very self-conscious and insecure.

    My favorite rock picture of all time is one of Robert Plant flipping his long hair. But that’s just cuz I had/have a thing for Robert Plant😉😂

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    • Forty-two years later it’s still my favorite album and many of the songs are on my playlist. I actually never really got much into drinking before say 4PM, but then I’d go straight to 11 hours. Sad stuff. Wish I could get back all that money I spent. Once my roommate and I raided our change jars and went out to a new wave dance bar and bought our drinks with nickels, dimes and pennies.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This takes me back. Johnny Rotten and the sneering lyrics of a disaffected youth. My husband loved The Clash and that album was definitely part of the soundtrack of our lives. He was so punk at heart. We even smashed a guitar at his funeral as an homage to the passage of someone who always thumbed his nose at conventional thinking. And, while I was never a fan myself, the music makes me think of him and remember how it felt to be young and in love with a punk rocker–even though we didn’t meet until a much more sensible age in life.

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    • Wow, that’s such a great story. It should really be expanded into a 2000 word essay. Probably all of us take pride and ownership of the music from our youth, but I think the punks take it a bit farther. In the past year, I began using a free streaming service offered by my library. My playlist is about 70% punk songs from the 70s – early 90s. Lots of sex pistols in that mix. I can listen objectively and say the music sucks, but boy do I love it.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Great song, great band. The Specials, The Pogues, and Operation Ivy rounded out my playlists – although I guess there is a lot of ska in there. You and I would have been friends in high school. Not conforming to the norm, totally immature and insecure. Only the music felt right.

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  4. Been singing this since seeing the post title. Great song, great album. Love the debut as well; more identifiably punk.

    Reputation. That noxious belief that you are what you were. Fuck that. I want role models who are alive to their mistakes and to the on-going journey. Have a brew for breakfast, Jeff. Even if it’s a toast in tea to youthful indiscretions.
    – Bruce

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re probably the therapist I need to see. That dude is hard to leave behind. Certain aspects of my life haven’t worked since I gave up alcohol. If I had to pick a *best* album in history… London Calling, no doubt.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I would relish that opportunity, Jeff. (smile) But sadly I’m in the process of retiring. I do think you are onto something, however. Any move away from substance dependence has to include a grieving process for what is lost. This is often forgotten (possibly because we all carry shame about ourselves) but often grieving for whatever losses middle age (and beyond) brings is a very nourishing process (if uncomfortable).

        Enough with my psychobabble! Let’s talk about how frickin’ brilliant London Calling is!

        Liked by 1 person

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