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Combat Rock Album Cover Journey •
A Journey to The Clash's "Combat Rock"
Album Cover Sorta-Location

Combat Rock Ever since 1992 when I bought a book called "American Rock & Roll Tour" that I saw advertised in Goldmine Magazine, I've always enjoyed visiting pop culture landmarks. My friend Bruce and I drove around the USA in 1993 and visited several of the spots mentioned in the book (I haven't really updated the webpages since 1998 alert!)

My wife Cora (on right against brick wall at a punk rock show in Little Rock) and I went to Thailand in October-November of 2012. Cora had picked out a few spots she wanted to go and was a little concerned I wasn't as invested in the trip. I mostly just wanted to aimlessly wander around and shoot videos for the video version of Humanclock.com that I was working on at the time, so I didn't have any place specifically picked out.

About two weeks before we left to Thailand, my friend Dave Hayden asked me if I wanted to tag along on a trip to the North Shore of Hawaii, I just had to buy a plane ticket. Since I was in the "how about we focus on personal projects for awhile and set all our savings on fire?" part of my life, this sounded like a good idea.

One day when we were walking back from the beach, the song "Straight to Hell" by The Clash popped into my head. I thought of the album it was on, Combat Rock, and the famous Pennie Smith photo of them on the train tracks. Instantly I remembered reading somewhere that the photo was shot in Thailand. When I was blessed with the Internet again, I discovered that yes, in fact it was shot in Bangkok.

After doing more research, about all I had to work with was: I even emailed Bob Egan from PopSpots who does this "figure out where this photo was taken" thing...properly. Let me italicize that word again: properly. His site is awesome, you should check it out if you haven't seen it yet.

Bob had some suggestions and even sent an outtake photo I hadn't seen published elsewhere at the time. I knew I wouldn't have the time to research this like he does, so I'd just have to go there, wander around, and see what I might find.

To sum it up, I wandered around and talked to some people, took a lot of photos, shot a bunch of video, and "sorta" found the area where the photo was most likely taken. I've been meaning to get this whole thing online since 2012, but kept getting distracted with PCT hikes, work, and working on the house. Once I heard about International Clash Day, I made it a priority to get this thing done.

Enjoy!
Looking from our hotel toward the Bangkok Palace Hotel where The Clash stayed in March 1982. Under the freeway there just behind the Grand Rama billboard is the train line where the album cover was taken (somewhere). Clash Combat Rock Album Cover Location
Petchburi Road and the Makkasan train station was all I really had to go on. But there was at least a canal and a set of train tracks. Clash Combat Rock Album Cover Location
A few days earlier I noticed a north/south train line, near the Bangkok Palace Hotel and Petchburi Road. Clash Combat Rock Album Cover Location
The buildings in this area looked a bit older and apart from the freeway, there was nothing "new" to suggest that the farmland as seen on the album cover had been developed sometime after 1982. At least there was a canal on the right though!

Even though it was a long shot, I actually walked the full length of the tracks looking for ones that had a specific split pattern in the wood and spike layout on the rails. It must have looked incredibly odd to see a white dude, in fashionably-questionable-but-oh-how-incredibly-practical cargo shorts, slowly walking down the train line inspecting the ties one by one...for a half mile.

On the album cover, if you look just over Paul's right shoulder you will see some spikes that go up and hook over the bottom part of the track. I found these same spikes on this stretch of rail line. The photo below is a spot where the spikes matched the album cover, but saw it another place also so I'm guessing it is just a common rail spiking method/pattern. Clash Combat Rock Album Cover Location
Side note, whenever I do laundry, I always hum "Hungerstrike" by Temple of the Dog, but change the lyrics to "I'm doin' laundryyyyyyyyyeaaaahhhhhh!" Clash Combat Rock Album Cover Location
I continued north towards the Bangkok Palace Hotel. Near an open air market a couple older guys asked me what I was looking for. Between their broken English, my very defective Thai, and an LP copy of Combat Rock, they were able to figure out what I was asking.

A few other people joined in giving advice. The general consensus was that the train line on the album cover was the one that was east of the Makkasan Train station, rather than the one south of the train station that we were near. If you watch the video below you can hear one of the guys sounding out some of the song titles. I took a couple clock photos of them for my Human Clock website. Clash Combat Rock Album Cover Location
The two guys got into a pretty detailed discussion I couldn't follow about where the photo might have been taken. I did gather from them, as expected, that the overhead freeways were a more recent addition. Clash Combat Rock Album Cover Location
Clash Combat Rock Album Cover Location
I had my Human Clock photo book with me so despite the language barrier, they were able to figure out what I was trying to do by giving them a card with a time of the day written on it. I gave them a $2.00 bill as a thank you and they were pretty excited about that since US Two Dollar bills are pretty rare over there. (and for that matter, somewhat prone to confusion in the USA also). Clash Combat Rock Album Cover Location
There was a lot of impressive grafitti everywhere. Clash Combat Rock Album Cover Location
Clash Combat Rock Album Cover Location
The area had multi-million dollar hotels right next to shacks that were falling down. Clash Combat Rock Album Cover Location
This is the Bangkok Palace Hotel where The Clash stayed in 1982. Clash Combat Rock Album Cover Location
The parking attendant didn't have any idea of where the photo might have been taken. Clash Combat Rock Album Cover Location
Outside the Makkasan train station. Clash Combat Rock Album Cover Location
East of the Makkasan train station. I headed this direction because it was the only one with a canal nearby. Clash Combat Rock Album Cover Location
This is one area that looked like it could potentially be it, however the canal on the right that you see on the album cover was a bit farther away from the tracks. It is also possible that the rail line could have been moved when they built the freeway. Clash Combat Rock Album Cover Location
Continuing east along the train line. There was no waterway nearby that I could see. Clash Combat Rock Album Cover Location
Clash Combat Rock Album Cover Location
Yes, I did end up literally in the weeds during my excursion. The canal is up against that gray wall. Clash Combat Rock Album Cover Location
The canal travels near the tracks... Clash Combat Rock Album Cover Location
...then goes under a brick wall!

I had to really climb through the weeds and trash to take this photo. Clash Combat Rock Album Cover Location
This is another area where it possibly could have been, even though the train line is a bit farther from the canal. Clash Combat Rock Album Cover Location
Ah ha! This bit of train track looked "vintage" and was closer to the canal, however it was covered in weeds. Although I am very linear focused when it comes to completing a task, I wasn't about to spend the rest of my vacation pulling the weeds of another nation just to get a better look at their railroad spikes.

From talking to the two younger guys (see below), the brick wall on the right was also a post 1980s addition also. Clash Combat Rock Album Cover Location
This area here was my best guess as to where the Combat Rock album cover photo might have been taken. It wasn't far from the Bangkok Palace Hotel, the canal was in the right spot in proportion to the tracks, and there were not many pre 1982 buildings around (or any for that matter, just like the album cover). The lone trees on the right even look bigger.

But on the other hand, Ms. Pennie Smith could also be laughing her ass off right now upon reading this, saying, "NOT....EVEN....CLOSE!"    (psst! Hi Pennie)


Clash Combat Rock Album Cover Location
Same photo but with the album cover. Clash Combat Rock Album Cover Location
Clash Combat Rock Album Cover Location
On my way back to the Makkasan Train station, a couple guys asked me if I was looking for something. I didn't realize until I built this page that I had our initial exchange on video.

I ended up hanging out with them for an hour next to the train tracks. They asked me a lot of questions about the USA and I asked a lot about Thailand. It was a good talk. At one point I heard what sounded like a train coming. They motioned for me to scoot the bucket over that I was sitting on. About 30 seconds later the Orient Express train pulled up and stopped. One of the guys screamed at me over the noise of the train: "CRAIG, CLIMB UP THE STAIRS OF THE TRAIN AND LOOK IN THE WINDOW.......NICE LINENS!"

I climbed up there and yes indeed, the table linens were quite nice! Clash Combat Rock Album Cover Location
I took several Human Clock photos and video of them. Clash Combat Rock Album Cover Location
Clash Combat Rock Album Cover Location
Clash Combat Rock Album Cover Location

All in all, despite not being 100% sure that I found exact location, it was a pretty memorable day.

Here is a video I compiled from footage I shot at the same time as the above photos. Around the 45 second mark I thought the guy was speaking in Thai, then realized he was sounding out the words "Know Your Rights" and "Car Jamming" in English.

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Daniel Craig Giffen