Know Your Rights- The Clash

A sarcastic public announcement about human rights

A mockery of  society – in typical punk rock style-  ‘Know Your Rights’ by English punk rock band The Clash truly speaks for itself. Released as the first song in the album Combat rock, released in 1982.

The song begins and ends in a sarcastic tone, with the lead singer Joe Strummer shouting “This is a public service announcement….with guitars!”. Strummer is presumably a civil servant making this announcement to his fellow citizens, and with typical English punk rock rebellion mode, he makes a mockery out of the current society. There are 3 rights:

The three are:

  1. “The right not to be killed. Murder is a crime, unless it is done by a policeman, or an aristocrat“.
  2. “The right to food money, provided of course, you don’t mind a little investigation, humiliation, and, if you cross your fingers, rehabilitation”.
  3. “The right to free speech (as long as you’re not dumb enough to actually try it)”.

The song is said to have been written  as a sarcastic response to a series of public service announcements in poor areas reminding the civilians of their basic human rights.

The song peaked  #43 on the UK Charts with the B-side “First Night Back in London.”


This is a public service announcement
With guitar
Know your rights
All three of them

Number one
You have the right not to be killed
Murder is a crime
Unless it was done
By a policeman
Or an aristocrat
Oh, know your rights

And number two
You have the right to food money
Providing of course
You don’t mind a little
Investigation, humiliation
And if you cross your fingers

Know your rights
These are your rights
Hey, say, Wang

Oh, know these rights

Number three
You have the right to free speech
As long as
You’re not dumb enough to actually try it

Know your rights
These are your rights
Oh, know your rights
These are your rights
All three of ’em
It has been suggested in some quarters
That this is not enough

Get off the streets
Get off the streets

Sounds from the Bucket
WiB Team

Words in the Bucket provides a platform for local perspectives and informed views, giving a voice to students, researchers, concerned citizens, human rights activists and experts.
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