Buried Treasure is a semi-regular feature that explores some hidden musical gems – the rare and forgotten B-sides, covers, hidden tracks, live versions and alternative takes that deserve some recognition.
A few years ago when I was visiting my family in Nelson our neighbour came over for a chat. He already knew that I liked punk music. He couldn’t help it, really – he’d had to put up with hearing me practicing drum most evenings throughout my teenage years. And somehow he’d heard that I had started collecting vinyl records. He invited me over and generously gifted to me two LPs from his childhood: 999’s eponymous début, and The Clash’s London Calling. Our neighbour was probably the last person I would have expected to have listened to punk music in his youth, but I was delighted with his present nevertheless, and thanked him for it.
Which leads us to the song in focus for this segment of Buried Treasure: ‘Train in Vain‘, by The Clash, off the album London Calling.
First off, this song is well-known. It was actually a single. But it was also a hidden track on London Calling, so it counts as a Buried Treasure entry.
No mention of the song ‘Train in Vain’, the last track on side D.
The song is considered hidden because it didn’t feature on the track listing. The song was initially designated to be on a promotional disc for NME magazine, but when that plan fell through the members of the band made a last-minute decision to include the song on London Calling instead. The album sleeves had already been printed though, so instead of opting to re-print with an updated track listing and additional lyrics, they decided to leave the extra song on the album unlisted, as a bonus surprise for their fans.
It’s a fairly upbeat song, led by piano and drums with open and closed hi-hats punctuating throughout. There is also some faint harmonica at times that adds to the pleasantry. However, despite the cheeriness of the music, the lyrics discuss a difficult relationship. Mick Jones, who penned the song, would often catch the train to visit his girlfriend. His efforts proved unfruitful, hence the title: ‘Train in Vain’.