Should I Stay Or Should I Go original

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Que Calor en la Ciudad sounds like a Should I Stay or Should I Go original

The Clash’s 1982 hit “Should I Stay or Should I Go” consistently makes it onto “greatest songs of all time” lists. The band’s involvement in the late 70s and early 80s punk and rock ‘n’ roll scene revolutionised music. “Should I Stay or Should I Go” has one of the most recognisable melodies from that era. Everyone enjoys thumping it out at a good party. But if you were around in Argentina during the mid-60s you might have heard that melody before. Twitter user Boya Rulli recently raised an interesting possibility. He said that the “Should I Stay or Should I Go” tune comes from a 1965 song by Argentinian singer, actor and former governor, Palito Ortega. That song was “Que Calor en la Ciudad”. Could “Que Calor en la Ciudad” be the “Should I Stay or Should I Go” original?

Palito Ortega and rock en español

Ramón Bautista Ortega, better known as Palito Ortega, was born in Lules, Argentian in 1941. He is known for pioneering the rock en español genre that marked the Latin American music scene during the 1960s.

Ortega was born to a poor family and worked as a child selling newspapers. His passion was music though, and he dreamed of becoming a rock ‘n’ roll star like Elvis Presley. In 1956, Ortega moved to Buenos Aires where he sold coffee. He positioned his coffee stall near strategic places like the Buenos Aires’ Channel Seven Public Television station. Musicians and other entertainers stopped by to buy coffee and Ortega was able to strike up friendships with them.

Ortega befriended the members of Carlinhos y su Banda and joined their band as the drummer. Carlinhos y su Banda enjoyed great success touring South America, and Ortega soon became one of their most popular members. He then left Carlinhos y su Banda to pursue a solo career. In the 1960s, Ortega recorded 27 albums and starred in 26 movies, establishing a reputation as a teen idol.

When he outgrew his teen idol image, Ortega became a successful music promoter. In 1981, he produced a show for Frank Sinatra in Argentina. Unfortunately changes in the peso-dollar exchange rate meant that Ortega lost a lot of money.

Ortega moved into politics and in 1991 became Governor of Tucumán Province. He remained in politics until 2002 when he returned to singing. In 2018, at the age of 77, Ortega released an album, Romanticos 60’s.

Fiebre de Primavera and Que Calor en la Ciudad

The song “Que Calor en la Ciudad” featured in the 1965 film Fiebre de Primavera staring Ortega and Juan Carlos Altavista. In the Buenos Aires heat, the two men dance on a rooftop. They remove their clothing for the entertainment of girls watching from a window. The song “Que Calor en la Ciudad” fits perfectly with the scene.

Release of Should I Stay Or Should I Go

The Clash wrote “Should I Stay or Should I Go” in 1981. Mick Jones sang lead vocals and Joe Strummer sang the backups that can be heard in the chorus. The Clash released the song as the third single from their fifth studio album, 1982’s Combat Rock.

“Should I Stay or Should I Go” performed modestly on the global charts. It made it to number 17 on the UK singles charts, number 45 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and number 37 in Australia.

1991 re-release

In 1991, a popular Levi’s jeans commercial led to the re-release of “Should I Stay or Should I Go”. (Check the ad out if you like hot 90s guys.) The attention “Should I Stay or Should I Go” gained sent it to the top of the UK and several other charts. Incidentally, the Clash traditionally rejected requests for their music to be used in commercials. But the main songwriter, Jones, approved the Levi’s request on the grounds that their jeans played an important part in the rock music scene.

In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked “Should I Stay or Should I Go” 228 in their 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. In 2009, VHS ranked it 42 on their 100 Greatest Hard Rock Songs.

Similarities between the two songs

But is “Que Calor en la Ciudad” the “Should I Stay or Should I Go” original? Well, the melodies are very, very similar. Also, there are a few other links between the two songs.

Strummer sings backing vocals in Spanish, the same language as the “Que Calor en la Ciudad” lyrics.

On the spur of the moment I said, ‘I’m going to do the backing vocals in Spanish’ … We needed a translator so Eddie Garcia, the tape operator, called his mother in Brooklyn Heights and read her the lyrics over the phone and she translated them. But Eddie and his mum are Ecuadorian, so it’s Ecuadorian Spanish that me and Joe Ely are singing on the backing vocals.”

Joe Strummer, 1991

Strummer had an interest in the political struggles in Spain and Latin America. The Clash were keen supporters of leftist movements in Latin America. There is also the 1979 Clash song, “Spanish Bombs”, with its Spanish Civil War theme. Strummer spent a lot of time in Spain and in Granada a plaza has been named in his honour. And finally, the lyrics “Should I Stay or Should I Go” were rumoured to be about whether the English should support the Falklands War. This was claimed the lives of many Argentinian soldiers in 1982.

Too tenuous?

Strummer and the other Clash members had enough exposure to Latin American and the Spanish language to have heard of Palito Ortega and “Que Calor en la Ciudad”. However, I think their connections with “Que Calor en la Ciudad” are too tenuous to suggest that “Que Calor en la Ciudad” is the “Should I Stay or Should I Go” original. Considering the Clash’s ethics on not allowing their music to be used by advertising companies, I don’t think they are the sort of band to plagirise a song. And Ortega himself has never made this claim.

Probably just a coincidence

Like I discussed in my post on “Come As You Are”, there are a certain amount of guitar riffs and tunes that consistently re-emerge in rock music. Certain sounds just come naturally to that genre. So I think the similarities between “Que Calor en la Ciudad” and “Should I Stay or Should I Go” are most likely coincidences.

Read about more 80s covers and their unknown originals here.

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Film explores obscure Spanish exile of Clash legend
¿Fue plagio a Palito Ortega el famoso tema de "The Clash"?
Wikipedia - Palito Ortega
Wikipedia - Should I Stay Or Should I Go
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