Janie Jones Explication: From Notes to Text

Now that we have notes, notes, and more notes, we need to craft those notes into the explication. An overall theme arose from the notes: The guy in the song hates his job and wants to be part of a different world (sex, drugs, and rock n roll). That, though stated better, would be the initial sentence of the explication.

Something like this: The Clash’s song “Janie Jones” depicts the discord between the life one wants to live and the life one has to live.


The Clash’s 1977 song “Janie Jones” depicts the discord between the life one wants to live and the life one has to live. The song begins by announcing desire; the unnamed “he” is “in love with rock-n-roll,” with “gettin’ stoned,” and with “Janie Jones” (1-3). These three desires represent the age old “sex,” “drugs,” and “rock-n-roll” triumvirate, as Janie Jones, the most obscure of the three references (though probably not to 1970’s Londoners) was a 1960’s and ‘70’s British entertainer and madam. The significance of “sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll” to “his” life is made clear, in large measure, through repetition, as the first stanza is also the chorus, which is repeated at least three times, possibly more, depending on how the song is performed. The song proceeds to celebrate such desires throughout, addressing and unnamed woman with whom he is “gonna have fun” once “his job is done” (6,9). The conflict between the “boring job,” which is nevertheless required in order to experience the desired life, and the evening fun is central to the song. He is apparently an Everyman figure; Strummer and Jones remind us that “he’s just like everyone,” particularly insofar as he has to work in order to make enough money to have fun: “he’s got a Ford Cortina/That just won’t run without fuel” (12-13). “He” drives a popular, fuel efficient car, but it nevertheless requires that he earn money to be able to drive her around in it. Our Everyman also has the archetypal suspicious boss who “who thinks he [Everyman] shirks” his work duties, and “he” wants to tell his boss “exactly how he feels” (11, 18). He feels, apparently, bored and underpaid, the second of which is described in one of the most unique metaphors in the song: “An’ the invoice it don’t quite fit,/ There’s no payola in his alphabetical file” (15-16). The “invoice” and the “alphabetical file, ” along with an “in-tray” with “lots of work,” signify mundane office details, ostensibly highlighting how boring the job is. However, the particular word choice, is intriguing; the term “Payola” literally suggests that our everyman would be part of the music “industry” (record companies and the like), but nothing else in the song supports that, so the word is probably used generally to mean payoffs, graft, etc. He’s underpaid for the boring job, and receives no extra pay via nefarious means, but, as we are reminded the Ford Cortina “just won’t run without fuel,” implying that while he would love to tell his boss “exactly how he feels,” he’ll continue grinding away at the job in order to have access to the life he desires (13, 18).

The song is stylistically simple, following a traditional chorus, verse, chorus, verse pattern, with few or no changes to the verse when it is repeated. The implied cycle of the themes (the conflict between work and desire) is supported by the repetition. Strummer and Jones employ primarily informal language “You lucky lady,” “gettin’ stoned,” and “It’s pretty bad,” which also serves to support the conflict; the language is closer to the life he desires than the life he works, where his references presumably do not include “Janie Jones” nor “gettin’ stoned.” The song’s rhythmic structure is largely supported by the rhyme scheme, which is neither complicated nor terribly amazing. Much of the rhyme is slant rhyme, however, such as “stoned/Jones/roll,” and “work/shirks.” Such uncomplicated stylistic measures work well with the song’s equally simple thematic structure. The thematic structure is certainly more significant that the stylistic one for “Janie Jones,” in no small measure because the song is meant to be heard in tandem with the music, so the rhythm and rhyme tend to follow the very rapid tempo of the music. Here’s an analysis of the music, should you be interested.

As you can see, the explication itself is pretty straightforward (even a tad boring). This is a first draft, so I could stand to spend more time on a few of my style particulars, but we’ll cover those later. We’ll experiment with another song later this week. Probably “Missing You,” which will give me a chance to geek out while writing.

One response to “Janie Jones Explication: From Notes to Text

  1. Pingback: The Art of Explication and Notes on “Janie Jones” « Beautiful Disease

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