Masters of Rock and Psychedelia -
"Train in Vain" is a song from the album London Calling (1979) by the British punk rock band The Clash. The song was not originally listed on the album's track listing,appearing as a secret track at the end of the album. This was unintentional however, as the reason for it was that the track was added to the record at the last minute, when the sleeve was already in production. It was the first Clash song to crack the United States Top 30 charts and in 2004, the song was ranked number 292 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest songs of all time.
In the U.S., the song's title is expanded to "Train in Vain (Stand By Me)"; the words 'stand by me' dominate the chorus. It was titled "Train in Vain" in part to avoid confusion with Ben E. King's signature song "Stand By Me".
The song was written in one night and recorded the next day, near the very end of the recording for London Calling. It was initially intended to be given away as a promotion with the British rock magazine New Musical Express.
Train in Vain was the last song we finished after the artwork went to the printer. A couple of Clash Web sites describe it as a hidden track, but it wasnt intended to be hidden. The sleeve was already printed before we tacked the song on the end of the master tape.
—Bill Price (sound engineer) ,
"Train in Vain" was added after the deal for The Clash to write a song for an NME flexi disc fell through, and as Mick Jones commented The real story on "Train In Vain" is that originally we needed a song to give to the NME for a flexi disk that NME was going to do. And then it was decided that it didn't work out or decided the flexi disk didn't work out so we had this spare track we had done as a giveaway. So we put it on London Calling but there wasn't time because the sleeves were already done.The result of its late addition was that it was the only song without lyrics printed on the insert, and was not listed as a track.
When London Calling was released, many fans assumed it was called "Stand by Me",but the meaning of the song's title is obscure because no train is mentioned in the lyric. Mick Jones, who wrote most of it, offered this explanation: "The track was like a train rhythm, and there was, once again, that feeling of being lost."
"Train in Vain" is a love song,with an almost country-and-western lyric that echoes Tammy Wynettes classic, "Stand by Your Man."The guitar riff, in part, resemble the J.J. Jackson's 1966 UK/American hit single "But It's Alright."
To any fan of Robert Johnson, the song title to "Train in Vain" is an obvious nod to Johnson's "Love in Vain", a frequently covered blues classic, about a man who sees his lady off to the train, who then departs without him.
I was drenched in blues and English R&B as a teenager, then I went to black American R&B with my group the 101ers. Mick had heard a lot of that stuff too, and he had this extra dimension of the glam/trash New York Dolls/Stooges scene.
—Joe Strummer ,
The song has been interpreted by some as a response to "Typical Girls" by The Slits, which mentions girls standing by their men. Writer Mick Jones split up with Slits guitarist Viv Albertine shortly before he wrote the song