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Should I Stay or Should I Go? In the 80’s?

In the 1980’s, rock music was evolving into new sub genres such as heavy metal and punk rock. One of the famous bands of this time was The Clash, a British punk rock band who wrote the song “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” The song opens with the line, “Darlin’ you got to let me know, should I stay or should I go? If you say that you are mine, I’ll be here ‘til the end of time”. From the get go, we see the image of a man who is confused about whether or not his girlfriend even wants him. Lines such as “It’s always tease tease tease, You’re happy when I’m on my knees” show that the way she treats him is often unpredictable, and that she delights in his confusion.

What messages does it send?

This song speaks to all sorts of people who are struggling in their relationships. The message, in its most basic terms, can be phrased as “if you don’t want me, tell me so I can leave”. A message like this would have been received well by the youth of the time period, and even today. Messages about relationships were effective in the 1980’s, and even though the styles have changed, the message remains the same.

What is the perspective on youth culture?

The perspective on youth culture behind this song is that it should be a free culture. This can be broadly interpreted, but specifically it is referring to relationships. For example, a line in the song says “If you don’t want me, set me free, exactly whom I’m supposed to be”. The song is saying that people should be free, and that they are meant to be that way. In regards to youth, the perspective is that they are too young to be bound in a complicated relationship. The view is that it is better for them to be free and do as they please while they are still young.

Ministry Reflection

So with all this being said, how can we as ministers respond to a song with such a message?

We must first acknowledge that most students in our ministries will be involved in relationships, and some will find themselves in similar situations.

The song portrays the message that “If I go there will be trouble, An’ if I stay it will be double”, encouraging youth to get out and avoid extra grief. Though this may be appropriate for some relationships, it can foster a culture of always taking the path of least resistance in various facets of life.

As youth ministers, we need to teach students how to properly work out difficulties in relationships, whether they are dating or just as friends. In Matthew 13:34, Jesus teaches his disciples to “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another”.

In their interactions with people, we must teach students to treat everyone with the love of Christ. Loving people in this way may be challenging, and it may require us to stay through “double” trouble, but in the end extending the love of Christ to those we are in conflict with will prove rewarding and worth the trouble.

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5 responses to “Should I Stay or Should I Go? In the 80’s?

  1. David

    I think it all comes down to mainstream media having an unhealthy perspective on relationship. As Ministers, we can teach our youth the Biblical standard for relationships and marriage. There should be honesty and love, which would eliminate questions such as “should I stay or should I go?” I feel that it sets a really bad example for how couples should treat each other. This type of message can causes heartbreaks in teenagers who idolizes these songs and lives up to its lyrics, thinking that’s the way it’s suppose to be.

  2. brandynwinkley13 ⋅

    I remember being with my dad and this song playing on the radio. I thought it was a fun song but never really gave much thought to the lyrics. After you have broke the lyrics up, it is easy to see the message that is behind the song. I am sure that many people could relate to this song, which made this song so popular. After listening to this song again, I think that this song can be a good illustration to show the effects that a non biblical relationship can have on a person. It is clear that this guy is upset, confused, frustrated, angry, and ex, but a leader can turn this song and use it as a tool to show youth what sin does to a person. A leader could also use this song to relate with a person, who might be feeling this way and then can teach on what a relationship should really look like. Thanks for posting this blog, it had me thinking in a bunch of ways.

  3. ianmcld ⋅

    Coming from a perspective of someone who used to call himself a “punk,” I feel I understand this song well. The whole punk culture is about rebellion: rebelling against greater society by dressing differently, listening to different music, drinking, swearing, offending others, etc (which I now find funny, because if you are still dressing like every other punk, aren’t you still conforming in a away? Anyways…). I find the appeal of the song less about the relationship being talked about, and more about the desired freedom that cannot be achieved. I don’t think Joe Strummer (the writer of the song and hero to the punk/ska/reggae world) used the bad relationship as a metaphor for society and the world, but it could be viewed as such: he wants freedom from society and all the expectations, but the world won’t let him go and seems to enjoy his misery. Pastorally, the take away could be this: people are looking for freedom. They will do anything to find that freedom and think the freedom is doing whatever the heck we want, but that is not freedom. True freedom is only found in Jesus. Only Jesus can give is freedom and meaning and love and purpose in life, and that is the message we need to be telling our students. Once we say that thought (because often time we just leave it at that) we have to be prepared to give students examples and practical advice on how to live in that freedom (not just “give it all to Jesus and live for Him now!” I mean, really people, that isn’t telling anyone anything. People are looking for answers and blanket statements that don’t really tell you how to do something is helping anyone. I am beginning to rant now, ‘end post!’)

  4. jessicav10 ⋅

    “Should I stay or should I go” is a song that I dislike very much. I have not really listened to the lyrics much, I just a have always heard the chorus, which to me annoyed me very much. Now reading this blog, I come to realize that this song sounds similar to what many of my non-Christian high school friends have gone through the struggle with their boyfriends. There was probably a connection to this song as it was played on the oldies in their cars. A pastor working with youth should realize there will be times when girls or boys will come up to them and ask them if they should leave their boyfriend or girlfriend. Pastors should take into consideration that most Jr and high school relationships don’t last, and they should help guide them to the understanding that they might have to leave the relationship if it is not in the hands of God.

  5. jenniferlancheros13 ⋅

    I really like the message of this song, after reading your post. I have heard this song numerous times before, but never really payed attention to the lyrics. This could definitely be spun into a positive message for the youth of the time, as well as the youth of today.
    This song can be used to remind the youth that we need to thinking about whether or not we should be staying in a relationship, with a significant other, or even friends. It is important to reflect on these things and realize why we are friends or more than friends with a particular person.
    I really enjoyed all of the aspects of your post, and appreciate you really working through every part of this. You did a great job. Thank you for that.

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