From Rolling Stone:
“We can’t play reggae,” Strummer said in 1977. But the Clash invented a style of punk skank, toasting solidarity between punks and Rastas.
The song showed considerable musical and lyrical maturity for the band at the time and is stylistically more in line with their version of Junior Murvin‘s “Police & Thieves” as the powerful guitar intro of “(White Man) in Hammersmith Palais” descends into a slower ska rhythm, and was disorienting to a lot of the fans who had grown used to their earlier work. “We were a big fat riff group,” author Joe Strummer noted in The Clash‘s film Westway to the World. “We weren’t supposed to do something like that.”