According to the Rock The Casbah Songfacts, Clash Drummer Topper Headon wrote the music and the original lyrics. Vocalist Joe Strummer then decided to take Headon's lyrics in a different direction, to tell the story of an Arab ruler (the Shereef) who hates music, but is defied by the citizens . According to former Clash co-manager Kosmo Vinyl, Headon's original words were a filthy ode to his girlfriend. Vinyl recalled to Rolling Stone: "He had really pornographic lyrics for it if I remember correctly. Read more on Last.fm.