Like many songs on London Calling, Rudie Can’t Fail has a strong reggae influence. Donald A. Guarisco of Allmusic described it as “an exuberant horn-driven number that mixes pop and soul elements in to spice up its predominantly reggae sound”.
“Rudie Can’t Fail” praises the rude boys of Jamaica in the 1960s who challenged their elders’ status quo. The song is about a fun-loving young man who is criticized by his elders for not acting as a responsible adult, drinking beer before breakfast, and describe him as being “so crude and feckless”, to which he responds “I know that my life make you nervous, but I tell you I can’t live in service.” The song’s title derives from Desmond Dekker’s 1967 song “007 (Shanty Town)”, and is in homage to Ray Gange, who had portrayed a roadie who quits his job to follow The Clash around in the 1980 film Rude Boy. Rudie Can’t Fail was the working title of a planned second movie for which The Clash would provide the soundtrack. Reference is made also to Dr Alimantado, in the line “Like the doctor who was born for a purpose”. Its name commonly appears at the end of “Safe European Home” from “Give ‘Em Enough Rope”