A Punk Rock Dismissal: “London Calling”

A Punk Rock Dismissal

“London Calling”

Like most musical trends and waves, Punk Rock was short lived in comparatively to other musical styles, and short lived in the sense that by 1979 all the original Punk bands decided to put an end to it, being by disbanding, mellowing down or to fusion into other styles such as Ska.

The Clash, together with Sex Pistols were the commercial leaders of the traditional British Punk Rock musical movement, while the Pistols became an uncontrolled mess that lead them to not writing any new songs after their debut album (Glenn Matlock leaving the band didn’t helped), The Clash, somehow more of skilled and dedicated musicians, had the vision of moving on at the right time in the right direction for their career ,that’s how Guy Stevens and Mick Jones produced “London Calling”, was born.

From No Future to New Future

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When The Clash started the rehearsals for a new album in early 1979 they didn’t had a single song to start with and in order to make the creativity process easier they kept these rehearsals private not allowing hangers-on to attend. It was a period where Punk had lost his strength, giving up for new emerging Rock sub-genres such as Ska (The Specials, Madness),  New Romantic (Adam And The Ants, Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet)  Synth Pop (Softcell, Visage, Ultravox), the roughness of bands like the Sex Pistols and the increasing chaos witnessed at Punk concerts cut off the rising popularity as the decade was coming to an end, with the brand new and full of hope 80’s about to start. The band, in seclusion was able to construct more songs than the initial expected and demanded by their label, however all the songs reflected different styles and genres as they experimented with Reggae, Ska, Rockabilly and even Jazz and Blues. The result was one of Rock’s most eclectic albums that end up turning it’s back on Punk, there’s no “White Riot” or “Career Opportunities” in “London Calling”, instead you get a more carefully crafted songwriting on songs such as “London Calling”, “Guns Of Brixton” and “Train In Vain”, Punk as it was known during the late 70’s had been pronounced dead and The Clash helped with the funeral, it eventually recycled into new forms of Punk in bands like Exploited and Dead Kennedys. “London Calling” was not planned to be a double-album, however it became one, but at the band’s request the cover came with a price sticker of a single album, The album was released in December 1979 (in less than one year The Clash composed, developed and recorded all the songs mostly Joe Strummer and Mick Jones compositions) the cover art was made in the form of a tribute to Elvis Presley’s debut self-titled album and became as iconic as the inspiration, the cover displays a photograph of bassist Paul Simonon smashing his Fender Precision Bass against the stage at The Palladium in New York City on 20 September 1979 during the Clash Take the Fifth US tour.

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In sum, this album, that is often labeled as Punk, it’s an essential album for a Punk fan to listen and to own but, also for the Rock and Pop fan, an maybe being the latter, the more appropriated listeners to it. It’s also an album that no other Punk band from their generation could had done, it is impossible to imagine a band like for example the Pistols constructing an album like “London Calling”, not that they would care about it, and they also already had left clear by 1978 what was their music environment and influences,  but when put into perspective, The Clash were among the most skilled and creative musicians of the Punk generation and “London Calling” it’s a milestone for all music.

Side 1

“London Calling” (Strummer, Jones)
“Brand New Cadillac” (written and originally performed by Vince Taylor)
“Jimmy Jazz” (Strummer, Jones)
“Hateful” (Strummer, Jones)
“Rudie Can’t Fail” (Strummer, Jones)

Side 2
“Spanish Bombs” (Strummer, Jones)
“The Right Profile” (Strummer, Jones)
“Lost in the Supermarket” (Strummer, Jones)
“Clampdown” (Strummer, Jones)
“The Guns of Brixton” (written by Paul Simonon)

Side 3
“Wrong ‘Em Boyo” (written by Clive Alphonso)
“Death or Glory” (Strummer, Jones)
“Koka Kola” (Strummer, Jones)
“The Card Cheat” (written by Strummer, Jones, Simonon & Topper Headon)

Side 4
“Lover’s Rock” (Strummer, Jones)
“Four Horsemen” (Strummer, Jones)
“I’m Not Down” (Strummer, Jones)
“The Card Cheat” (Strummer, Jones)
“Revolution Rock (written by Jackie Edwards, Danny Ray)
“Train in Vain” (Strummer, Jones)

Personnel:
Joe Strummer: lead and backing vocals, rhythm guitar, piano
Mick Jones: lead guitar, piano, harmonica, backing and lead vocals
Paul Simonon: bass guitar, backing vocals, lead vocals on “The Guns of Brixton”
Topper Headon: drums, percussion

Additional performers:
Mickey Gallagher: organ
The Irish Horns: brass

Recorded during: August–September and November 1979, Wessex Sound Studios, London
Produced by: Guy Stevens, Mick Jones
Release Date: December 14, 1979
Label: CBS

Singles:
“London Calling” Released: 7 December 1979
“Clampdown” Released: 1980 (AUS only)
“Train in Vain” Released: 12 February 1980

Suggested tracks:
“London Calling”, “The Guns of Brixton”, “Train in Vain”, “Lost in the Supermarket”, “Spanish Bombs” “Death or Glory”

Listen to the full “London Calling” album in Spotify:

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David Warren

David Warren

David Warren is co-founder, editor and author for Pop Expresso

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