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Very few bands are capable of producing albums of this length (and at 19 tracks long it certainly is an epic) that can keep the listener from switching off part of the way through, but the variation of sounds and styles whilst maintaining a high overall standard of quality is testament to The Clash, something that perhaps wasn't quite so successful in their even more experimental follow-up Sandinista. The album opens with the well-known title track, which sets the standard high for the rest of the album that follows. Up next is 'Brand New Cadillac', a song that could very easily have fitted alongside earlier work from the band, before taking a strong deviation in direction with third track 'Jimmy Jazz', a very laid back tune that stands in stark contrast to the first two songs, although it's personally one of my least favourite tracks on the album. The record then goes to step in numerous different directions, the more interesting of which being reggae-inspired tracks such as 'The Guns of Brixton', which the band pull off with effortless ease. Other highlights include the despaired view of a consumerist society in 'Lost in the Supermarket', Spanish civil war-inspired 'Spanish Bombs', and a terrific duetting of Joe Strummer and Mick Jones on the song 'Rudie Can't Fail'. The album is rounded off by 'Train in Vain', a rousing anthem that's absolutely perfect for anyone having undergone a bitter relationship breakup.
All in all this album deserves its place as one of the best of British rock, and is certainly not a record that I tire of listening to.
Released in 1979, London Calling was the third album from British punk group The Clash.
This is an eclectic mix of tunes that cover a wide range of musical styles ranging from reggae through to pop and even a bit of rockabilly.
The tone is set with the opening guitar chops of the thunderous title track and carries through seventeen more songs before finishing with the majestic Train In Vain.
The album tackles issues such as UK unemployment, gun crime and even the Spanish Civil War but despite these weighty issues it still remains a brilliantly accessible record.
There are maybe one or two tracks that might have been removed to trim the running time but this is just a minor quibble.
Apart from the tracks mentioned above other highlights of the album include the bass heavy 'Guns Of Brixton', the beautiful 'Spanish Bombs' and the horn based reggae of 'Rudie Can't Fail'
Like The Clash themselves, this record is hard to pigeonhole and to do so would do it a disservice. If you want to hear a great British band at the height of their powers then this record may be just the one.
This album has very special memories for me. I can remember buying the double LP on its first week of release from a branch of Subway Records in London. I had travelled 90 miles, as a 16 years old, to see Chelsea v Swansea and for some strange reason I just had to buy this album before going to the match. Somehow the records survived the match intact. This was 30 years ago, I can't remember the score (although my team Chelsea won, I think) but I sure can recall the songs on this great package.
This was the third LP from this four man, UK punk outfit and definitely their most accomplished (their subsequent offerings - Sandanista and Combat Rock certainly didn't cut the mustard).
The first 2 albums, The Clash and Give 'em Enough Rope were peppered with punk anthem, 3 minute wonders (classics such as White Riot, White Man at the Hammersmith Palais, Tommy Gun). These were right for their time, mid to late 1970s, and The Clash were right there at the forefront of the punk movement, alongside the likes of The Sex Pistols, The Stranglers, The Damned et al).
Moving on to 1979, the flames of the punk fire were not so fierce or bright and the New Wave movers were starting to dominate. The Clash moved on. They retained their tight, raunchy sound but progressed their lyrics to new, higher, levels (they left behind the repetitive angst ridden choruses of "white riot, I want a riot, white riot, a riot in my home" and replaced them with crafted storybooks) in London Calling.
I now listen to this album on my MP3 player (the record player and my LPs are long gone). There are 19 tracks and I gravitate towards a special shortlist of the following classics:
- Spanish Bombs
- Wrong 'em Boyo
- Death or Glory
- Four Horsemen
- The Card Cheat
- I'm not Down
Lead singer Joe Strummer perorms these songs superbly - his rough, raunchy voice is full of vibrant energy and he's extremely well supported by guitarist Mick Jones, Drummer Topper Headon and Paul Simonen on bass.
The title track was the well known single release and is in similar vein to the songs mentioned above. The Clash are more experimental with some of the other songs, getting farther removed from their punk roots. Songs such as Koka Kola, Train in Vain, Jimmy Jazz, Brand New Cadillac take influence from non-punk genres such as reggae, rock and roll and 'rockabilly' they're very listenable but a long way removed from the spitting venom on 1976 punk.
I love this album, it has stood the test of time, and still sends tingles down my spine (particulalrly when I hear the Spanish lyrics in Spanish Bombs and the depressive downward spiral in I'm Not Down -"So I have lived, that kind of day when none of your sorrows will go away, Go down and down and hit the floor, Down and down and down some more -Depression")
Joe Strummer is no longer with us but his spirit lives on in one of the all-time classic albums, London Calling.
WHO WERE THE CLASH?
The Sex Pistols invented punk. The Clash developed it, rode it and then killed it. And thank goodness they did, otherwise we'd still all be walking around with safety pins on our jackets, green mohicans and gobbing at everyone over 25.
They were made up of MIck Jones, Joe Strummer, Paul Simonon and Topper Headon. Mick and Joe shared the vocals duties on most Clash tracks, but it's Joe who sings on their better known tracks: Bankrobber, London Calling. However, Mick does sing on their only number one (the reissued Levi's ad song Should I Stay Or Should I Go?). Paul sung a bit and played bass and Topper Headon was the drummer.
WHAT'S LONDON CALLING ALL ABOUT THEN?
It's a 25 year old album and touted as their best album and possibly the best album ever. Originally released on double vinyl in 1979, it was re-released on CD in 1990. There will be a deluxe 25th anniversary edition coming out very soon that features another 21 tracks plus a "making of" DVD.
London Calling features a wide range of styles from 50's rockabilly and rock n roll to reggae, ska and 60s soul. The fact that there's only one real punk song on the album credits the Clash with trying a variety of styles in a time (late 70s) when that kind of thing was frowned upon. This album opened the door for ska-revivalists like the Specials, Madness and even Bad Manners to do their thing.
The album features 19 tracks on one CD (two records if you bought the original and 2 CDs and a DVD if you buy the 25th anniversary edition). It's variety of influences and styles are thrilling.
**1. London Calling (3:23)**
Bang bang bang go the guitars and drums and teasing bass before Joe Strummer's drunken husky voice kicks in: "London calling to the faraway towns, now war is declared let battle come down". Well, that call to arms opening line pretty much sets up the whole album let alone this track. A terrific uptempo song that, 25 years later, hasn't dated one jot. Even the churning guitar solo near the end is class. Absolutely brilliant. Altogether now: "I live by the riveeeeeer!"
**2. Brand New Cadillac (2:10)**
Joe's on the vocals again and this song is very reminiscent of late 50's rock n roll. All the symbolism is there: "baby, baby", cadillacs and his yearning "she ain't coming back to me" admission. A sad, but uptempo, rock n roll song in the traditional sense.
**3. Jimmy Jazz (3:57)**
Another Joe Strummer song (he alternated vocal duties with Mick Jones on occasion). This is slower in tempo and has a more "fun" feel to it. A lovely, lazy strummed intro and smooth jazzy saxophone are at odds with the usual Clash template of raucous guitars and madhatter drums. One of their most underrated tracks, this.
**4. Hateful (2:46)**
The intro to this song sounds like a mad Friday night in an Irish pub somewhere in Kilburn. It has a definite Celtic/Irish feel and is a return to the uptempo zone of earlier tracks. "Anything I want, he gives it to me/Anything I want, he gives it but not for free" goes the catchy chorus and Joe's really on top of his game on this fine song. A success!
**5. Rudie Can't Fail (3:31)**
So we've had had rock, 50's rock and roll, summery jazz, Irish music and now it's time for a songs that mixes skiffle and ska. No really. Another uptempo track with Mick and Joe sharing the vocals, this song is very much of its time (the late 70's and early 80's saw a host of white British bands leading the ska revival) but is none the worse for that. This is a Clash feelgood song, if you will.
**6.Spanish Bombs (3:21)**
"Spanish bombs in Andalucia", sings Mick in his plaintive tones on the opening line of this uptempo song. The intro sounds a lot like Bruce Springsteen's Born To Run as does some of the chords of the guitar bits in the middle, but the lyrics, the sentiment and the execution of the cut are the Clash's own. Top tune.
**7. The Right Profile (3:57)**
Joe's back with his yearning, tonsil-bothering singing style. The intro sounds like a 60's style pop record. Then once the horns come in, it could be a cover of a particularly excitable Motown track. "Everybody say: what's he like?" Joe cries on the outro to the track before a bluster of trumpets and sax see the song out. Not the best track on the album, but better than most songs I know, so that's a bonus!
**8. Lost In The Supermarket (3:50)**
Mick sings this track of suburban frustration over a beat and bass that are frenetic but never raucous. In fact the whole feel is deceptively chilled. It's a great jangly effort and one of the ten essential Clash songs. It features a mad hi-hat and a lovely pre-indie melody with the opening line of: "I wasn't born, so much as I fell out nobody seemed to notice me". Morrissey may have been taking notes.....
**9. Clampdown (3:52)**
The title suggests mad guitars and controlled vocal rage, and that's exactly what you get! Mick's back on vocals duties for this uptempo track of rocking perfection. Every member of the Clash is aware of their task on this track and it's a joy to listen to.
**10. The Guns Of Brixton (3:13)**
Remember Beats International's "Dub Be Good To Me"? This is where they got the bassline. It's another reggae track and with the crazed echoey, reverbed guitars in the background remains the evil, sinister cousin of the Specials' Ghost Town. It's a fantastic track commentating on the racial relationships of late 70s London. "When they kick at your front door, how you gonna come? With your hands upon your head or on the trigger of your gun?" Sadly, these lines - and the track in full - are still relevant today.
**11. Wrong 'Em Boyo (3:13)**
I don't like this track. It sounds like a cross between a Madness bside, the theme tune to Bottom and a speeded up version of the Beatles' Ob-la-di Ob-la-da! Joe's vocals are spot on as usual and they music is exceptionally well-played, it's just that it's quite annoying! The weakest track here.
**12. Death Or Glory (3:57)**
The bassy intro sounds like the beginning of Australia by the Manic Street Preachers. Which, bearing in mind this album is 25 years old is a compliment to the Clash. A guitars rock agreeably and Joe comes in and sings his lungs out: "death or glory becomes just another story". This songs attains God-like status for the immortal line:
I believe in this and it's been tested by research
That he who fucks nuns will later join the church
**13. Koka Kola (1:49)**
A song rallying against the advertising policies of multi-nationals. It starts with a "ding" of an elevator and the opening line: "in the gleaming corridor of the 51st floor/the money can be made if you really want some more". By looking at the lyrics sheet on the ablum, this song features the most words but is the shortest on the album. Strange
**14. The Card Cheat (3:40)**
Pianos! This sounds like a Meatloaf song, only 1000 times better - it's got that rock-opera feel to it. Apparently all the parts were recorded twice and this gives it that epic edge. Mick Jones sings this one and for anybody who knows their track, Bankrobber, the way the words are sung is very similar. Great stuff and an underrated tune.
**15. Lover's Rock (4:05)**
Not the radio-friendly brand of reggae but a song about drug smuggling. A piercing guitar motif resonates throughout and MIck and Joe sounds almost sugar-sweet on this song. It speeds up a bit towards the end as the title is repeatedly sung until it fades out.
**16. Four Horsemen (2:57)**
The most punk-rock like song on the album so far. For a band who were at the pinnacle of punk only two years earlier, its a testament to their development that all that remains of those days is just this one track out of 19. But even this hasn't realy got that punk attitude: no sneer or heav heavy chords, just a bit of shouting and some firey bass with a few squaelin guitars. Joe's goes bonkers at the end, mind you!
**17. I'm Not Down (3:07)**
A real positive anthem, this. "I've beat up, I've been thrown out, but I'm not down", sings Mick over some brilliant guitar riffs and Animal-from-the-Muppets drumming. In fact, take away the vocals and this could be a quality Who track, its that good.
**18. Revolution Rock (5:37)**
Reggae again! Boy do the Clash do reggae fantastically! This is akin to 70's dub reggae with echoey rhythms and deep bass with some ska brass. Joe's pisshead slur works brilliantly with this track and must have fitted right in the the pork pie hat brigade of the late 70s. A superb track.
**19. Train In Vain (3:11)**
The beat fades in on this song and the three note riff sounds like a 60's soul song. Mick sings this one and really camps it up on the quivery Elvis type vocals and overexaggeration of the words. "You can stand by me or not at all"< he instructs. This is too funky to be a Clash song!
WHAT HAPPENED NEXT?
A triple album entitled Sandinista was released to mixed critical reaction. Then in 1982 they released Should I Stay Or Should I Go? which nine years later would make number one on the strength of a Levi's Jeans advert. Mick Jones left soon after to form the hip-hop influenced Big Audio Dynamite and score a couple of hits in 1986, most notably with E=MC2.
In 2002, Joe Strummer died of a heart attack but not before his second album of world music was released with his new backing band The Mescaleroes.
Clash Apr 1977
Give 'Em Enough Rope Nov 1978
London Calling Dec 1979
Sandinista Dec 1980
Combat Rock May 1982
Cut The Crap Nov 1985
The Story Of The Clash - Volume 1 Apr 1988
From Here To Eternity Oct 1999
The Essential Clash Mar 2003
For a wider view of Clash's music, I suggest the best of called The Story Of The Clash because it's got Bankrobber and Should I Stay Or Should I Go on it as well as the best tracks from London Calling. Result!
Is it the best album ever? Who knows. A truly great album to me is one that you dislike instantly, but after repeated plays it winds it way into your psyche and you end up loving it. London Calling, for me, is one such album.
25yrs ago two things happened in West London: 1) me, 2) more interestingly The Clash's London Calling LP.
I had always wanted to give The Clash a good listen but never seemed to get 'round to it 'til this new 3 disc edition enticed me.
First off, those who already own this album and aren't diehard fans would probably not miss the extras here. The second disc is a bunch of meandering lost demos (The Vanilla Tapes) which would only awe long time fans (they're from hissy tapes and are aimless instrumentals - unformed), while the DVD contains a very vague making of docufilm, brief grainy studio footage and 3 promo videos (London Calling, Clampdown & Train In Vain).
The standard CD is considerably cheaper than this 25th Anniversary Legacy Edition, but if you're a Clash nut you'll ignore me and get this anyway.
I feel proud of The Clash as they're local boys (I live slap bang in the portion of London that is clearly referenced in the accompanying book [+ lyric sheet]), and they did good with this album. I don't need to emphasise the praise this album has gotten over the years, but in a brief sentence if The Sex Pistols were the PR of punk, The Clash definetly had the tunes you could go back to.
The 19 songs that make up this double-album (on a single CD) display more than just punk ferocity; there's rockabilly, reggae, jazz, surf rock, soul, Spector-ness and more - it's hard to sum up, but despite this genre playfulness the album doesn't sprawl; it has pure focus. It does have some immemorable occasions, but of 19 tracks this is allowed, and those still are in minority.
The artwork sums it completely; a kind of Elvis figured pose with a Hendrix guitar smash fused into it. It takes all rock up to that date (and still even now) and encompasses it. The lyrics in many cases are either confusing or sloganeering, but the passion of Strummer and Jones' vocals are what really matters here. You can almost smell West London from their sneers and taste it via the tunes.
London Calling is punk with brains, Jimmy Jazz is jazz that doesn't wank for itself, Lost In The Supermarket makes contemporary indie sound dated, Clampdown's intro was ripped off to form an entire Manic Street Preachers song, The Guns Of Brixton was sampled for Dub Be Good To Me (when Fatboy was Norman), Death Or Glory is ballsy, The Card Cheat is grand and sweeping and Train In Vain is moving.
...Simonon's bass rolls, Headon's drums carry the groove heavily. For over an hour you find little fault in this album.
Whereas most punk albums had a singular sound/thought, The Clash conveyed many. Though the band didn't top this album, and later disbanded, it's clear to see that The Clash's birth and life helped keep UK rock chugging along (and still does). A great and diverse punk album - perhaps one of that was pivotal in trying hard to steer punk away from being a monocultural joke...Although that still happened.
Go down Ladbroke Grove and you'll find that this album still sums up that part of London (and others) well.
This album is so good that it was named best album of the eighties by the American music magazine Rolling Stone, even though it actually came out in the seventies. Now that must be good. To be fair to Rolling Stone this album was released in 1980 in the States but you would have thought the initial release date determines what decade the album belonged to. Anyway, this album is a truly incredible feat. Like many classic albums it is hard to see exactly where it came from as Give 'em Enough Rope hardly promised much and to release a double-set after releasing two albums in two consecutive years seems a rather exhausting proposition. Anyway, everyone goes on about how this album isn't really punk at all. I think it is and it isn't. Musically, there is very little punk on here (the title track perhaps but not much else) but in terms of attitude the Clash are still keeping up their uncompromising political stance. Well, in a way. For some reason they seem so very happy on this album, half the songs sound like Strummer's singing them with a smile on his face. The title track, if it is a punk song, is obviously aggressive (I read somewhere that the moment when Strummer cries out "Now get this!" is the best moment in music history and I'm close to agreeing) and the Paul Simonon penned and sung "Guns of Brixton" (which is a truly fantastic song) is also very menacing. However, songs like "Jimmy Jazz", "Hateful" and "Rudie Can't Fail" all sound like party tunes of the highest order. Most of them are based around some sort of reggae or ska basis (particularly "The Guns of Brixton", as Simonon was the main reggae fiend in the band) but done in such a manner that it appeals both to those who dislike reggae and those who dismiss white reggae as some sort of racist assimilation. Again the band opt for a stronger first half than second (although it is much
closer this time around) as there are moments on the second half that don't quite match the rest: the double bill of "Death or Glory" and "Koka Kola", and the foursome of "Lover's Rock", "Four Horsemen", "I'm Not Down" and "Revolution Rock". Obviously I'm not suggesting they are bad songs (as all would be a best track on Give 'em Enough Rope) but they lack the magic of the other songs on here (although I wouldn't be surprised if many people regarded them as the best tracks). For me, though, the best tracks again come at the start. Obviously there is the opening title track (which I'd wager everyone here knows) but the old fifties rock' n' roll of "Brand New Cadillac" is perfect. The reggae shuffles "Jimmy Jazz" and "Rudie Can't Fail" are immense fun and the chorus of "Hateful" is quite simply one of my favourite choruses to any song in the world ever. There is some really great melodic rock on here as well (mostly sung by Jones). "Spanish Bombs" and "Lost in the Supermarket" are more akin to pop than punk but the real pop masterpiece is the final (originally unlisted) track "Train in Vain" which is again sung by Mick and was the band's biggest hit single in America. Actually I'm beginning to regret not putting "The Right Profile" on the best tracks list as it is another absolute stormer of a song, again sung in an irrepressibly jaunty manner. Of course the lyrical matter is not parties and girls, though, but a mixture of politics and analysis of drugs culture. However, the most noticeable lyric on the album is probably "The Card Cheat", which instead forms a narrative account of an old-war veteran cheating at cards and getting shot for his trouble. It is also a slight change of direction musically as it seems a more straightforward driving
rock song (with prominent piano). The album cover is also almost as famous as the album itself with a striking image of Simonon about to smash his bass. This is simply one of the best albums in rock music history (double or otherwise) and proves that some punk bands were not one-trick ponies. Some had very many tricks indeed.
With this stunnig double album The Clash proved themselves to be the most rare of species; A musically versatile punk band. Whereas The Ramones released 4 amazing but identical albums and The Sex Pistols only had the mileage for one awe-inspiring LP, The Clash run ahead of the challengers with this. It unfortunately starts with my least favourite song, London Calling. It's unusually edgy for such a laid back album and stands out like a sore thumb. The stuttering Shadows-esque intro of Brand New Cadillac is very funky and it is a nice little song. Up until now there is nothing to tell you that this is in anyway special. Jimmy Jazz tells you that. So laid back it's almost comatose. Sparse guitar and chunking bass combine to create something wonderful. The start of Hateful sounds suspiciously like a Barn dance tune but turns out brilliantly. How could a white band produce something as ultimately reggae as Rudie Can't Fail? You have to keep reminding yourself that you're not listening to Lee Perry or Peter Tosh. Needless to say it's great. The first overtly political song on the album is Spanish Bombs which is very much like something the International Brigade would sing marching through Catalonia. The Right Profile is sheer quality but doesn't stand out on an album so packed with class. The best lyric on the album is Lost In The Supermarket. A tender tune sung by Mick Jones on the consumerist society we live in. There is a distinct pop sensibility running throughout this album that is shown particularly on Clampdown which sounds a bit like The Locomotion but is extremely beautiful. Ok, Guns Of Brixton HAS to be Jamaican. Paul Simonen's bass is just out and out reggae. It's very dark and kinda breaks the continuity on the record but is compelling enough. This is the point where the record becomes a blur. But such a wonderfully rich and tune
ful blur i could listen to any day. It flows together seamlessly. Wrong 'Em Boyo, Death Or Glory, Koka Kola, The Card Cheat, Lover's Rock, I'm Not Down and Four Horsemen are all similar and all stunningly good. Revolution Rock is a triumphant sneer, a gloriously, optimistic and angry track that will have you singing and dancing around your room. "TO THE CRUELEST MASTERS IN ALL KINGSTOWN!" (yes, I know they're not from the Caribbean) And finally, the anti-love song of the century, Train In Vain. If ever you've been rejected, dumped or messed around with by a girl put this on full blast and sing along. It's a great cure. What a band. What an album.
Between 1976 and 1978, Punk had turned from a genuinely interesting social movement into a depressing commercial sell-out. By 1979, the Sex Pistols had imploded and punk was turning into a mainstream fashion phenomenon, and the second generation of bands were punching out identikit music. Punk was dead. Or so it seemed. You see, most people had forgotten about the Clash by now. They'd always been the poor man's Pistols, competent enough, but apparently lacking the energy of Rotten et al. However, most people forgot that Mick Jones and Joe Strummer weren't the type of people to just fade away like some fashion trend. Maybe in 1977 all they wanted to do was be the Sex Pistols, but by 1979, something amazing had happened. The Clash grew up, and released London Calling, THE finest punk album ever made, bar none. In terms of importance to the world of music, this album is probably just as important as Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, and more important than (What's the Story?)Morning Glory. If you liked the rawness of the Pistols and the yobbishness of Sham 69, you'll probably hate this album. London Calling is more like the grandfather of indie, and it's far more sophisticated than any of its contemporaries. The CD is a medley of everything the Clash wanted to do, musically, be it Paul Simonon gaining prominence as bass guitarist, to Joe's experimentation with reggae, with Mick's wry social commentary included. Since there's 19 tracks on the album, I'll deal with the highlights, which means these tracks are some of the most spectacular you'll ever hear. The title track is an exploration of the effect of nuclear war on London, haunting and despairing, but with a real sense of tongue in cheek. Paul is fantastic on bass, and the discordant guitar gives a real sense of bleakness. 'Brand New Cadillac' is the Clash getting back to their pre-punk roots; cl
assic rock n' roll. This track was actually recorded by accident and originally Mick wanted to ditch it because it speeds up. Thank Christ that it stayed then, because the pace is unbelievable yet controlled. 'Jimmy Jazz' is a slow jazz tune, which probably isn't many people's favourite, but I love the saxophone solo, and the melodic whistling that introduces the track. 'Rudie Can't Fail' is a cheerful, bouncy reggae track, with a really strong sense of rhythm, very addictive. You've been warned. 'Lost in the Supermarket' makes use of Mick's beautiful voice, you really wanna cry at the end, even though it's not a particularly sad song. It's just very moving, and a scathing attack on commercial culture. 'Death or Glory' is a great 'fun' track, great drum beat at the chorus, the sort of chorus that deserves to be shouted out by a crowd at a concert. 'Train in Vain' is a masterpiece, originally an unlabelled track when this came out on vinyl (remember LPs?). Mick sums up perfectly the sense of loss you have when love is wrecked, and it's really emotional. It's the last track on the album, and you'll find yourself wanting to cry again. I cannot possibly heap enough praise on this album. It should be law that everyone should own and listen to this album. If you think punk was all about drunken yobs, this will be a real eye-opener, and anyone who likes rock, reggae, jazz, soft indie or ska will absolutely love this album. Buy it, or you'll never forgive yourself.
Yes, here I am again writing another review of an aged classic Punk bands' album! To clarify matters I am reviewing the original vinyl issue as that's all I have so I do not know whether more recent CD editions differ. Indeed the album I have here even has the original "£5" sticker on it from 1979 (that's for a double album too!) Aah, how times have changed! Released in 1979, "London Calling" was The Clash's third album, a double album, displaying a multitude of styles and musical influences. The line up on this album was the 'classic' Clash Line up of Joe Strummer, Mick Jones, Paul Simonon and Topper (Nicky) Headon. Indeed, the somewhat dated black and white cover features THE classic rock photo of all time! The one of Paul Simonon on stage about to crash his bass guitar to the ground. There are 18 tracks on the album as follows: Side One: London Calling Brand New cadillac Jimmy Jazz Hateful Rudie Can't Fail Side Two: Spanish Bombs The Right Profile Lost in the Supermarket Clampdown The Guns of Brixton Side Three: Wrong 'em Boyo Death or Glory Koka Kola The Card Cheat Side Four: Lover's Rock Four Horsemen I'm not Down Revolution Rock Plus the bonus track of "Train in Vain". I'm not going to review every track as that would take forever but try to pick out the highlights and lowlights (still going to take a while!). Of course the title track is probably the best known from this era - a wonderful atmospheric stomp with Joe Strummer's characteristic "spluttering" vocal style. "Hateful" is a another wonderfully uplifting track believe it or not, depsite the title, far too fast to sing along too! "Lost in the Supermarket" I've heard on more than one occasion to the background of pro
grammes such as consumer shows! A gentle song with thoughtful lyrics. "The Guns of Brixton" features Paul Simonon on vocals (unusually) and has an eerie, menacing feel with a wicked bass line that was cruelly ripped off (or should I say 'sampled') by some faceless techno/disco band some years ago (I can't remember who). "Wrong 'em Boyo" shows off the Clash's very well-charted ska/reggae influence and is indeed a cover by such a band originally. Impossible to stay still too! "The Card Cheat", one of my favourites, is a long, tragic song featuring emotive piano to the forefront. The fourth side of this album is when the listener can tell they are starting to run out of steam being slower, less lyrically and musically interesting, and obviously "winding down" for the night! Then BAM! comes the bonus track "Train in Vain" which has been covered by others and is a light, fairly funky number featuring Mick Jones more gentle vocals. If you are looking for a classic album of this era which displays a variety of styles and influences with no abundance of weak links, then this is it.
I bought combat rock by the Clash deemed by my mates as 'the best clash album' - that was rubbish - London Calling is by far the better of the two, admittedly the absance of 'should I stay or should i go' does leave it at a slight dissadvantage but even so London Calling still comes out shining in my opinion. This album has a large amount of tracks (19 I think) all of which are of a similar quality - good. I particularly liked: London Calling, Brand New Cadillac, Jimmy Jazz, and The Guns Of Brixton. This album represents the clash's most frequently used material, London Calling, can be heard all the time on tv and advertisements, although not as well known as Should I stay or should I go, I am not alone in thinking, that this album represents some of their most prolific work. The album presents a new, reggea style that the band seem to have adopted, their rock roots are still evedent, but generally the clash seem to have a chieved a musical high with this album, songs like lover's rock, rudie cant fail and spannish bombs. They all still have the clashes unique mark stamped all over them, but for me it represents a freash, new, more mature approach to the clash's work, and quite honestly this just shows how talented these lads were. Yes folks, thats right this album may be the best album the clash have ever written.
'No Elvis, Beatles or the Rolling Stones,' bawled Joe Strummer in '1977', but two years later that vow was shattered by The Clash. Their 1979 album, 'London Calling', showed them to be very much the inheritors of the torch carried by all three of those talents. The rockabilly sounds of the 79 vintage band were rooted deep in the Sun recordings produced by the King and the cover of the album paid startling homage to one of Presley's earliest LP's. Similarly, the Strummer-Jones writing partnership was proving to be the new wave version of Lennon and McCartney and just as the Scousers started going their separate ways and exhibiting fundamentally different approaches, Mick 'Paul' Jones was the romantic, harmonic pop sensibility to Joe 'John' Strummer's harder, uncompromising diamond edged rock. But The Clash resembled nothing so much as the early Stones in their startling amalgam of sounds on this splendid album, fusing rockabilly, reggae, funk, jazz, punk and blues in a wide ranging and rich tapestry of styles. The previous couple of years had seen a fairly fundamental change in the band - 1977 had seen them in the vanguard of the new wave movement with the adrenaline and amphetamine soaked rush of their debut album, a heady, non stop burst of punk which will always last as one of THE great debut albums. They lost their way a little after that record and the 1978 follow up, 'Give 'Em Enough Rope', was a shapeless and disappointing mess. It was produced by the Blue Oyster Cult's Sandy Pearlman and went for a neatly packaged, somewhat sanitised sound, with the band now in designer jump suits - only the opening 'Safe European Home' had any life or bite about it and it looked like The Clash had shot their bolt, but then they discovered America... By the time 'London Calling' emerged, they were a whole new ballgame, immersed in the myt
hs and legends of the West and clad in all manner of Forties and Fifties Americana. They had also abandoned the muddy punk sound and gone for a more polished, cosmopolitan approach, weaving its way through all manner of different styles and making it all uniquely their own. The title track, the single, had hinted at their new vistas with its epic, spacious qualities, but it was the B side, 'Armagideon Time', that was the clincher - they were going for space and feel and a more considered pace where they could really stretch themselves. It boded well for the future... The omens had not been good, however ... the critics had been highly contemptuous of the involvement of Pearlman and were not convinced by the band opting for the old 60's mod producer Guy Stevens to handle their new album, whispered to be a double. Yeah, we used to love The Clash, but they've lost it, they're just another bunch of Stones copyists - I'm so bored with the USA - right, only because you spend all your time over there, suckers...... However, the spate of singles the band had put out (all steadfastly unpromoted by the band on the hated Top of the Pops) - 'White Riot', 'Complete Control', 'Clash City Rockers', the sublime '(White Man) In Hammersmith Palais', 'Tommy Gun' - had chronicled this development and saw them sharpening their focus at each turn, with the 'London Calling' single outdoing them all and peaking at number 11 in the charts - their fanatical following had stayed with them throughout the 'Rope' debacle and they were one of the biggest live bands in the country. The album managed to win back the music critics and it was the range and easy dipping in and out of styles as if they were born to them that really marked things out. They had also widened their lyrical obsessions from the dole queue and boredom to Western economic power, the power of American multi nat
ionals, peasant revolt, youth uprisings and consumerism. They aimed at nothing less than being the saviours of the common man. That was The Clash, of course, always aiming at the bigger picture and setting themselves up for failure - but better to try than to simply bland out and the band could never have been accused of not taking risks. In fact, risk taking was nearly the band's downfall when they followed up 'London Calling' with the critically and popularly derided triple album, 'Sandinista!', but that was to come. For now they had a wonderful album on their hands, highlighted by bass player Paul Simonon's composing and vocal debut, 'The Guns Of Brixton', Mick Jones' precursors to the sound he made popular with Big Audio Dynamite, 'Spanish Bombs', 'Lost In The Supermarket' and the horn splashes of 'The Right Profile' and the awesome title track. All in all, 'London Calling' was the highspot of The Clash's career and one of the biggest albums of 1979. Producer Stevens captured the sound of the band perfectly, and the album featured Micky Gallagher from Ian Dury and the Blockheads on organ, a brass section, Mick Jones on piano and Strummer on the more down to earth 'pianner'. All in all, it was a wonderful experience although some of the tracks bordered on the bland, even predictable... ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 'London Calling' ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 'London calling, now don't look at us, all that phoney Beatlemania has bitten the dust ... the ice age is coming, the sun's zooming in, engines stop running and the wheat is growing thin, a nuclear error, but I have no fear, London is drowning - and I live by the river.' An almighty single this, one of The Clash's ultimate statements, all centring round some form of disaster which spells the end of the line for London in an apocalyptic accident -
the atmospheric sound of the piece sends chills up the spine and you even got yer 'foggy London night' on the brilliant promo video. In the hands of others, this might have been over the top, but The Clash pulled off a masterstroke here. It’s all chanking guitars over a rolling rhythm track with the chanting, imploring vocals warning of impending END OF THE WORLD disasters. The yelps and rubber band bass register long after the event. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 'Brand New Cadillac' ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Old time 50s rock’n’roll with typical Duane Eddy twang and finest Eddie Cochrane guitar over a twelve bar that just won’t quit. The quiff of Strummer truly meant something here … it’s rockabilly by numbers but shows the band’s innate feeling for the style – purest brilliance. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 'Jimmy Jazz' ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Spiralling, echoey guitar, smooth bass and whistling spark off a mellow little number that doesn’t really go anywhere but is another example of The Clash’s obsession with all forms of American culture – it rolls and lopes around seductively enough and features an almost BIG BAND arrangement of the omnipresent brass section. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 'Hateful' ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Joe versus The Pusher as Mr Strummer puts together one of his very finest message songs. 'Well, I got a friend who's a man. What man? The man who keeps me from the lonely. He gives me what I need. What you need? What you got? I need it all so badly. Oh, anything I want he gives it to me, anything I want he gives it but not for free - it's hateful, and it's paid for and I'm so grateful to be nowhere ... This year I've lost some friends. Some friends? What friends? I dunno, I ain't even noticed...' Musical
ly, it’s wonderful stuff with almost Diddley-esque guitar chop rhythms and a brilliant vocal hook around the chorus … ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 'Rudie Can't Fail' ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Skank and ska have always been genres that The Clash have found to be much to their liking and it could be the 1960s all over again and one of those very fine Trojan Records house bands – turn up the treble and remember (although it could be ‘Hammersmith Palais’ part 2…) ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 'Spanish Bombs' ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Gorgeous, romantic, Latin pop from the hands of Jones, with brilliant harmonies, melodies and hooks slapped all over the place, it sticks in the mind as much as anything here with the 'Oh ma corazon' refrain particularly seductive. This tale of revolt by Spanish peasants may be over idealistic, but it certainly hits the mark with its swooping guitar lines. 'Spanish weeks in my disco casino, the freedom fighters died up on the hill. They sang the red flag, they wore the black one, but after they died it was Mockingbird Hill. Back home the buses went up in flashes, my senorita's rose was nipped in the bud ... The hillsides ring with "Free the people", or can I hear the echo from the days of '39? With trenches full of poets, the ragged army fixing bayonets to fight the other line.' ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 'The Right Profile' ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ A tribute to the American film star Montgomery Clift which namechecks many of his movies, it's big and brassy and very, very lovely, with Strummer in yer face and ranting. This is typical of the stuff they blasted out, short and sweet on this album, and it's built around the hummable hooks and swooping melody. The chiming guitar and hi hat intro is a real lovely touch and Strummer’s stumbling
vocal is just WUNNERFUL as the band chimes in in vocal support – ‘That’s Montgomery Clift, honey.’ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 'Lost In The Supermarket' ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Another case of Jones setting the scene for his later career with Big Audio Dynamite, all wimpy vocals, slick melodies and thumping bass as he declaims the consumerism which the band detested. It's another gorgeous pop song, but try listening to this straight after anything off the first album and you'll be shocked by the change in approach. Jones’ guitar here and the hi hat rhythms of Topper Headon drive the song along splendidly. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 'Working For The Clampdown' ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The old idealistic appeal for the uprising of DA YOOF against THE GOVERNMENT is well captured here on another hook laden song, a riffing chant, demonising those who would enslave the workers - 'The men at the factory are old and cunning, you don't owe nothing so boy get running. It's the best years of your life they want to steal.' All naive, innocent, nursery rhyme philosophising, but you get the impression Strummer was never more serious, especially on his DEEP DARK opening warning. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 'The Guns Of Brixton' ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ... or gunth of Bwikthton, as Simonon's rasping lisp rendered it. The bass player, always the smouldering sex god of the band, achieved THE standout track on an album of highlights and showed that Strummer and Jones weren't the only creative talents in the band. In fact, Simonon's sardonic delivery is sinisterly right on the money despite his handicap and he seizes his opportunity with a revolution reggae sound, built around his deep bass rumble. The whole thing got lifted and used later to delicious effect by Norman ‘Fat Boy Slim’ C
ook, but the original takes some beating. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 'Wrong 'Em Boyo' ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Kicks off as a clumsy ‘Stagger Lee’ before getting called to a halt and reappearing as a rapid fire skanking good time lilt with blaring brass highlights. It’s another straight 60s ska workout, but glorious for all that. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 'Death Or Glory' ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ ...in which The Clash showed that they could out-Alarm The Alarm if they ever really wanted to, but achieved precious little else. It's formulaic epic rock but does boast some neat couplets - 'Love'n'Hate tattooed across the knuckles of his hands, the hands that slap his kids around cos they don't understand how death or glory becomes just another story.' Not one of the better songs here, I'm afraid. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 'Koka Kola' ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Here comes the total destruction of the American Dream as Strummer lifts the Coke Is Life mantra to point out the cynical media manipulation going on. It’s attractive enough to have been a major hit, however… ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 'The Card Cheat' ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Grand piano and HUGE guitar, drums and brass paint this as grandiose and very emphatic pop – vacuous but imploring. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 'Lover's Rock ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Throwaway and slight realisation of the lovers rock style which shows The Clash’s mastery of yet another musical style, though it tells us nothing new. However, it is gorgeous pop of the very highest calibre. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 'Four Horsemen' ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ More Alarm-By-Numbers I’m afraid, but The Clash were always better at being The Alarm than The Alarm and
this track simply storms along, driven by Headon’s insistent drum rhythms. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 'I'm Not Down' ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Great guitar and bass interplay at the start before a typical Strummer upbeat rocker which is really good, although not as fine as some of the stronger stuff here. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 'Revolution Rock' ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Another 60s reggae skank of a very high calibre with Strummer in his finest impression of Ken Boothe and Gallagher’s organ swirls taking you away to a summer in the Caribbean. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 'Train In Vain' ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Hidden away as the EXTRA UNCREDITED TRACK on the LP, this one gets full billing on the sleeve and it’s Springsteen-esque rock of a very imploring style with gorgeous vox from Jones (I think…) ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ And there you have it, 19 tracks of the very highest order, mainly from the Americas but dealing with each different musical style in glorious fashion – the reggae and the skank are the finest stuff here, but the album literally flows over with classic Clash – a very different band from those scruffy urchins staring out of the sleeve of the debut album. BUY THIS ALBUM.
THE CONTEXT: 1979. While in the US groups like The Dead Kennedys are ready to bring back what is rightfully theirs, in the UK Punk is holding out for its last huzzah...The Sex Pistols and The Damned already sucumbed to Punks self-destructive vein, and in a few years Billy Idol would make the transistion from Johnny Rotten wannabe to MOR bore...the world is threatened by The Village People and Debbie Gibson, and only Rocks primodial heroes, The Clash, could save it. THE EFFECT: “London Calling” was widely accepted as the best album of 1979. “Rolling Stone”, funnily out of touch as ever, decided it was the best album of the 80´s (Yup. And “Sgt.Peppers Lonley Hearts Club Band” is the best album of the 70´s). Over all, this is considered one of the best Rock N Roll albums ever. THE LYRICS: The Clash never gave out- the themes on “London Calling” may be more exotic, but they´re as militant as they were in ´77. Sure, it´s disputable whetever highly-payed musicians like The Clash should be able to say anything at all on populism, comunism or any other isms. But we all know that only 1% of all humans are brave enough to fully commit themselves to their political ideials, and those are usually men who have no other choice. Mostly, Strummer and Jones were confused. But they tried...that´s what really matters. The apocalyptic Punk anthem that is the title track is deceiving: not much of the rest of the album is quite as pessimistic. “The Guns Of Brixton”, “Revolution Rock” and “I´m Not Down” are very much revolutionary anthems. They also pull of great protest songs (the touching “Lost In The Supermarket”), soledade with criminal friends (“Jimmy Jazz”) and even preachy sermonising (“Wrong Em Boyo”...which starts as “Stagger Lee” by Lylod Price, which is itself a variation on the Blues standard “Stack O Lee”. After
that, The Clash decide that it´s wrong to cheat...a direct contrast to “Cheat”, from their debut album). But The Clash are no poltically minded one trick pony like Rage Against The Machine... we also get bitter drug songs (“Hateful”) and equally bitter love songs (the cool as hell “Train In Vain”). THE MUSIC: Is a complete dismissal of the notion that Punk bands couldn´t be sophisticated. It´s a deadly cocktail of Punk, Latino, Reagae, good ol Rock N Roll and, as NME put it, “Bozo Jazz”. This sound is ragged and unrelenting...sometimes they pull it off in a grand fashion (“Spanish Bombs” still reminds me of Maria from “For Whom The Bell Tolls”), sometimes it breaks down like the unperfected monster that it is (but even those moments are fun!). Oh, and while their cover of “Brand New Cadillac” is fair enough, it´s not half as good as the original (by whom? Gary Lewis & His Playboys, I think?). ONE LAST THING: The Clash sang “phony Beatlemania has bitten the dust!”, not “the phony Beatles have bitten the dust!”. The diference is bigger than you´d think.
As far as I am concerned, the Clash were the last great band of the 20th century. No-one since had the range and depth of musical styles that they embraced (from punk and rock to dub, reggae, funk and rap) and no-one since has had the conviction or strength of will to preach their beliefs so convincingly to others! London Calling is their finest hour. From the opening bars of the title track (and Joe's hoarse cry of 'I live by the river!') through the funky but despairing Clampdown ('No man born with a living soul...') and the poetic Lost In The Supermarket (my fave Clash song), the album rarely hits a bum note. I'm Not Down tells the story of a bloke who's suffered but triumphed over adversity, while Koka Kola is an intelligent rant against the power of advertising ('Treat me nice, party girl!'). I could go on for hours about how good this album is. It's inspirational - and in such direct contrast to today's mass-marketed manufactured pop acts, it's on a different planet from Steps and SClub7. 'Hateful' and 'Wrong 'Em Boyo' are fast paced romps through London life, while the classic 'Rudie Can't Fail' is a Jamaican/dub inspired melody that questions what you have to do to make the world a better place. Interestingly, I loathe 'Lover's Rock' and 'Brand New Cadillac'... they just don't seem to fit in with the rest of the album. And don't forget, Clash fans - you get a hidden bonus track at the end with 'Train In Vain'. The perfect end to an (almost) perfect album.
Having only discovered the Clash in the last couple of years London Calling has recently become one of my all time favourite albums. First released in 1979 you can now buy a digitally remasterd cd for around £7 - and at that price it is lunacy not to. All the tracks on this album have thumping rhythm and style and the quality is still clear even over 20 years on... this alone confirms the album as a timeless great. To get 19 tracks on any album is very rare and for each one to be memorable in its own way is astonishing. To single out any tracks from such a good selection is hard but for me Jimmy Jazz and especially The Guns Of Brixton are two of the best songs ever written. After buying this cd I immediately purchased two more of their albums, The Clash and Combat Rock. Although very good they don't, in my oppinion, match London Calling so if you're going to buy one album by The Clash make it London Calling and if you haven't got it get it NOW!
No question, The Pistols were important. They didn't originate the music they played, they weren't very bright, and you sure as anything can't listen to most of their output now without wincing, but like so many musicians from so many genres, the ambassadors who force the music into wider acceptance often aren't the best of breed. But The Clash - oh, the mighty Clash - a different story altogether. Talent, looks, ideas, and the bloody-mindedness to get on and produce some real lasting music without worrying overmuch about their cred, or making much money for that matter. As a Londoner, I couldn't help but have a special affection for their songs of Brixton and Ladbroke Grove, as a lifelong music fan I can't help but still love them for their smashing together of musical styles into wonderful new shapes - and yes, as a youngster I couldn't help but be floored by how incredibly cool they were. The three, count 'em, three front-men marching back and forth to their mike stands, and despite getting less attention, Paul Simenon maybe the coolest of them all. (Certainly wore a cigarette tucked behind the ear better than anyone I've ever seen). Ignoring the final, in-their-demise albums, The Clash produced a handful of truly great albums (or double-albums, or triple-albums...!) - but London Calling is the definitive one. As Daarkmavis says elsewhere, it's got all the classics, and I'd also point out one of the great album covers of all time. If you're of a certain generation, you've already got this. If you were too young for them, I urge you to give them a try - and I really don't think it's the rose-coloured glasses of a 30-something, time really has been unusually kind to this band and this album.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 London Calling
2 Brand New Cadillac
3 Jimmy Jazz
5 Rudie Can't Fail
6 Spanish Bombs
7 Right Profile
8 Lost In The Supermarket
10 Guns Of Brixton
11 Wrong 'em boyo
12 Koka Kola
13 Koka kola
14 Lover's Rock
15 Four Horsemen
16 I'm Not Down
17 Revolution Rock
18 Train In Vain