Monday, February 28, 2011

The Clash – London Calling

   The band was good from its very beginning. Almost as any other punk rock band, rebellious against anything before them, early The Clash was one of many renegades in mid-seventies London scene. They started after nearly one month rehearsals, supporting Sex Pistols in the Black Swan in Sheffield July 4, 1976. Three musicians were the core of the group since it’s very beginning – guitarists Mick Jones and Joe Strummer, the bassist Paul Simonon and all three were vocalists. In best period of The Clash history the fourth was Nick „Topper” Headon, experienced drummer with jazz and rock past who can also play keyboards and guitars.
   Passing over fashion and style issues, punk ideology was a mix of antiestablishment attitude, anti-consumerism and do-it-yourself ethics code. These elements were clear factors of early Clash productions. After information of The Clash signed a £100 000 contract for CBS Records in January 1977, many of their fans consider their subversive ideas were only a pose. As Mark Perry wrote „Punk died the day The Clash signed to CBS”. Ironically this contract was highly unfavorable for musicians who had to pay for everything including tours and recordings expenses. 

The Clash – London Calling (1979)

   Every mayor recording company is trying to have a real impact on musical style, especially by forcing artists to play for wider public and in easier to accept way. This is why CBS made The Clash less noisy and in some parts even popular. In effect third album of The Clash, London Calling was the first musicians enter to main stream of media and public life. And if it was punk, it was more in ideas than in music. The Clash, promoted as „The Only Band That Matters”, turned to political criticism. Opening this 19 song, double LP album, Joe Strummer song shows the capitol of Britain in the center of conflicted world full of drugs, economic and racial abuse. Strong rock 4-beat marching rhythm with foreground bass and call „to the faraway towns, now that war is declared and battle come down” was maybe more dismaying for establishment than earlier noisy but still dancing punk songs. It was also inspired by accident happened March 1979 at Three Mile Island reactor in Pennsylvania. Nuclear disaster fears were common after this incident in time of The Clash first US tour.
   Some parts of the album are politically set, London Calling, Spanish Bombs was song about civil war in Spain in 1939, Lost in the Supermarket about unadaptation and poverty of ordinary people or Revolution Rock which was intended to close the album with almost a program words „Revolution rock it is a brand new rock”. There are also a lots of rock ‘n’ roll, rockabilly, ska, and pure punk numbers which set the balance of this album. Like Brand New Cadillac, a Vince Taylor’s 1959 song which comes as the next song after London Calling, or Rudie Can’t Fail with horn section and elements of pop, reggae and even soul music.
   Last song of the album, Train in Vain was added to the program in last minute so it is listed on fourth side record label but absent on cover and inner sleeves track listings. This straight rock ’n’ roll piece sung by Mick Jones published in America as single, hit Billboard’s US Top 30 while in Europe fans of the group were singing along London Calling. First song of the album, published also as a single reached 11 place on English charts.
   Photography of Paul Simonon smashing Fender Precision Bass on the stage of New York Palladium September 21st 1979, became the famous rebel rock artifacts. Graphic project of the sleeve was a cliché of legendary Elvis Presley’s debut album cover from March 1956. Dynamics of Presley’s and Paul Simonon photos are readable and clearly show what is the matter of continuation in rock history and what has been changed during 20 years of rock culture revolution.


shisha said...

One of the greatest albums (if not the best of them all) in the punk rock genre. Recently the eponymous song was voted No. 1 in's 50 greatest songs of the 1980s.

The Clash's "London Calling" has been voted #1 in’s 50 Greatest Songs of the ’80s, based on a poll of editors, writers and readers. (Although the song was released in 1979 but in the US it was released in 1980).

You can check this info on the official website of The Clash.

Krzysztof Szatrawski said...

Thank you! It's really powerfull song. And this power appeared clearly seeing last days London riots. This is about society and the time only changes decorum.

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