Disc 10 is London Calling.

So we come to the point when The Clash to all intent and purposes stopped being a punk/new wave band and moved beyond any sort of meaningful classification thanks to their ability to turn their hand to just about any sort of genre and make it sound their own.

It is quite incredible that a double album, widely recognised and acknowledged as one of the best of all time, only ever had one single lifted from it. (I’m talking in broad terms here as I know that a separate song was lifted and released in the USA).  It is also quite incredible that more than 35 years since it was first broadcast over the airwaves that it has since become one of the most immediately identifiable opening to any song ever written.

It was released at the beginning of December 1979 in 7″ and 12″ form, the latter being something new for the band and as such was the version I bought.  I was blown away right away, particularly for the booming bass notes that blared out of my speakers in an almost distorted manner.  And the ending with its just added a wow factor.

The other three songs on the 12″ were equally jaw dropping, albeit it was one cover and two remixed dub versions of said cover.  I actually thought that the lyrics and sentiments of White Man (In Hammersmith Palais) meant that the Clash wouldn’t go back to reggae for any material choosing to leave the majesty of Police and Thieves as their calling card in that respect.  But Armagideon Time and the dub versions blew that notion away.

My 12″ copy of the single was, alas, damaged beyond repair a few years later when put into use at a party in the flat and someone dropped burning ash onto it.  I’d later get the songs back via their inclusion on the compilation album Black Market Clash.

It’s worth noting that the single didn’t sell all that well in the run up to Christmas  – I’m guessing most fans would have spent their money initially on the album which came out just seven days later.  But it was a real slow burner of a 45 and six weeks after its release it hit its peak of #11….just think how high it would have got if the band had been interested in appearing on Top of The Pops to boost sales.

This was the UK top 10 on the week of 19 January 1980:-

1. The Pretenders – Brass In Pocket
2. Billy Preston & Syreeta – With You I’m Born Again
3. KC & The Sunshine Band – Please Don’t Go
4. Madness – My Girl
5. Pink Floyd – Another Brick In The Wall
6. The Nolans – I’m In The Mood For Dancing
7. Abba – I Have A Dream
8. The Beat – Tears Of A Clown/Ranking Full Stop
9. Fiddler’s Dram – Day Trip To Bangor
10. The Tourists – I Only Want To Be With You

A mixed bag to say the very least, and surely a missed opportunity to hit #1.

mp3 : The Clash – London Calling
mp3 : The Clash – Armagideon Time
mp3 : The Clash – Justice Tonight
mp3 : The Clash – Kick It Over

Bit of a surprise as to the author of the main essay in the booklet. I also think he’s talking bollocks, but never mind.

LONDON CALLING : Released 7 December 1979 : #11

I love The Clash.  I liked their first album even though the production was not too good. As you know they were formed because of seeing the Pistols, so it was never seen as a threat, the Pistols were number one and The Clash were number two, even if it was perceived to have changed further along the road.

I like the way they played because it was the same style as I’m from, the same school of glam, the tunes very similar to what I was brought up with.  The structures and blueprint Mick Jones gave them were coming from the same place I was.  I went up to Birmingham, to the Music Machine and played with them. There was no animosity, it was all good in my book.

“London Calling” was their “Anarchy In The UK”. I thought it was a depressing song but significant, because of the lyrics. The best time I ever saw them was early on, when they were rehearsing, Keith Levine was still in the band, and I watched them rehearse at the Roundhouse and they didn’t change much from then on. 

You know history gets twisted by those that weren’t there.  The Clash, they were there, we were there. I’ve had Mick on the blower for the radio show.  Joe: I’d get weird messages when he was alive, at 5am, saying how he thought I was his fave guitar player, they were great guys.  I Liked them.

Steve Jones, the Sex Pistols and Indie 103.1FM, Los Angeles

There’s so much drama in this tune, it feels like you are in the middle of a dream.

Damon Albarn, Gorillaz, Blur.

4 thoughts on “THE CLASH ON SUNDAYS (10)

  1. One of the greatest singles of all time, still gets the pulse racing hearing it even now all these years later.

  2. The breathtaking opening to what is, in my opinion, the greatest album of all time. I’ve always thought that the magnificent intro riff of ‘London Calling’ was inspired by the same thing in The Nice’s interpretation of ‘America’, which I played again just the other evening to mark Keith Emerson’s passing.
    What is Steve Jones on about by the way?

  3. Amazing isn’t it, just one single? Look at that track listing! The double-album thing is just so anti-punk too, yet that intro is as striking as any punk song. A statement of intent. There’s venom in the song too so they hadn’t entirely abandoned their roots.

  4. Robster is right when he says a double album is anti-Punk, but forcing your multinational record company to sell it for the price of a single album has to give it Punk credibility. Its cover is also one of the best of the era with it’s raw energy overlaid by Elvis Presley-esque lettering. From the dark, apocalyptical opening of London Calling to the hidden Rock/Boogie classic of Train In Vain, it’s a trip through the growth of The Clash. It’s about their loves, their fears and their hopes – and those were much the same for their audience in 1979.
    London Calling is also a call out to the world to wake up – emanating from London, but it’s a broadcast meant for the world.

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