The+Clash+The+Call+Up+165860Disc 12 is The Call Up.

It was just a three-month wait for the next single.  But for many people it was the first hint of the band being a disappointment.  It’s not that The Call Up is a bad single, but it just felt, when set against the run of 45s in recent times, to be a tad less than essential. It also fell back to the sort of chart positions that the earlier singles, barely scraping into the Top 40. It was only years later that we’d recognise it as a partial template for the sound of Big Audio Dynamite

It’s clearly an anti-war song, or more precisely, an anti-Army/military service song urging those 18-25 year olds who were, thanks to a new bill passing through the US Congress, facing a requirement to register themselves under a system where circumstances could lead to them having to carry out service in ‘defence’ of their country.  The sentiments were very noble given it was only a decade after Vietnam where, as a later hit song would remind us, the average age of a casualty had been 19.

The b-side was another song with an anti-war message, highlighting the fear of a nuclear holocaust….a situation that was growing ever more likely with the impending elevation of Ronald Reagan to the presidency.

Both sides also indicated how America and its way of life was becoming more interesting as subject matters in terms of songwriting to Joe Strummer and Mick Jones.  Things had really moved on from the London-centric debut LP just three years earlier where it was deemed acceptable to be bored with the USA.  Some journalists actually used that as a stick with which to metaphorically beat the band around the head with. Again.

mp3 : The Clash – The Call Up
mp3 : The Clash – Stop The World

It was originally released only in the UK on 7″ vinyl, but the following year  a cracking instrumental remix of the song was made available on a 12″ single released in the USA, and given that the author of the accompanying essay in the box set makes reference to that (and to a later single in this series), it makes sense to feature it here:-

mp3 : The Clash – The Cool Out

THE CALL UP  : Released 21 November 1980 : #40 in the UK singles chart

‘The Cool Out’ is a mix of ‘The Call Up’ and is really important because they show the versatility The Clash went for in terms of incorporating different kinds of music. The thing about The Clash that stood out is they were massive fans of music themselves, they were always looking for what was happening, what was coming up from the street. They took what was new and hadn’t broken through, mixed it with something accessible and made it The Clash.

They changed music completely by showing they can take a band with bass and guitars and drums to a whole new place.  You can take Chic or rap or whatever and mix it.  They were probably hanging out in clubs and discos in New York at the time. Those mixes still influence a lot of bands now. It took the fear away of gay disco music, back then I guess you were either a rock’n’roll band or disco was for women.  Most bands would have feared this type of music but not The Clash.

My all-time favourite single by The Clash was ‘Rock The Casbah’ because I was convinced they were singing “Sharleen don’t like it”.  Later, I used to book into hotels as Janie Jones until someone rumbled me.

Sharleen Spiteri, Texas

10 thoughts on “THE CLASH ON SUNDAYS (12)

  1. I was one of those US “kids” that had to fill out a Selective Service card on my 18th birthday – as if the US government wouldn’t have been able to find me if they wanted me to put on military khaki’s and boots (during the daytime). The Call Up presaged that event in my life by some months, but it was on my mind along with the annoyance that I would be 6 months too young to vote against Ronald Reagan for president at the end of 1980.
    The Call Up felt as if it took up where Armagideon Time left off. There was an almost spiritual funk to the rhythms of the song and Joe’s vocals are somewhere near those of an emotional, frustrated preacher at times. There’s some magic in the sound. That magic is in the delivery – not hitting you over the head, but seeping in and filling your mind.
    At the time The Call Up came out, if you were in the States and didn’t have access to a decent import record store, you might have missed it being released. Epic/CBS in the US was still working London Calling pretty hard. The Clampdown was a promo only single released to radio, but easily purchased in stores. Train In Vain was also available as a single after it took off on radio. So The Call Up didn’t come out until Sandinista! was already out.

    The Call Up also reminds me of what an amazing year 1980 was in my life. The Clash seemed to be in NYC forever. My friends and I would wait for them to come out of the Iroquois Hotel and walk around the city or meet them outside Electric Lady Studios on 8th Street in The Village. I got the chance to talk to Mick more than a few times and Mickey Gallagher who was recording at the time. Paul seemed to never be around and I remember Mickey saying he was being a movie star. Topper never really stopped to talk to us much – but NYC is where he supposedly picked up his heroine habit. Joe walked up on us one afternoon at the studio and hung out with us for 20 minutes until a minder came out and pulled him in the studio. He asked us about what movies we liked and did we go to see the Rocky Horror Picture Show midnight showings next door.
    The Clash will always be my band because they made my friends and me feel like we mattered.

  2. I’m right here with Echorich, who is about six months younger than I am. In 1980, with the Iranian Hostage Crisis® in full swing and draft registration hastily passed through the US Congress, I was facing a card with my name on it soon enough. And my chief anxiety as a six year old [at the height of the Vietnam War], was being drafted into the military after I learned that that happened to my father in WWII. So, when I first heard “The Call Up,” it was a relevant as anything got in my universe! It was an early favorite from “Sandinista!” though I never had anything but Clash albums. I never went down the collector’s rabbit hole with them.

  3. Thanks to Postpunkmonk and Echorich for adding background to what is already a fine post and thank you JC for adding ‘The Cool Out’ to the mix – a terrific instrumental version.

  4. I can’t say a big enough thank you to echorich and ppm for their wonderful and personal contributions.

    I was only vaguely aware of the Congress bill that had been passed….I remember it most from a friend saying that gaining a place at University would allow me to escape any draft if it was extended to the UK. I suppose the fact that it wasn’t impacting on me directly meant I never really considered the horror and fear its implications were causing to people my own age in the States.

    Echorich….your tale of hanging out with The Clash has instantly elevated you to the very top of my list of coolest people I’ve got to know through blogging!!

  5. Interesting that Postpunkmonk’s initial response evoked his anxiety over Vietnam. From the posts I figure I’m two years younger than PPM and one younger than Echorich. And the whole of my early childhood was underscored by fear of Vietnam, where my older cousin had gone off as a machine gunner. So, when the selective service initiative (or whatever it was called) was instated I couldn’t believe it. Not only could we be called up, but the Army’s commander in chief was that fucking idiot Reagan. So, yeah, this track had particular importance to those of us on which registration was suddenly imposed, 1984-style.

    Sharleen Spiteri’s take is also interesting because it’s so wide of the mark, at least from the NYC perspective. Punk/Clash fans didn’t loathe disco because it was gay music — we hated it because disco was the soundtrack to decadent, cocaine-addled lifestyle of the posers that hung out at Studio 54 and Xenon. When I finally saw the Clash at the infamous Bond’s shows in 1981, the crowd booed Grandmaster Flash off the stage because Rap was still lumped in with disco. The Clash recognized it as NYC street music (correctly, as it turns out) that was new and exciting for them. For locals, it was a variation of all the radio crap we had been assaulted with since ‘Saturday Night Fever’ topped the charts 3 years earlier. The connection between (what we perceived as) disco — the most unloved and ubiquitous…product on the market — and the only band that mattered was unfathomable. Remember, as Echorich noted, the Clash were still making inroads when Sandinista was released — they were by no means mainstream and wouldn’t have a chart hit in the US until Combat Rock was released.

    The number of Bond’s shows were increased because they were oversold by double, which violated NYC fire code regulations. Had to buy scalped tickets because my show was scheduled on the night of my high school prom!

  6. I love The Call Up, especially the ‘see the wheatfields, over Kiev and down to the sea’ line and the sound of the song. And today’s comment thread is what makes blogging so good- informative, passionate and like minded folk from all over the place sharing their stories and thoughts. The only band that matters still bringing people together.

  7. JTFL – Those Bonds shows were like a 2 week long party with The Clash as the house band! I met up with all my friends and their friends and we felt like everything was there for us to have a great time. Some shows we were pressed up front against the hardwood barriers in front of the elevated stage. Other shows we hung back and just had a great time dancing together and cheering on the greatest band in the World. I remember Grand Master Flash having a really hard time of it and seem to remember The Fall and Dead Kennedys were bands we all talked about after the show, but it was ESG that really knocked my socks off. By the time we The Clash finished their shows at Bonds all my friends and I had learned the lyrics to This Is Radio Clash and it be came the soundtrack of the run.

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