Disc 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