60 ALBUMS @ 60 : #18


The Clash – London Calling (1979)

Often cited as one of the best and most important albums of the 80s was, in fact, released on 14 December 1979, just seven days after its title track has been released as a single.

For all that The Clash were a massively popular band in the UK at the end of the 70s, their records never really sold in hugely massive quantities.  Until one of their songs was used to soundtrack a jeans advert in 1991 (and thus find its way to #1 when re-released), London Calling delivered their best ever singles chart position when it reached #11 in the middle of January 1980.

The parent album, as you can see from the sticker that was attached to the front of it, cost £5, which was actually superb value for a double album, but was still a bit more expensive than most other records sitting in the racks. How else to explain that while previous release Give ‘Em Enough Rope had debuted at #2, London Calling did no better than #9.  It is true that the busy Christmas market wouldn’t have helped matter in terms of a chart position, but the album only stuck around for 20 weeks all told, which in those days was almost like the blink of an eye  – for instance, Regatta De Blanc, which was released by The Police in October 1979, would enjoy a 74-week stay in the charts.

The Clash, however, had credibility and kudos well beyond any of their peers.  It’s quite strange looking back at things now, just how far removed their music was in comparison to what had been recorded for the self-titled debut album some two-and-a-half years previously.  The sound of a punk rock band had been replaced by a confident rock band, one that wasn’t afraid to hide away from its many influences.

One of my later flatmates in Edinburgh in the mid-80s had been a punk in a large village on the outskirts of Glasgow.  He told me that London Calling had been a really difficult record to love when it was released. He was 16-years old and all he really wanted was loud and fast guitars, over which should ideally be shouted incomprehensible but angry sounding lyrics.   The new album by The Clash had been too polished in many places for his liking.

Worse than that was the fact that his slightly older sister, whose tastes veered towards the standard rock fare of the mid 70s onwards, thought that the album was a classic and had taken great delight in telling her sibling that the double album was all the proof you needed that punk was dead and that the only way to have longevity and success in the music industry was through being able to play.  I can only imagine the arguments which broke out in that household back then…….

But, it is very much the case that London Calling changed everything for The Clash. It’s an album that enabled the breakthrough in America, something which none of their punk/new wave contemporaries from the UK managed to achieve without turning into some sort of comic book parody…..and yes, I’m thinking of you Billy Idol.

As with Parallel Lines, there’s a few songs that have proven not to quite have the same timelessness as others, which is the reason it appears slightly lower in the rundown than I anticipated when pulling it together.

This, however, is timeless.

mp3:  The Clash – Clampdown


10 thoughts on “60 ALBUMS @ 60 : #18

  1. I said it would be a tall task to find 19 albums better than High Land, Hard Rain. Have to admit these past two posts have had me nodding in agreement.

  2. But 17 albums better than London Calling?
    I sense some disagreement coming.

    Seriously, even though I might well have picked the debut – still haven’t matured beyond the “loud and fast guitars” – this would be far closer to the no. 1 for me if not actually at the summit due to the one or two weaker songs.

    Interesting to find out what’s coming.

  3. A bit patchy for me – lost in the supermarket is my fav and side 2 was definitely most played. The sleeve design ( especially) the famous photo is also a highlight,

  4. The first ‘bingo’ so far! My top 40 done in 2021 (my 60th year) had ‘London Calling’ in at 25. It is patchy and I never liked the title track – my ICA from London Calling would be:
    1. Brand New Cadillac
    2, Jimmy Jazz
    3. Hateful
    4. Rudie Can’t Fail
    5. Right Profile
    6. Lost in the Supermarket
    7. Wrong ‘Em Boyo
    8. Death or Glory
    9. The Card Cheat
    10. Train in Vain
    Worth noting my joyful surprise at hearing ‘Train in Vain’ – the hidden track: one of the best.
    If they had just released the album as these 10 tracks (ok maybe Clampdown for Supermarket?) then it would be in my top 10……..

  5. £5 for a double album, great value! – although I just looked at my copy and it was £3.50 on release, a pre-Christmas offer. And ‘Sandinista’ was £3.99 for the triple when it came out 12 months later!

  6. Okay, we’re now into 60 @ 60 overlap territory. This would have been in my top 5.
    And Clampdown! “Taking off his turban they said ‘Is this man a jew?'” really got the attention of my 16 year old ears.

  7. This would be high up if I did a list like this, a top 10 probably top 5 for me. Superb from start to finish (almost), a group unshackled and doing whatever they wanted to do. It only weakens for me on side 4 with Lover’s Rock, otherwise its wall to wall premium Clash. I can see why some OG punks might have found it difficult back in 79 but The Clash had to move on and go somewhere else (even if that somewhere else was the USA they once said they were bored of). Some of these songs- Clampdown, Spanish Bombs- are among their very best and they’re album tracks!

    Happy to play LC ICA
    Brand New Cadillac
    Rudie Can’t Fail
    Spanish Bombs
    Right Profile
    Lost in the Supermarket
    Death or Glory
    Card Cheat
    Train In Vain

    I love Four Horsemen but it is very silly.

  8. Be still my beating heart. Now we’re into the very stuff of it. This album is monolithic in its presence and in its placing. Can’t wait to see what’s above Parallel Lines and this.

  9. I went to get my copy only to find that it isn’t there – an uncomfortable truth these days. I think I much preferred previous LPS but I do appreciate what the band were attempting to do, albeit long after the release of the LP.

    Value for money? London Calling. Sandanista. Then? Now? Bargains.

    I’m currently enjoying Steve McQueen by Prefab Sprout. The nostalgia is strong in this one….

  10. “I went to get my copy only to find that it isn’t there – an uncomfortable truth these days”. What do you think may have happened to it FlimFlam?
    I ask because a couple of weeks ago, I decided to play the first single I bought (‘Roll Away the Stone’) and to my shock it wasn’t there. Yikes. Bear in mind that during lock down my 7″ singles were carefully organised alphabetically into new specially designed ‘drawers’ and it is not in the ‘Mott’ section where it should be. Maybe it was misplaced? Maybe it is in the overflow case of singles to be chucked/sold? Unlikely, but I have not got around to checking all possibilities yet (so clearly it is not a huge priority for me!). This is part of what I call ‘The Entropy of Vinyl’: over time, due to entropy, vinyl will become damaged, lost, stolen….etc.

    Enough! Back to the Clash, and a couple or more additional points.
    1. I too had checked my copy of LC after reading NVV to see if it had the £5 sticker, and to check the condition. (It didn’t).
    2. If ‘White Man….’ and ‘I fought the Law’ had been on LC, then it would have been in my all time top 3 (assuming it was a single album as per my previous ICA).
    3. Sandinista! – Ohdear! I bought it as soon as it came out with high hopes it woud be the GOAT, only to sell it a within a year….)
    4. One UK seller on Discogs has LC for sale at over £1900 and Sandi! at £380 (cheaper perhaps because it is only VG).

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