Clash - London Calling
London Calling
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Track Listing
Lover's Rock (4:01)
Four Horsemen (3:00)
I'm Not Down (3:00)
Revolution Rock (5:37)
Train in Vain (3:11)
Notes / Reviews

London Calling is the third studio album by the English punk rock band The Clash. It was released in the United Kingdom on 14 December 1979 through CBS Records, and in the United States in January 1980 through Epic Records. The album represented a significant change in The Clash's musical style, which now featured major elements of ska, pop, soul, jazz, rockabilly and reggae far more prominently than in their previous two albums.Guarisco, Donald A. . Allmusic. Retrieved 18 February 2008.

The album's subject matter included social displacement, unemployment, racial conflict, drug use, and the responsibilities of adulthood.Sinclair, Tom. . Entertainment Weekly. 24 September 2004. Retrieved 20 February 2008. The album received unanimously positive reviews and was ranked at number eight on Rolling Stones list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time in 2003.. Rolling Stone. 1 November 2003. Retrieved 17 February 2008. London Calling was a top ten album in the UK, and its lead single "London Calling" was a top 20 single.. Retrieved 17 February 2008. It has sold over five million copies worldwide, and was certified platinum in the United States.. Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved 17 February 2008.

Recording and production

After recording their second album Give 'Em Enough Rope (1978) in the United States, the band separated from their manager Bernard Rhodes.Gilbert 2005, pp. 212-213. This separation meant that the band had to leave their rehearsal studio in Camden Town and find another location to compose their music. Drawing inspiration from rockabilly, ska, reggae and jazz, the band began work on the album during the summer of 1979. Tour manager Johnny Green had found the band a new place to rehearse called Vanilla Studios, which was located in the back of a garage in Pimlico.Green 2003, p. 156.Sweeting, Adam. "Death or Glory". Uncut. October 2004. p. 58. The band quickly wrote and recorded demos, with Jones composing and arranging much of the music and Strummer supplying the lyrics.

In August 1979, the band entered Wessex Studios to begin recording London Calling. The Clash asked Guy Stevens to produce the album, much to the dismay of CBS Records.Gilbert 2005, p. 235. Stevens had alcohol and drug problems and his production methods were unconventional. While recording he would often swing ladders and throw chairs around the band to create an emotional atmosphere. The Clash got along well with Stevens, especially bassist Paul Simonon, who found his work to be very helpful and productive to his playing and their recording as a band. While recording, the band would play football to pass the time. This was a way for them to bond together as well as take their mind off of the music, and the games got very serious. Doing this helped bring the band together, unifying them, making the recording process easier and more productive.Making of 'London Calling': The Last Testament. Dir. Don Letts. Perf. Joe Strummer, Mick Jones, Paul Simonon, Topper Headon, and Kosmo Vinyl. Sony Music, 2004. DVD. The entire album was recorded within a matter of weeks, with many songs recorded in one or two takes.


Elvispresleydebutalbum.jpegthumbleftThe pink and green typography of Elvis Presley's debut album inspired the design of London Calling.

The album's cover features a photograph of Simonon smashing his Fender Precision Bass (on display at the Cleveland Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as of May 2009) p. 5. Retrieved 17 May 2009. against the stage at The Palladium in New York City on 21 September 1979 during the "Clash Take the Fifth" US tour.Green 2003, pp. 195–196.Sweeting, Adam. "Death or Glory". Uncut. October 2004. p. 70. Pennie Smith, who photographed the band for the album, originally did not want the photograph to be used. She thought that it was too out of focus, but Strummer and graphic designer Ray Lowry thought it would make a good album cover. In 2002, Smith's photograph was named the best rock and roll photograph of all time by Q magazine, commenting that "it captures the ultimate rock'n'roll moment - total loss of control".Judd, Terri. . The Independent. 24 January 2002. Retrieved 17 February 2008.

The cover artwork was designed by Lowry and was a homage to the design of Elvis Presley's debut album.Green 2003, p. 194.Tryangiel, Josh. . Time. 13 November 2006. Retrieved 17 February 2008. The cover was named the ninth best album cover of all time by Q magazine in 2001.O'Connor, Mickey. . Entertainment Weekly. 14 March 2001. Retrieved 17 February 2008.

The album cover for London Calling was among the ten chosen by the Royal Mail for a set of "Classic Album Cover" postage stamps issued in January 2010.


The album was published in the UK on vinyl in 1979, on cassette in 1986 and was remastered and released on CD in 1999. The remastered CD in digipack was published in 2001. In 2004, its 25th anniversary edition was published with a bonus CD & bonus DVD also in digipack.

The album was released in the US on vinyl and 8-track tape in 1980 and as CD in 1987. The remastered CD was published in 2000. In 2004, its 25th anniversary legacy edition was published with a bonus CD & bonus DVD. It was published as a limited edition picture disc LP in 2010.

The gatefold cover design of the LP was only published in Japan.

Though London Calling was released as a double album it was only sold for about the price of a single album. The Clash's record label, CBS, at first denied the band's request for the album to be released as a double. In return CBS gave permission for the band to include a free 12-inch single that played at 33⅓ rpm. Ultimately, the planned 12-inch record became a second nine-track LP.

Upon release, London Calling sold approximately two million copies. The album peaked at number nine in the United Kingdom and was certified gold in December 1979.. British Phonographic Industry. 31 December 1979. Retrieved 17 February 2008. The album performed strongly outside the United Kingdom. It reached number two in Sweden and number four in Norway.. Retrieved 26 October 2008. In the United States, London Calling peaked at number 27 on the Billboard Pop Albums chart. Allmusic. Retrieved 26 October 2008. and was certified platinum in February 1996.

In 2000, along with the rest of the band's catalogue, London Calling was remastered and reissued on CD in the United States by Epic Records. Four years later the album was released as a Legacy Edition, which had a bonus CD and DVD. The bonus CD features the The Vanilla Tapes, missing recordings made by the band in mid-1979.Gilbert, Pat. "The 'Vanilla Tapes'". London Calling: 25th Anniversary Legacy Edition (CD liner notes). September 2004. The DVD includes The Last Testament - The Making of London Calling, a film by Don Letts, as well as previously unseen video footage and music videos.

London Calling produced two of the band's most successful singles. "London Calling" preceded the album with a 7 December 1979 release. It reached number 11 on the UK Singles Chart. The song's music video, directed by Letts, featured the band performing the song on a boat in the pouring rain with the River Thames behind them.Sweeting, Adam. "Death or Glory". Uncut. October 2004. p. 69. In the US, "Train in Vain" backed with "London Calling" was released as a single in February 1980. It reached number 23 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart and "London Calling"/"Train in Vain" reached number 30 on the Billboard Disco Top 100 chart.. Allmusic. Retrieved 17 February 2008.


"London Calling", the album's opening track, was partially influenced by the March 1979 accident at a nuclear reactor at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania. Strummer's lyrics also discuss the problems of rising unemployment, racial conflict and drug use in Britain.. Rolling Stone. 9 December 2004. Retrieved 18 February 2008. The second track, "Brand New Cadillac", was written and originally recorded by Vince Taylor and was the first track recorded for London Calling. The band cite the song as "one of the first British rock'n'roll records"

and had initially used it as a warm up song before recording.Sweeting, Adam. "Death or Glory". Uncut. October 2004. p. 65.Gilbert 2005, p. 237. "Rudie Can't Fail", the album's fifth song, features a horn section and mixes elements of pop, soul, ska and reggae music together. Its lyrics chronicle the life of a fun-loving young man who is criticised for his inability to act like a responsible adult.

"Spanish Bombs" is a song about the Spanish Civil War.Sweeting, Adam. "Death or Glory". Uncut. October 2004. p. 67. It received positive reviews from critics, with one reviewer stating that its "combination of thoughtful lyrics and an energetic performance" made it a "highlight of London Calling".Guarisco, Donald A. . Allmusic. Retrieved 18 February 2008. The album's eighth track, "Lost in the Supermarket", was written by Strummer who imagined Jones' childhood growing up in a basement with his mother and grandmother.London Calling: 25th Anniversary Legacy Edition. "The Last Testament - The Making of London Calling". Information about the recording of London Calling. Retrieved 18 February 2008. "Clampdown" began as a instrumental track called "Working and Waiting". Its lyrics comment on people who forsake the idealism of youth and urge young people to fight the status quo.Guarisco, Donald A. . Allmusic. Retrieved 18 February 2008. The tenth track, "The Guns of Brixton", was the first Paul Simonon composition the band recorded, and the first to feature him on lead vocals. Simonon was originally doubtful about the song's lyrics, which discuss an individual's paranoid outlook on life, but was encouraged to continue working on it by Strummer.

The album's twelfth track, "Death or Glory", features Strummer looking back at his life, acknowledging the complications and responsibilities of adulthood.Gilbert 2005, p. 259. While working on "The Card Cheat", the band recorded everything twice to create a "sound as big as possible".Sweeting, Adam. "Death or Glory". Uncut. October 2004. p. 68. "Revolution Rock", a reggae song, received mixed reviews from critics, and Strummer and Jones were criticised by NME for their inability to compose credible love songs.Gilbert 2005, p. 260. The final track, "Train in Vain", was originally not included in the track list printed on the album's back cover.Green 2003, p. 218. The song was initially going to be given away for free through a promotion with NME, but when the deal fell through it was added to the album at the last minute.Back, Johnny. . Blender. April/May 2002. Retrieved 18 February 2008.

Reception, influence and accolades

The album received positive reviews from critics, and has since become widely accepted as one of the greatest rock albums of all time. It was named best album of the year in the 1980 Rolling Stone critics' poll and also topped the 1980 Village Voice Pazz & Jop critics' poll. In 1987, London Calling was ranked number 14 on Rolling Stone magazine's "100 Best Albums of the Last Twenty Years". Rolling Stone also ranked London Calling at number one on its 1989 list of the "100 Greatest Albums of the 80's" despite its 1979 release. In 1993, NME ranked the album at number six on its list of The Greatest Albums of the '70s. Vibe magazine included the double album on its list of the 100 Essential Albums of the 20th Century. Q magazine ranked London Calling at number four on its 1999 list of the 100 Greatest British Albums, and, in 2002, included the album in its list of the 100 Best Punk Albums.

Robert Christgau described London Calling as "warm, angry, and thoughtful, confident, melodic, and hard-rocking" and called it "the best double-LP since Exile on Main Street".Christgau, Robert. . Retrieved 26 October 2008. Stephen Erlewine of Allmusic wrote that London Calling was "invigorating, rocking harder and with more purpose than most albums, let alone double albums" and called it "one of the greatest rock & roll albums ever recorded".Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. . Allmusic. Retrieved 26 October 2008.

Alternative Press included London Calling on its 2001 list of the 10 Essential '80s Albums. Tom Carson of Rolling Stone said it "celebrates the romance of rock & roll rebellion in grand, epic terms"Carson, Tom. . Rolling Stone. 22 January 1997. Retrieved 17 February 2008. and ranked London Calling number eight on its 2003 list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. In the same year, Mojo magazine ranked the album at number twenty-two on its Top 50 Punk Albums. London Calling was named album of the year by Stereo Review for 1980.

In 2004, Pitchfork Media reviewer Amanda Petrusich named "London Calling" the album's best song and wrote that "The Clash do not let go; each track builds on the last, pummeling and laughing and slapping us into dumb submission".Petrusich, Amanda. . Pitchfork Media. Retrieved 17 February 2008. The website ranked the album at number two on its list of the Top 100 Albums of the 70s,. Retrieved 17 February 2008. Sal Ciolfi of PopMatters called the album a "big, loud, beautiful collection of hurt, anger, restless thought, and above all hope" and wrote that "if released tomorrow would still seem relevant and vibrant",Ciolfi, Sal. . PopMatters. 10 March 2004. Retrieved 18 February 2008. and the College Music Journal ranked it at number three on its Top 20 Most-Played Albums of 1980.

In 2007, London Calling was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, a collection of recordings of lasting qualitative or historical significance.. Retrieved 18 February 2008.

As an illustration of the album's lasting impact, on 2 December 2009 it was featured on the BBC Radio 1 Masterpieces Series, marking it as one of the most influential albums of all time, some thirty years after its original release.


In December 2010 the BBC reported that a film about the recording of London Calling was in the early stages of production. Mick Jones and Paul Simonon are working as executive producers for the film. The script was being written by Jez Butterworth and shooting would begin in 2011. Alison Owen and Paul Trijbits had been chosen as the producers.


* Joe Strummer – lead vocals and backing vocals, rhythm guitar, piano

* Mick Jones – lead guitar, piano, harmonica, lead vocals and backing vocals

* Paul Simonon – bass guitar, backing vocals, lead vocals on "The Guns of Brixton"

* Topper Headon – drums, percussion

Additional musicians

* Mickey Gallagher – organ

* The Irish Horns – brass


* Guy Stevens – producer

* Bill Price – chief engineer

* Jerry Green – second engineer

* Pennie Smith – photographer

* Ray Lowry – design






Further reading











This text has been derived from London Calling on Wikipedia and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License 3.0

Artist/Band Information

The Clash were an English punk rock band that formed in 1976 as part of the original wave of British punk. Along with punk, their music incorporated elements of reggae, ska, dub, funk, rap, dance, and rockabilly. For most of their recording career, The Clash consisted of Joe Strummer (lead vocals, rhythm guitar), Mick Jones (lead guitar, vocals), Paul Simonon (bass guitar, backing vocals, occasional lead vocals) and Nicky "Topper" Headon (drums, percussion). Headon left the group in 1982, and internal friction led to Jones's departure the following year. The group continued with new members, but finally disbanded in early 1986.

The Clash achieved commercial success in the United Kingdom with the release of their debut album, The Clash, in 1977. Their third album, London Calling, released in the UK in December 1979, brought them popularity in the United States when it came out there the following month. Critically acclaimed, it was declared the best album of the 1980s a decade later by Rolling Stone magazine.

The Clash's politicized lyrics, musical experimentation and rebellious attitude had a far-reaching influence on rock, alternative rock in particular. They became widely referred to as "The Only Band That Matters", originally a promotional slogan introduced by the group's record label, CBS. In January 2003, the band—including original drummer Terry Chimes—were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked The Clash number 30 on their list of the 100 greatest artists of all time.


Origins: 1974–1976

Before The Clash's founding, the band's future members were active in different parts of the London music scene. John Graham Mellor sang and played rhythm guitar in the pub rock act The 101'ers, which formed in 1974. By the time The Clash came together two years later, he had already abandoned his original stage name, "Woody" Mellor, in favour of "Joe Strummer", a reference to his rudimentary strumming skills on the ukulele as a busker in the London Underground. Mick Jones played guitar in protopunk band London SS, which rehearsed for much of 1975 without ever playing a live show and recording only a single demo. London SS was managed by Bernard Rhodes, a sometime associate of impresario Malcolm McLaren and a friend of the band McLaren managed, the Sex Pistols. Jones and his bandmates became friendly with Sex Pistols Glen Matlock and Steve Jones, who would assist them as they tried out potential new members.Robb (2006), pp. 130–132. Among those who auditioned for London SS without making the cut were Paul Simonon, who tried out as a vocalist,Gray (2005), p. 72. and drummer Terry Chimes. Nicky Headon drummed with the band for a week, then quit.Gray (2005), p. 56.

After London SS broke up in early 1976, Rhodes continued as Jones's manager. In February, Jones saw the Sex Pistols perform for the first time: "You knew straight away that was it, and this was what it was going to be like from now on. It was a new scene, new values—so different from what had happened before. A bit dangerous."Robb (2006), p. 151. At the instigation of Rhodes, Jones contacted Simonon in March, suggesting he learn an instrument so he could join the new band Jones was organising. Soon Jones, Simonon on bass, Keith Levene on guitar and "whoever we could find really to play the drums" were rehearsing. Chimes was asked to audition for the new band and got the job, although he soon quit.Gray (2005), p. 79.

The act was still searching for a lead singer. Chimes recalls one Billy Watts (who "seemed to be, like, nineteen or eighteen then, as we all were") handling the duties for a time.Strongman (2008), p. 103. Rhodes had his eye on Strummer, with whom he made exploratory contact. Jones and Levene had both seen him perform and were impressed as well.Robb (2006), pp. 192, 193. Strummer, for his part, was primed to make the switch. In April, he had taken in the opening act for one of his band's gigs. That act was the Sex Pistols. "I knew something was up," Strummer later explained,

so I went out in the crowd which was fairly sparse. And I saw the future—with a snotty handkerchief—right in front of me. It was immediately clear. Pub rock was, "Hello, you bunch of drunks, I'm gonna play these boogies and I hope you like them." The Pistols came out that Tuesday evening and their attitude was "Here's our tunes, and we couldn't give a flying fuck whether you like them or not. In fact, we're gonna play them even if you fucking hate them."

On 30 May, Rhodes and Levene met surreptitiously with Strummer after a 101'ers gig. Rhodes gave him 48 hours to decide whether he wanted to join the new band that would "rival the Pistols". When Rhodes called him a day early demanding an immediate answer, Strummer agreed.Gray (2005), p. 127. In Jones's version of the story, Strummer was originally given 24 hours to decide, and Rhodes called after just eight (Robb , p. 194). Simonon later remarked, "Once we had Joe on board it all started to come together." Strummer introduced the band to his old school friend Pablo LaBritain, who sat in on drums during Strummer's first few rehearsals with the group. LaBritain's stint with the band didn't last long (he subsequently joined 999), and Rhodes asked Terry Chimes to rejoin.Gray (2005), pp. 133–34. Chimes did not take to Strummer at first: "He was like twenty-two or twenty-three or something that seemed 'old' to me then. And he had these retro clothes and this croaky voice". Simonon came up with the band's name after they had briefly dubbed themselves the Weak Heartdrops and the Psychotic Negatives.Topping (2004), p. 12. He later explained the name's origin: "It really came to my head when I started reading the newspapers and a word that kept recurring was the word 'clash', so I thought 'The Clash, what about that,' to the others. And they and Bernard, they went for it."

First gigs and the growing scene: 1976

After rehearsing with Strummer for less than a month, The Clash made their debut on 4 July 1976, supporting the Sex Pistols at the Black Swan in Sheffield. The band apparently wanted to make it on-stage before their rivals in The Damned—another London SS spinoff—made their own scheduled debut two days later. The Clash would not play in front of an audience again for another five weeks.Gray (2005), p. 143. Levene was becoming disaffected with his position in the group. At the Black Swan, he approached the Sex Pistols' lead singer, John Lydon (then going by Johnny Rotten), and suggested they get a band together if the Pistols ever broke up.Robb (2006), p. 196.

The night after their debut, the band members along with most of the Sex Pistols and much of the rest of London's "inner circle" of punks showed up at Dingwalls club to attend a concert by New York's leading punk rock band, the Ramones. Afterward "came the first example of the rivalry-induced squabbling that was to dog the punk scene and undermine any attempts to promote a spirit of unity among the bands involved."Gray (2005), p. 144. Simonon got into a scuffle with J.J. Burnel, the bass player of The Stranglers. A slightly older band, The Stranglers were publicly identified with the punk scene, but were not part of the "inner circle" centred on the Sex Pistols.

With Rhodes insisting that the band not perform live again until they were much tighter, The Clash rehearsed intensely over the following month. Strummer and Jones shared most of the writing duties—"Joe would give me the words and I would make a song out of them", Jones later said.Robb (2006), p. 326. Sometimes they would meet in the office over their Camden rehearsal studio to collaborate directly. According to a later description of Strummer's, "Bernie would say, 'An issue, an issue. Don't write about love, write about what's affecting you, what's important."Savage (1992), p. 232. Jones's later take on the matter: "Bernie had a hand in everything. Not the lyrics—he didn't help with the lyrics. He didn't tell us not to write love songs, as the myth goes—that's kind of simplified version of it. He told us to write what we knew about" (Robb , p. 197). Strummer took the lead vocals on the majority of songs; in some cases he and Jones shared the lead. Once the band began recording, Jones would rarely have a solo lead on more than one song per album, though he would be responsible for two of the group's biggest hits. On 13 August, The Clash—sporting a paint-spattered "Jackson Pollock" look—played before a small, invitation-only audience in their Camden studio.Robb (2006), pp. 195–197. Among those in attendance was Sounds critic Giovanni Dadamo. His review described the band as a "runaway powerful, they're the first new group to come along who can really scare the Sex Pistols shitless".Strongman (2008), p. 133.

On 29 August, The Clash and Manchester's Buzzcocks opened for the Sex Pistols at the Screen on the Green—The Clash's first public performance since 4 July. The triple bill is seen as pivotal to the British punk scene's crystallisation into a movement.Robb (2006), pp. 212–215. In early September, Levene was fired from The Clash. Strummer would claim that Levene's dwindling interest in the band owed to his supposedly abundant use of speed, a charge Levene has denied.Robb (2006), pp. 215–216; Savage (1992), p. 220. (Levene and Lydon would form Public Image Ltd. in 1978.) On 21 September, The Clash performed publicly for the first time without Levene at another seminal concert: the 100 Club Punk Special, sharing the bill with the Sex Pistols, Siouxsie and the Banshees and Subway Sect.Gray (2005), pp. 164–166; Robb (2006), pp. 216–223. Chimes left in late November; he was briefly replaced by Rob Harper as The Clash toured in support of the Sex Pistols during December's Anarchy Tour.

Debut album and Give 'Em Enough Rope: 1977–1979

By the turn of the year, punk had become a major media phenomenon in the UK. On 25 January 1977, The Clash signed to CBS Records for £100,000, a remarkable amount for a band that had played a total of about thirty gigs and almost none as a headliner.Gray (2005), p. 216. As Clash historian Marcus Gray describes, the "band members found themselves having to justify to both the music press and to fans who picked up on the critics' muttered asides about The Clash having 'sold out' to the establishment."Gray (2005), p. 217. Mark Perry, founder of the leading London punk periodical, Sniffin' Glue, let loose with what he would later call his "big quote": "Punk died the day The Clash signed to CBS."Gray (2005), p. 218. As one band associate described it, the deal "was later used as a classic example of the kind of contract that no group should ever sign—the group had to pay for their own tours, recordings, remixes, artwork, expenses...."Roadent, quoted in Strongman (2008), p. 199.

Mickey Foote, who worked as a technician at their concerts, was hired to produce The Clash's debut album, and Terry Chimes was drafted back for the recording. The band's first single, "White Riot", was released in March 1977; the album, The Clash, came out the following month. Filled with fiery punk tracks, it also presaged the many eclectic turns the band would take with its cover of the reggae song "Police and Thieves". "midst the Sex Pistols' inertia in the first half of 1977, the Clash found themselves as the flag-wavers of the punk rock consciousness", according to music journalist and former punk musician John Robb.Robb (2006), p. 325. Though both the single and album charted well in the UK—"White Riot" reached number 34, The Clash number 12—CBS refused to release either in the United States, saying that the sound was not “radio friendly”. A US version of the album with a modified track listing was released in 1979, after the UK original became the best-selling import album of all time in the United States. Chimes left the band again soon after the recording. As a result, only Simonon, Jones and Strummer were featured on the album's cover, and Chimes was credited as "Tory Crimes". In the documentary Westway to the World, Jones referred to him as one of "the best drummers around". Chimes, who had no great wish to make a career from music, said, "The point was that I wanted one kind of life—they wanted another, and why are we working together, if we want completely different things?"

The band went through several drummers, with Jones handling the duties for a time. They finally recruited Nicky Headon, who had played briefly with Jones's London SS two years before. Headon was nicknamed "Topper" by Simonon, who felt he resembled the Topper comic book character Mickey the Monkey. An excellent musician, Headon could also play piano, bass and guitar. He originally planned to stay briefly, gain a name for himself, and then find a better band. Realising The Clash's potential, he changed his plans. Strummer later observed, "If we hadn't found Topper, I don't think we'd have got anywhere". In May, the band set out on the White Riot Tour, headlining a punk package that included the Buzzcocks, Subway Sect, The Slits and The Prefects.Robb (2006), pp. 329–339. The day after a Newcastle gig, Strummer and Headon were arrested for stealing pillowcases from their hotel room.Robb (2006), p. 338. That same month, CBS released "Remote Control" as the debut LP's second single, defying the wishes of the band, who saw it as one of the album's weakest tracks.Strongman (2008), pp. 201–202.

Headon's first recording with the band was the single "Complete Control", which addressed the band's anger at their record label's behaviour. It was co-produced by famed reggae artist Lee "Scratch" Perry, though Foote was summoned to "ground things" a bit and the result was pure punk rock. Released in September 1977—NME noted how CBS allowed the group to "bait their masters"—it rose to number 28 on the British chart and has gone on to be cited as one of punk's greatest singles.Strongman (2008), pp. 203–204; In February 1978, the band came out with the single "Clash City Rockers". June saw the release of "(White Man) In Hammersmith Palais", which surprised fans with its ska rhythm and arrangement.

Before The Clash began recording their second album, CBS requested that they adopt a cleaner sound than its predecessor in order to reach American audiences. Sandy Pearlman, known for his work with Blue Öyster Cult, was hired to produce the record. Although some complained about its relatively mainstream production style, Give 'Em Enough Rope received largely positive reviews upon its November release.Gray (2005), pp. 291–292; It hit number 2 in the UK, but it was not the American breakthrough CBS had hoped for, reaching only number 128 on the Billboard chart. The album's first UK single, the hard rocking "Tommy Gun", rose to number 19, the highest chart position for a Clash single to date. In support of the album, the band toured the UK supported by The Slits and The Innocents. The series of concerts—there were more than thirty, from Edinburgh to Portsmouth—was promoted as the Sort It Out Tour. The band subsequently undertook its first, largely successful tour of North America in February 1979.Kozak, Roman (3 March 1979). "Surprisingly Few Clashes Noted As the Clash Tours the Nation". Billboard: 103.

London Calling, Sandinista! and Combat Rock: 1979–1982

TheClashLondonCallingalbumcover.jpgthumbrightThe "iconic" cover of London Calling

In August and September 1979, The Clash recorded London Calling. Produced by Guy Stevens, a former A&R executive who had worked with Mott the Hoople and Traffic, the double album was a mix of punk rock, reggae, ska, rockabilly, traditional rock and roll and other elements possessed of an energy that had hardly flagged since the band's early days and more polished production. It is regarded as one of the greatest rock albums ever recorded. Its final track, a relatively straightforward rock and roll number sung by Mick Jones called "Train in Vain", was included at the last minute and thus did not appear in the track listing on the cover. It became their first US Top 40 hit, peaking at number 23 on the Billboard chart. In the UK, where "Train in Vain" was not released as a single, London Callings title track, stately in beat but unmistakably punk in message and tone, rose to number 11—the highest position any Clash single reached in the UK before the band's break-up. London Calling reached number 9 on the British chart and number 27 on the US chart. The cover of the album, based on the cover of Elvis Presley's self-titled 1956 debut LP, became one of the best known in the history of rock. Its image of Simonon smashing his bass guitar was later cited as the "best rock 'n roll photograph of all time" by Q magazine. During this period, The Clash began to be regularly billed as "The Only Band That Matters". Musician Gary Lucas, then employed by CBS Records' creative services department, claims to have coined the tagline.Diehl, Matt (2007). My So-Called Punk (Macmillan), p. 187. The epithet was soon widely adopted by fans and music journalists.

The Clash planned to record and release a single every month in 1980. CBS balked at this idea, and the band came out with only one single—an original reggae tune, "Bankrobber", in August—before the December release of the 3-LP, 36-song Sandinista!. The album again reflected a broad range of musical styles, including extended dubs and the first forays into rap by a major rock band. Produced by the band members with the participation of Jamaican reggae artist Mikey Dread, Sandinista! was their most controversial album to date, both politically and musically.Jaffee, Larry (1987). The Politics of Rock (Popular Music and Society), pp. 19–30. Critical opinion was divided, often within individual reviews. Trouser Presss Ira Robbins described half the album as "great", half as "nonsense" and worse. In the New Rolling Stone Record Guide, Dave Marsh argued, "Sandinista! is nonsensically cluttered. Or rather seems nonsensically cluttered. One of the Clash's principal to avoid being stereotyped."Marsh, Dave. "The Clash". In Dave Marsh and John Swenson, eds. (1983), The New Rolling Stone Record Guide (Random House/Rolling Stone Press), pp. 99–100. The album fared well in America, charting at number 24, even though it had no catchy single and, in the increasingly conservative environment of album-oriented rock (AOR) radio in the US, received minimal airplay.

In 1981, the band came out with a single, "This Is Radio Clash", that further demonstrated their ability to mix diverse influences such as dub and hip hop. They set to work on their fifth album in September, originally planning it as a 2-LP set with the title Rat Patrol from Fort Bragg. Jones produced one cut, but the other members were dissatisfied. Production duties were handed to Glyn Johns, and the album was reconceived as a single LP. Though Combat Rock was filled with offbeat songs, experiments with sound collage, and a spoken word vocal by Beat poet Allen Ginsberg, it contained two "radio friendly" tracks. The leadoff single in the US was "Should I Stay or Should I Go", released in June 1982. Another Jones feature in a rock and roll style similar to "Train in Vain", it received heavy airplay on AOR stations. The follow-up, "Rock the Casbah", put lyrics addressing the Iranian clampdown on imports of Western music to a bouncy dance rhythm. (The singles were released in the opposite order in the UK, where they were both preceded by "Know Your Rights".) The music for "Rock the Casbah" was composed by Headon, who performed not only the percussion but also the piano and bass heard on the recorded version.Gray (2005), p. 380. It was the band's biggest US hit ever, charting at number 8, and the video was put into heavy rotation by MTV. The album itself was the band's most successful, hitting number 2 in the UK and number 7 in the US.

Disintegration: 1982–1984

After Combat Rock, The Clash began to disintegrate. Headon was asked to leave the band just prior to the release of the album, due to his heroin addiction, which was damaging his health and drumming. The band's original drummer, Terry Chimes, was brought back for the next few months. The loss of Headon, well-liked by the others, exposed the growing frictions within the band. Jones and Strummer began to feud. The band opened for The Who on a leg of their final tour in the US, including a show at New York's Shea Stadium. Though The Clash continued to tour, the personal tensions were increasing.

In early 1983, Chimes left the band after the end of the Combat Rock Tour, due to the in-fighting and turmoil. He was replaced by Pete Howard for the US Festival in San Bernardino, California, which The Clash co-headlined, along with David Bowie and Van Halen. The band argued with the event's promoters over inflated ticket prices, threatening to pull out unless a large donation was made to a local charity. The group ultimately performed on 28 May, the festival's New Music Day, which drew a crowd of 140,000. After the show, members of the band brawled with security staff.Gray (2005), p. 398. This was Jones's last appearance with the group. In September 1983, he was fired. Shortly thereafter, he became a founding member of General Public, but left that band as they were recording their first album. Jones then founded the long-lasting project Big Audio Dynamite.

Nick Sheppard, formerly of the Bristol-based band The Cortinas, and Vince White were recruited as The Clash's new guitarists. Howard continued as the drummer. The reconstituted band played its first shows in January 1984 with a batch of new material and launched into the self-financed Out of Control Tour, travelling widely over the winter and into early summer. At a striking miners' benefit show ("Scargill's Christmas Party") in December 1984, they announced that a new album would be released early in the new year.

Cut the Crap, final break-up, and aftermath: 1985–1991

The recording sessions for Cut the Crap were chaotic, with manager Bernard Rhodes and Strummer working in Munich. Most of the music was played by studio musicians, with Sheppard and later White flying in to provide guitar parts. Struggling with Rhodes for control of the band, Strummer returned home. The band went on a busking tour of public spaces in cities throughout the UK, playing acoustic versions of their hits and popular cover tunes.

After a concert in Athens, Strummer went to Spain to clear his mind. While he was abroad, the first single from Cut the Crap, the mournful "This Is England", was released to mostly negative reviews. "CBS had paid an advance for it so they had to put it out", Strummer later explained. "I just went, 'Well fuck this', and fucked off to the mountains of Spain to sit sobbing under a palm tree, while Bernie had to deliver a record." However, critic Dave Marsh later championed "This Is England" as one of the top 1001 rock singles of all time.Marsh, Dave (1989). The Heart of Rock & Soul: The 1001 Greatest Singles Ever Made (Penguin), pp. 77–80. ISBN 0-14-012108-0. The single has also received retroactive praise from Q magazine and others.

"This Is England", much like the rest of the album that came out later that year, had been drastically re-engineered by Rhodes, with synths and football-style chants added to Strummer's incomplete recordings. Although Howard was an adept drummer, drum machines were used for virtually all of the percussion tracks. For the remainder of his life, Strummer largely disowned the album, although he did profess that "I really like 'This Is England' 'North and South' is a vibe." Other songs played on the tour remain unreleased to this day, including "Jericho" and "Glue Zombie". The Clash effectively disbanded in early 1986.

After the break-up, Strummer contacted Jones in an effort to reform The Clash. Jones, however, had already formed a new band, Big Audio Dynamite (B.A.D.), that had released its debut late in 1985. The two did work together on their respective 1986 projects. Jones helped out with the two songs Strummer wrote and performed for the Sid and Nancy soundtrack. Strummer, in turn, cowrote a number of the tracks on the second B.A.D. album, No. 10, Upping St., which he also coproduced. With Jones committed to B.A.D., Strummer moved on to various solo projects and screen acting work. Simonon formed a band called Havana 3am. Headon recorded a solo album, before once again spiraling into drug abuse. Chimes drummed with a succession of different acts.

On 2 March 1991, a reissue of “Should I Stay or Should I Go” gave The Clash its first and only number 1 UK single. That same year, Strummer reportedly cried when he learned that "Rock the Casbah" had been adopted as a slogan by US bomber pilots in the Gulf War.

Collaborations and reunions: 1999–present

In 1999, Strummer, Jones and Simonon cooperated in the compiling of the live album From Here to Eternity and video documentary Westway to the World. On 7 November 2002, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announced that The Clash would be inducted the following March. On 15 November, Jones and Strummer shared the stage, performing three Clash songs during a London benefit show by Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros. Strummer, Jones and Headon wanted to play a reunion show to coincide with their induction into the Hall of Fame. Simonon did not want to participate because he believed that playing at the high-priced event would not have been in the spirit of The Clash. Strummer's sudden death from a congenital heart defect on 22 December 2002 ended any possibility of a full reunion. In March 2003, the Hall of Fame induction took place; the band members inducted were Strummer, Jones, Simonon, Chimes and Headon.

In early 2008, Carbon/Silicon, a new band founded by Mick Jones and his former London SS bandmate Tony James, entered into a six-week residency at London's Inn on the Green. On opening night, 11 January, Headon joined the band for The Clash's "Train in Vain". An encore followed with Headon playing drums on "Should I Stay or Should I Go". This was the first time since 1982 that Headon and Jones had performed together on stage.

Jones and Headon reunited in September 2009 to record the 1970s Clash B-side "Jail Guitar Doors" with Billy Bragg. The song is the namesake of a charity founded by Bragg which gives musical instruments and lessons to prison inmates. Jones, Headon, and Bragg were backed by former inmates during the session, which was filmed for a documentary about the charity, "Breaking Rocks." Simonon and Jones were featured on the title track of the Gorillaz album Plastic Beach in 2010. This reunion marked the first time the two performers had worked together in over twenty years. They later joined the Gorillaz on their world tour for the remainder of 2010.


The band's music was often charged by a leftist political ideology. Strummer, in particular, was a committed leftist. The Clash are credited with pioneering the advocacy of radical politics in punk rock, and were dubbed the "Thinking Man's Yobs" by NME. Like many early punk bands, The Clash protested against monarchy and aristocracy. However, unlike many of their peers, The Clash rejected nihilism. Instead, they found solidarity with a number of contemporary liberation movements and were involved with such groups as the Anti-Nazi League. In April 1978, The Clash headlined the Rock Against Racism concert in London's Victoria Park for 80,000 people; Strummer wore a T-shirt identifying two violent left-wing groups: the words "Brigade Rosse"—Italy's Red Brigades—appeared alongside the insignia of the Red Army Faction—West Germany's Baader-Meinhof Group.

Their politics were made explicit in the lyrics of such early recordings as "White Riot", which encouraged disaffected white youths to become politically active like their black counterparts; "Career Opportunities", which addressed the alienation of low-paid, routinized jobs and discontent over the lack of alternatives; and "London's Burning", about the bleakness and boredom of life in the inner city. Artist Caroline Coon, who was associated with the punk scene, argued that "hose tough, militaristic songs were what we needed as we went into Thatcherism".Gilbert (2005), p. 190. The scope of the band's political interests widened on later recordings. The title of Sandinista! celebrated the left-wing rebels who had recently overthrown Nicaraguan despot Anastasio Somoza Debayle, and the album was filled with songs driven by other political issues extending far beyond British shores: "Washington Bullets" addressed covert military operations around the globe, while "The Call-Up" was a meditation on US draft policies.Gray (2004), pp. 355–356; Reynolds and Press (1996), p. 72. Combat Rocks "Straight to Hell" is described by scholars Simon Reynolds and Joy Press as an "around-the-world-at-war-in-five-verses guided tour of hell-zones where boy-soldiers had languished."Reynolds and Press (1996), p. 72.

The band's political sentiments were reflected in their resistance to the music industry's usual profit motivations; even at their peak, tickets to shows and souvenirs were reasonably priced. The group insisted that CBS sell their double and triple album sets London Calling and Sandinista! for the price of a single album each (then £5), succeeding with the former and compromising with the latter by agreeing to sell it for £5.99 and forfeit all their performance royalties on its first 200,000 sales.Gray (2004), p. 349. These "VFM" (value for money) principles meant that they were constantly in debt to CBS, and only started to break even around 1982.

Legacy and influence

In 2004, Rolling Stone ranked The Clash number 30 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time. According to The Times, The Clash's debut, alongside Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols, is "punk's definitive statement" and London Calling "remains one of the most influential rock albums". In Rolling Stones 2003 list of the 500 greatest albums of all time, London Calling ranked number 8, the highest entry by a punk band. The Clash was number 77 and Sandinista! was number 404. In the magazine's 2004 list of the 500 greatest songs of all time, "London Calling" ranked number 15, again the highest for any song by a punk band. Four other Clash songs made the list: "Should I Stay Or Should I Go" (228), "Train In Vain" (292), "Complete Control" (361), and "White Man In Hammersmith Palais" (430). "London Calling" ranked number 48 in the magazine's 2008 list of the 100 greatest guitar songs of all time.

In John Robb's description, The Clash's debut established the "blueprint for the sound and the soul of what punk rock would be about.... The Clash were utterly inspirational, utterly positive, and they offered a million possibilities."Robb (2006), pp. 325–326. Jake Burns of Stiff Little Fingers, the first major punk band from Northern Ireland, explained the record's impact:

he big watershed was The Clash album—that was go out, cut your hair, stop mucking about time, y'know. Up to that point we'd still been singing about bowling down California highways. I mean, it meant nothing to me. Although The Damned and the Pistols were great, they were only exciting musically; lyrically, I couldn't really make out a lot if it.... o realise that were actually singing about their own lives in West London was like a bolt out of the blue.Strongman (2008), pp. 188–189.

The Clash also inspired many musicians who were only loosely associated, if at all, with punk. The band's embrace of ska, reggae and England's Jamaican subculture helped provide the impetus for the 2 Tone movement that emerged amid the fallout of the punk explosion.D'Ambrosio (2004), p. 298. Other musicians who began performing while The Clash were active and acknowledged their debt to the band include Billy Bragg and Aztec Camera. U2's The Edge has compared The Clash's inspirational effect to that of the Ramones—both gave young rock musicians at large the "sense that the door of possibility had swung open."Stockman, Steve (2005). Walk On: The Spiritual Journey of U2 (Relevant Media Group), p. 10. ISBN 0-9760357-5-8. He wrote, "The Clash, more than any other group, kick-started a thousand garage bands across Ireland and the UK... eeing them perform was a life-changing experience." Bono has described The Clash as "the greatest rock band. They wrote the rule book for U2."D'Ambrosio (2004), p. 262.

In later years, The Clash's influence can be heard in American political punk bands such as Rancid, Anti-Flag, Bad Religion and NOFX, as well as in the political hard rock of early Manic Street Preachers.D'Ambrosio (2004), pp. 192, 251, 257, 298, 318–319. California's Rancid, in particular, are known as "incurable Clash zealots". The title track of the band's album Indestructible proclaims, "I'll keep listening to that great Joe Strummer!" The Clash's involvement with Jamaican musical and production styles has inspired similar cross-cultural efforts by bands such as Bad Brains, Massive Attack, Sublime and No Doubt.D'Ambrosio (2004), p. 257. They are credited with laying the groundwork for LCD Soundsystem's "punk-funk". Jakob Dylan of The Wallflowers ranked London Calling above the work of his father, Bob Dylan, as the record that “changed his life”. Bands identified with the garage rock revival of the late 1990s and 2000s such as Sweden's The Hives, Australia's The Vines and America's The White Stripes and The Strokes evidence The Clash's influence.D'Ambrosio (2004), pp. 262–263. Among the many latter-day British acts identified as having been inspired by The Clash are Babyshambles, The Futureheads, The Charlatans and The Arctic Monkeys. Before M.I.A. had an international hit in 2008 with "Paper Planes", which is built around a sample from "Straight to Hell", she referenced "London Calling" on 2003's "Galang". A cover of "The Guns of Brixton" by German punk band Die Toten Hosen was released as a single in 2006.

The band has also had a notable impact on music in the Spanish-speaking world. In 1997, a Clash tribute album featuring performances by Buenos Aires punk bands was released.Lannert, John (29 March 1997), "Latin Notas: Manzanera to Attend Latin Confab", Billboard, p. 33. Many rock en español bands such as Todos Tus Muertos, Café Tacuba, Maldita Vecindad, Los Prisioneros, Tijuana No, and Attaque 77 are indebted to The Clash.Lannert, John (1 November 1997), "Latin Notas: IFPI Looks to Harmonize Sales Data", Billboard, p. 42; Campo (1998), p. 6.Eddy (1997), p. 181. Argentina's Los Fabulosos Cadillacs covered London Callings "Revolution Rock" and "The Guns of Brixton" and invited Mick Jones to sing on their "Mal Bicho". The Clash's influence is similarly reflected in Paris-founded Mano Negra's politicized lyrics and fusion of musical styles.Buckley (2003), p. 367; Campo (1998), p. 5.



Studio albums

* The Clash (1977)

* Give 'Em Enough Rope (1978)

* London Calling (1979)

* Sandinista! (1980)

* Combat Rock (1982)

* Cut the Crap (1985)

See also


* The Clash on film














Further reading











This text has been derived from The Clash on Wikipedia and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License 3.0

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