‘The only band that matters’ became the group’s tagline as this album was released; this gives an insight into just how important this record was at the time, still managing to hold its own today with many bands citing the album as a huge influence.
For any of you out there that still see The Clash as ‘just a punk band’, I beg you to listen to London Calling. It’s everything an album should be: witty, sarcastic, implorable, narcissistic, raucous, sweet, innocent, political and beautiful. There are so many different genres and mixtures of music flying around that you wouldn’t think it could make a consistent whole – but that’s exactly what it achieves, creating music in a way that many others have tried and failed miserably to do.
The sheer amount of invention is astounding and unexpected throughout the record. From the splicing of civil war imagery with modern day instances on Spanish Bombs, to the snarling and walking bassline of Jimmy Jazz, there isn’t one song you can compare to another. The opening of the record will have you instantly addicted with the marching strums of London Calling set against Joe Strummers distinctive vocals, creating a tingling feeling as he belts out the lyrics ‘Phoney Beatlemania has bitten the dust’. He’s calling out to a new era of music set against a new attitude to life in conjunction with the atmosphere in England at the tail end of the 1970s.
The Paul Simonen penned The Guns of Brixton is up there with one of the greatest basslines ever, set against a reggae beat and impulsive vocals – it’s chaos contained. Rudi Can’t Fail also relies on the reggae/ska vibe and is another album highlight, showing off the bands fun side and expert song writing ability.
For all the punk madness and anarchy the band are associated with, underneath it all we have the quiet souls of serious musicians, and that’s what people realise when listening to London Calling. Train in Vain is a perfect example of this; a heart wrenching love song that portrays emotion through Joe Strummers voice in a way not seen elsewhere on the record. It wasn’t even meant to be on the album, originally being set for a giveaway with music magazine NME. This sort of thing happens with all the great records – circumstances and chance happenings that bring together all pieces of the puzzle to a perfect whole in an almost magical way.
Clampdown portrays the punk routes we all know and love as Mick screams ‘What are we gunna do now!’ before the music finds its groove in pop-punk perfection. Death or Glory is pretty punk at its best, Revolution Rock outdoes itself on the reggae front, whereas Lovers Rock is perfect in its innocence. There’s just a ridiculous amount of quality on this album, and not a bad song in the 19 tracks.
They don’t make em’ like this anymore. The Clash was a cultural phenomenon and their ideals live on through London Calling. Despite being named after the England capital, it’s anything but English – it’s universal. It’s music for everyone, taken from everyone, and the soundtrack of your life. This is a record that will never be beaten on diversity and originality, and for that reason it should sit in any true music fan’s record collection.