"When you played the master mix to the company men, it took 3 million worldwide to make them understand"
Midnight to Stevens
"Twenty new tracks from the only band that matters
CBS Marketing Department
"El Clash Combo - Weddings, parties, anything... And bongo jams a specialty."
- London Calling
- Brand New Cadillac
- Jimmy Jazz
- Rudie Can't Fail
- Spanish Bombs
- The Right Profile
- Lost in the Supermarket
- The Guns of Brixton
- Wrong 'Em Boyo (Including Stagger Lee)
- Death Or Glory
- Koka Kola
- The Card Cheat
- Lover's Rock
- Four Horsemen
- I'm Not Down
- Revolution Rock
- Train in Vain
All songs Strummer/Jones except:
2: Vince Taylor
10: Paul Simonon
11: C. Alphanso
18: J. Edwards/D.Ray
- UK release: December 1979
- US release: January 1980
So, it's 1979. The Sex Pistols are gone, UK Punk is going underground, and New Wave is the big thing. The Clash have released two albums, their punk classic eponymous début, and the excellent Give 'Em Enough Rope, which was met with accusations of "heavy metal". More representative of where they were at, musically, were the string of singles such as (White Man) In Hammersmith Palais and Clash City Rockers which integrated ideas from dub, ska and reggae with punk's musical template, mixing in some social commentary and less of punk's original nihilism.
- Mick Jones:
"I probably thought of using Guy Stevens as producer. I'm not sure, but I don't remember anybody else being discussed. I knew Bill Price had worked with Guy and that he knew Guy very well".
- Paul Simonon:
"Guy was the best person I ever worked with because if I ever made a mistake he said it didn't matter. He was running about, smashing up chairs and wrestling Bill Price. He did a lot, he really inspired everyone and kept everone's spirits up."
- Micky Gallagher:(Keyboard player with The Blockheads)
"I was asked if I would do a session for The Clash, they needed some keyboards putting on. Well, I'd heard them here and there, but I'd never listened to them that closely. So I got sent a copy of 'Give 'Em Enough Rope', had a listen, and thought 'My God, what do they want me to do?'"
- Topper Headon:
"I went into the studio and there was this teddy boy there and he nicked one of my beers; I said 'Oy, don't fucking take beers without asking'. Mick heard this, and jumped in and said 'This is Micky Gallagher'. I said 'Oh, pleased to meet you'. I loved the keyboard playing I'd heard, but I didn't know what he looked like."
Taken from the sleeve notes to the Clash On Broadway box set.
London Calling is one of my all-time favourites. It's a great favourite with music critics too, and appears often in "top ten albums of all time" lists. What is so unique about it is its sheer scope; it came at a crucial time for the Clash, when they really started to expand their musical palette from punk and straight rock music to encompass a little bit of ska (Rudie Can't Fail), reggae (Guns Of Brixton), folk (Hateful, possibly the best drugs song ever to have an accordion on it), 60's pop (The Card Cheat is pure Phil Spector), and even some jazz (Jimmy Jazz).
Lyrically, Jones and Strummer both wrote some absolute gems. There's commentary on urban decay (Lost In The Supermarket), the Spanish Civil War (Spanish Bombs, which was later echoed by the Manic Street Preachers on their number 1, If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next), drug problems (Hateful and Koka Kola) and method actor Montgomery Clift (The Right Profile); and there's even the Clash's first big U.S. hit, Train In Vain, a fairly straight-forward song of betrayal that nearly didn't make it onto the album.
The album still had its nihilistic moments; the title track overflows with boredom, despair, and, above all, anger, but there's plenty of hope; tracks like Death Or Glory and I'm Not Down exemplify the Clash's "us against the world" gang mentality, Rudie Can't Fail celebrates London's bohemian underground, and some of the songs, notably the covers of Brand New Cadillac and Wrong 'Em Boyo, are just plain fun.
It's difficult to pick out the best tracks, because London Calling is a remarkably consistent album, despite its genre-hopping. Producer Guy Stevens was so confident with his production, and with the overall quality of the album, that when the label executives came to the studio to get the master tapes, he lay down in the road in front of their car, and refused to move until they acknowledged London Calling's brilliance.
After they had most of their recording done, the band told CBS that they wanted to release a double album, but insisted that it be sold for the price of a single album (The Clash were one of the first bands to go up against their record company and ticket agency to reduce record and ticket prices). CBS replied that they couldn't afford to release a double album. So the band came back asking if they could include a free single with the album. This had been a successful tactic before; initial copies of their début album had been sold with a copy of the Capital Radio single included. Next they asked if it could be a 12" single. CBS agreed. Then, they asked if the single could be 33 1/3 rpm (instead of the usual 45rpm), and if it could have nine tracks on it. So, CBS capitulated, at the cost of reduced royalties for the band on the first pressing.
The cover of London Calling features a live picture of Paul Simonon, onstage at the New York Palladium, about to trash his bass; the picture was taken by Pennie Smith, his then-girlfriend. "The show had gone quite well, but for me inside, it just wasn't working well, so I suppose I took it out on the bass. If I was smart, I would have got the spare bass and used that one, because it wasn't as good as the one I smashed up," he commented later. Apparently, he still has the remains of the guitar. Although at the time she said that the picture wasn't high enough quality to put on the cover of an album, the band insisted, and the photograph has since become one of the most famous album covers of all time. The cover art is a pastiche of the cover of Elvis Presley's début album, itself an iconic cover.
I *love* this album. IMHO, it's one of the most important albums, punk or otherwise, ever. And I think everybody should have a copy of it.
This was my entry for Everything Quests: Albums and CDs...