"Punk's now become 'Oh yeah, he's got zips all over him sewed on by his mother and he's shouting in Cockney, making no attempt to sing from the heart and the guitarist is deliberately playing monotonously, and they're all playing as fast as possible, so this is punk, so yeah, I can dig this'. There are people who are becoming snobs. I don't want to see punk as another slavish attitude and image and everything is pre-planned and pre-thought out for you to slip in comfortably"
-Mick Jones, 1979
The Clash clearly had a mission and something to prove. And they did just that. London Calling
truly is an epic record. Released by the end of 1979, while many of London's original punk bands were beginning falling apart, it was the album where The Clash really showed all the types and styles of music they can play, and play them well too. It took away any negative stereotypical views the punk genre got from the media and brought meaning, integrity, and purpose to it while still having that attitude, energy and edge they were already known for. London Calling
, produced by the eccentric Guy Stevens, is what separated The Clash from every other British punk band at the time, and for the better at that. It showed that punk was more than just what it had appeared portrayed as in the media, and showed that it was a state of mind too.
One of the many factors that shows why London Calling is the bands finest hour is that The Clash were in their prime in every sense. From the early days of '76 and '77 of not knowing how to play any instruments well and the nihilistic chants and snarls and then rapidly changing to what is London Calling showed huge growth and evolvement for the group. So it's 1979 now, they have progressed and developed from their early days, but what else makes the pinnacle of their best music is that the band wasn't going through the turmoil what would finally take its toll on the band a few years later. Strummer and Jones were getting along fine, Topper's drug addiction wasn't way out of hand, Bernie Rhoads was gone while the Blackhill management team was in allowing more freedom for the band, and the recording went much smoother as oppose to the chaotic and disjointed sessions of the self titled debut and frustrating recording of Give 'Em Enough Rope
. And the group felt much more comfortable with Stevens. A critic had even said at the time of London Calling's release that The Clash had sounded organized and relaxed on record for the first time, which was a fair remark. So, this really was The Clash at their peak on every term.
The Clash cover a variety of genres musically ranging from the powerful hard rock on such tracks as the excellent Clampdown
, the inspiring I'm Not Down
, and the intense Four Horseman
to 50's style rock & roll displayed on the sleek Vince Taylor cover Brand New Cadillac
. The bands traditional punk are still displayed but with a rather refined touch showcased on anthemicDeath or Glory
, the quick and energetic Koka Kola
, and the raging and eerie title track. Reggae was a huge influnce on the band and it is captured here, probably best on the Paul Simonon sung and written Guns of Brixton
as well as Revolution Rock
which almost reaches the six minute mark. Even an early proto-type of ska can be found here with cuts such as the upbeat Hateful
, the anthemic and cultural significance lyrically of Rudie Can't Fail
London Calling is where The CLash really integrated their pop influences into their music. Jones' Train in Vain
came as somewhat of a shock to fans because it was completely different from anything the band has ever done (with the possible exception of Stay Free
). The song originally did not appear on the tracklisting because it was added late, but did go on to become the bands first top thirty hit in the US. Lost in the Supermarket
features the pop sound of Train In Vain but adds a somewhat disco-pop feel to it. And with lyrics about Strummer's upbringing (although sung by Jones), it is surely one of the band best and most heartfelt compositions. The Mick Jones' sung piano ballad The Card Cheat
is one of the bands most emotional songs they have ever recorded. Even modern jazz finds its way onto the album in Jimmy Jazz
combining with folk and blues with traditional jazz, sung well by Strummer. Wrong 'Em Boyo
is a reworking of the classic Stagger Lee legend made into an upbeat ska-pop song highlighted by the trumpet.
And although it may seem like this wide range of styles would make the album seem disjointed, it certainly doesn't, as the album flows smoothly with every song feeling connected in a way indescribible. In all of these songs contain some of the Strummer/Jones duo's best lyrics as they range from political (Spanish Bombs
, Simonon's Guns of Brixton
), to the media (Koka Kola
) to personal lyrics (Lost in the Supermarket
). Strummer said before the album came out that they would be venturing into subject matter they never touched before such as sexuality, and they did just that in Lover's Rock
The Clash show here why they were one of the few bands from the era to move beyond the slums of London and lack of musical ability to become a respected band world wide. Even the iconic album cover, that of Paul Simonon smashing his bass guitar like an axe, the picture shot live by Pennie Smith in New York, September of 1979, captures a generation and today is one of the most recognizable and symbolic album covers ever. It's a milestone for punk, it's a milestone for rock; it's a landmark for music in general. The Clash's London Calling
is a classic album in every sense that will be remembered for even more years to come.