The Clash

London Calling

Year: 1979
Label: Epic Records
Location: The Palladium, Manhattan | 
 | NY | USA

The album’s front cover features a photograph of bassist Paul Simonon smashing his Fender Precision Bass (on display at the Cleveland Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as of May 2009) against the stage at The Palladium in New York City on 20 September 1979 during the Clash Take the Fifth US tour. Simonon explained in a 2011 interview with Fender that he smashed the bass out of frustration when he learned the bouncers at the concert would not let the audience members stand up out of their seats. 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. The cover artwork was designed by Lowry and was an homage to the design of Elvis Presley’s self-titled debut album, with pink letters down the left side and green text across the bottom. The cover was named the ninth best album cover of all time by Q magazine in 2001. In 1995, Big Audio Dynamite (a band fronted by former Clash member Mick Jones) used the same scheme for their F-Punk album. 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.

Album info

London Calling is the third studio album by English rock band the Clash. It was originally released as a double album in the United Kingdom on 14 December 1979 by CBS Records, and in the United States in January 1980 by Epic Records.

The Clash recorded the album with producer Guy Stevens at Wessex Sound Studios in London during August, September and November 1979, following a change in management and a period of writer's block for songwriters Joe Strummer and Mick Jones. Bridging a traditional punk rock sound and a new wave aesthetic, London Calling reflects the band's growing interest in styles beyond their punk roots, including reggae, rockabilly, ska, New Orleans R&B, pop, lounge jazz, and hard rock. Themes include social displacement, unemployment, racial conflict, drug use, and the responsibilities of adulthood.

The album was a top ten chart success in the UK, and its lead single "London Calling" was a top 20 single. The album has sold over five million copies worldwide, and was certified platinum in the United States for sales of one million. It was also met with widespread critical acclaim and has retrospectively been named one of the greatest albums of all time. On Rolling Stone's list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, London Calling ranked eighth in the 2003 and 2012 editions, and sixteenth in the 2020 edition.

On their second album Give 'Em Enough Rope (1978), the Clash had started to depart from the punk rock sound. While touring the United States in 1979, they chose supporting acts such as rhythm and blues artists Bo Diddley, Sam & Dave, Lee Dorsey, and Screamin' Jay Hawkins, as well as neotraditional country artist Joe Ely and punk rockabilly band the Cramps. The Clash's growing fascination with rock and roll inspired their direction for London Calling.

After recording Give 'Em Enough Rope, the Clash separated from their manager Bernard Rhodes. This meant they had to leave their rehearsal studio in Camden Town. Tour manager Johnny Green and drum roadie Baker found a new place to rehearse, Vanilla Studios, in the back of a garage in Pimlico.

The Clash arrived at Vanilla in May 1979 with no new songs prepared for their third album. Main songwriters Mick Jones and Joe Strummer had experienced a period of writer's block and had not written a new song in over a year; their recently released Cost of Living EP featured a cover song and three other songs that had all been written over a year earlier.

London Calling is regarded by music critic Mark Kidel as the first post-punk double album, as it exhibits a broader range of musical styles than the Clash’s previous records. Stephen Thomas Erlewine said the album appropriated the “punk aesthetic into rock & roll mythology and roots music”, while incorporating a wider range of styles such as punk, reggae, rockabilly, ska, New Orleans R&B, pop, lounge jazz, and hard rock. “Brand New Cadillac”, the album’s second track, was written and originally recorded by Vince Taylor and was cited by the Clash as “one of the first British rock’n’roll records”. The fifth song, “Rudie Can’t Fail” features a horn section and mixes elements of pop, soul, and reggae music together.

The Clash’s embrace of specific musical traditions for London Calling deviated from what Greg Kot viewed as punk’s iconoclastic sensibilities. Speaking on the album, Jack Sargeant remarked that “whether the Clash completely abandoned their punk roots or pushed punk’s musical eclecticism and diversity into new terrain remains a controversial issue.” According to rock historian Charles T. Brown, the album led to the band’s association with new wave music, while music academic James E. Perone considers the album “new wave rock”.

The Clash


The Clash were an English rock band formed in London in 1976 who were key players in the original wave of British punk rock. Billed as "The Only Band That Matters", they also contributed to the post-punk and new wave movements that emerged in the wake of punk and employed elements of a variety of genres including reggae, dub, funk, ska, and rockabilly. For most of their recording career, the Clash consisted of lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist Joe Strummer, lead guitarist and vocalist Mick Jones, bassist Paul Simonon, and drummer Nicky "Topper" Headon. Headon left the group in 1982 and internal friction led to Jones' departure the following year. The group continued with new members, but finally disbanded in early 1986.

The Clash achieved critical and commercial success in the United Kingdom with the release of their self-titled debut album, The Clash (1977) which continued with their second album, Give 'Em Enough Rope (1978). Their experimental third album, London Calling, released in the UK in December 1979, earned them popularity in the United States when it was released there the following month. It was declared the best album of the 1980s a decade later by Rolling Stone. Following continued musical experimentation on their fourth album, Sandinista! (1980), the band reached new heights of success with the release of Combat Rock (1982), which spawned the US top 10 hit "Rock the Casbah", helping the album to achieve a 2× Platinum certification there. A final album, Cut the Crap, was released in 1985, and a few weeks later, the band broke up.

In January 2003, shortly after the death of Joe Strummer, 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 28 on its list of the "100 Greatest Artists of All Time".

Before the Clash's founding, the band's future members were active in different parts of the London music scene.

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