Vinyl 101: 'London Calling'
One album I often find at the top of my stack of records in my room is The Clash's London Calling. Released in 1979, the record is the band's third album, and one of its most remarkable. From the iconic cover photograph, shot by Pennie Smith, of bassist Paul Simonon smashing his guitar at a gig, to the pink and green font referencing a self-titled Elvis Presley album cover, London Calling is a record that sticks in plenty of peoples' minds when it comes to classic rock and roll, and punk rock, to be specific.
London Calling is a double album that may still fall into the punk rock category because of The Clash's roots, but in my eyes, it's actually a notable record because of all of the different styles it mixes. The album begins with the band's best known song ever, the title track of the record, "London Calling." Joe Strummer sets the mood with his dark lyrics about politics of the time, like "phony Beatlemania has bitten the dust," amongst other excellent rhymes. Next, the songs move into a more upbeat mood, with tracks like "Hateful," and "Rudie Can't Fail," that has a serious ska vibe to it. This is where you can really see the other influences the band had other than strictly hard, punk rock, which can be heard on their earlier material at that point.
Right in the middle of the record are another two of this album's most famous songs, "Lost in the Supermarket" and "Clampdown." "Lost in the Supermarket" is sung by fellow Clash member Mick Jones, lead guitarist and often vocalist as well. Similar to the title track, "Clampdown" contains lyrics that refer to things like conforming and one of the best lines, "Let fury have the hour, anger can be power/D'you know that you can use it?" It's an empowering song with a memorable main guitar riff, and that's why it's constantly stuck in my head!
On the second LP of the album, more styles are played with, like the serious reggae influence on "The Guns of Brixton." It's enlightening to see how a band like The Clash - who is pinned with having such a specific style - do things with other genres but still keep true to themselves as musicians. The second half of the album also includes lesser-known songs like "The Card Cheat,"where Joe Strummer sings his heart out to a catchy piano tune. "Revolution Rock," drifts into reggae territory like some of the other songs, and I personally think it's aptly named, because of what The Clash always strove to do with their music. They wanted to change what was going on in the world.
"Train in Vain" is London Calling's closer, and originally wasn't supposed to even be on the record. I'm happy the band included it because it has turned out to be my favorite Clash track. It always makes me feel like dancing because it's so energetic. The song is a far cry from punk rock, and features Mick Jones on vocals again, along with a blaring, harmonica and post-disco sound. I think it could be my favorite song ever, to be honest. London Calling is a magnificent record that lends more than just its famous title track. Grab this album on vinyl and discover another side of this band! - Maddie
Shop The Clash's London Calling.