Sunday, November 29, 2009

My Classics - London Calling

The Clash...The Only Band That Matters. What an audacious claim and while maybe not entirely true this is one band that changed things for me muscially at a pivotal point in my life. I was never a "punk". Too big, too much hair (then at least) and I like too much of what is now classic rock to fit the mold. However back in the late 70's there was a ripple in the force. I was beginning to hear about this music here and there which wasn't easy on Long Island which was divided up between the rock and disco fans (truth be told I think disco was winning at this point). I would go back and discover others in the genre and indeed devour the entire Clash discography but for me this is the album that summed up the period.

I remember watching the Clash on Fridays with some friends and they just didn't get it. In fact all of them pretty much walked out but I was so into it. I hadn't seen anything like this previously.

London Calling signals the arrival or demise of punk depending on your perspective. No doubt it was a change in terms of sound from all previous punk albums but the initial assault of London Calling > Brand New Cadillac sure sounds punk enough to me. However there is a refinement of sound here. The production was superior to all the other punk releases and the band themselves were growing. They were already tired and constricted by the formulaic nature of this type of music. Trips to Jamaica and the influence of ska and reggae was already changing their sound considerably as dub music would on the next album.

Pop music, actually a couple of brilliant pop songs in Lost in the Supermarket and Train in Vain signaled a new direction as well. This wasn't all beat you over the head music. Great songs were now played very well and the songwriting is pointed and dare I say polished. This isn't a great punk record it is a great rock record. In fact I still play it quite often to this day. I can't say the same for the other punk albums of the era or the other Clash albums for that matter. This one just gets it done on so many levels and it opened up my ears to new styles and sounds like other has either before or since.

This one never fails to get me to drive a little too fast...

They never repeated this one but even if it was all they ever did it leaves a remarkable imprint on mine and others music psyche's that will never be erased. I thank them for that.


  1. Well, I wasn't a punk, although didn't have much hair even then but this album, Sandinista and some albums of the Jam did matter. Probably the Jam was too English but the Clash was really good. I can still listen to this album while much of the punk ... well.. bye bye Johnny.. London Calling was much more then punk, an album that no other punk band could ever make.

  2. Was fortunate enough to have seen them on their White Riot tour in 1976 in Aberdeen immediately after the release of their first album. The hippies (me included)were in the back of the little theater, wanting to dance, but not quite feeling that we should to THIS kind of "music". The punks, many of whom had driven 600 miles from London, crowded the stage. At the beginning of the show there was about 20 feet between the two groups and a lot of angry words and broken glass. By the end, everyone was dancing together, exuberant and the Clash were the only band that mattered.