Classics Revisited: The Clash- London Calling

The Clash released the iconic London Calling in 1979, we discuss what makes the album so great.

Skiddle Staff

Date published: 14th Jun 2022

The year is 1977 and The Clash have released their self-titled debut album. It's an album that not only introduces them as one of the founding fathers of punk music but also established singer Joe Strummer as one of the sharpest lyricists on the issues at the time. From class struggle to corruption and racism, The Clash tackled it all in their stride as they struck out at an unjust world.

Then came 1978's Give 'Em Enough Rope before the band released what is now considered to be their seminal record London Calling, released in 1979. Whilst it saw the band pivot to stadium-sized rock anthems it is a blistering success that was still packed with punk spirit and catapulted them into being one of the most iconic bands of all time.

The album cover's font was in reference to Elvis Presley's debut album, who was seen as the king of rock and roll at the time, to have somebody smashing a guitar to pieces right next to it was perhaps a provocative statement that rock was ready for new idols. It is likely one of the most recognisable album covers of all time. 

The Clash branded themselves as renegades, people who were fighting for a cause and that one was of left-wing ideals and representing the working class. Yet Strummer grew up in surroundings more similar to the middle and upper class, attending boarding school, but a fascination with rock and roll bred a songwriter who was able to perfectly able to summarise the struggles of others.

The lens of The Clash was not just concentrated on their immediate surroundings, which you can see on the track Spanish Bombs, a song that summarises the terror and brutality of the Spanish Civil War. Strummer did the research in order to craft a song that perfectly described the intensity of the fighting and the loss, whilst also making a track packed with riffs to keep you jumping.

That was a key part of The Clash's arsenal, the politics have never fully overridden the instrumentals and London Calling was the album where their songs became truly anthemic and elevated them to stadium headliners. They even achieved the rare accolade of being a British band to make it over in the USA which is still some feat today.

America really resonated with The Clash's songs and it gave them a huge fanbase in the country, with them going on to pack out venues full of fervent fans. When you listen to songs such as Wrong 'Em Boyo, Death and Glory and Train In Vain (Stand By Me), you are hearing songs that channel so much intensity, especially the two latter tracks which are bonafide rock anthems.

They feel like an ode to what the guitar can ultimately achieve, the ability to get thousands upon thousands of people to jump up and down constantly for decades to come. On London Calling The Clash do not only wield rock as their main weapon but also incorporate elements of reggae and ska into their sound to create something that feels as though it could have only come from 1979's London. The title track London Calling is a song that will always be associated with the city and what it was like to live in Thatcher's Britain.

The Clash were everything that a rock band should be, they were brash and bold, never stayed stagnant within their own sound, had an attitude and a manifesto that made you want to follow them and crucially had the kind of hooks that will always be a blueprint for as long as rock music is being made. The detail and messages of the lyrics that Joe Strummer wrote gave voice to those who struggled, who felt as though everything was against them and raised them up into feeling as though they could be unstoppable. 

We can only imagine what Joe Stummer would be writing if he was still alive today. The Clash's legacy far surpassed the other punk bands of the time and their step forward into rock music made them icons within a genre.



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