The Clash – London Calling (1979)
What’s it like to touch perfection?
To know that everything is in its right place, that no moment can match this one? To feel that all roads travel here to this place and time.
That for this moment, however fleeting, this is the only thing that matters .
Few rock bands have been there.
The Clash have.
“London Calling” was that moment.
4 sides of brilliant gonzo rock gumbo that broke out of punk’s straight jacket to become the greatest double album of all time.
In 1980 The Clash were more than a band, they were a creed, and it felt like they were writing the future between the grooves of every record.
Hearing “London Calling” for the first time was a rush. It starts with the title track, an iconic slice of Cold War rock where “phony Beatle mania had bitten the dust”.
From that point “London Calling” tells you to get in as it winds the top down as it takes you on a wild ride.
And that’s just side 1.
It seemed there was nothing The Clash couldn’t and wouldn’t do better than anyone else.
It’s ensemble of characters are wild and wonderful.
Montgomery Clift, Fredrico Lorca and Stagger Lee wander through along with a cast of card sharks, tinpot dictators from forgotten 3rd world juntas, jazz cats on the run from and rude boys spoiling for a fight with police.
It’s rock noir, a cartoon book where each song is the next frame bursts to life in technicolor brilliance.
“London Calling” also has the one thing every great rock album needs. A stunning cover.
The grainy picture of bass player Paul Simonon slamming his guitar into the stage at The New York Palladium in September 1979 was a vivid evocation of The Clash’s life altering live shows.
As an image it is thrilling, liberating and iconic.
The pink and green title font was a cheeky nod to an Elvis album. It was both future and past, something impossible that The Clash strove to be.
On a roll, the great songs tumbled out of The Clash like an avalanche. There is not a single moment on “London Calling” that has you reaching for the fast forward button.
So prolific were they one of their greatest moments on the record, “Train In Vain”, almost missed the cut.
The song was recorded as an after thought on the eve of the record hitting the pressing plants and was left off the track listing as a result.
No matter, at that point The Clash could do no wrong.
And they still can’t.
Ultimately it got ugly, messy and embarrassing for The Clash.
No matter though.
This is perfection.
And they remain untouchable.