On the brink of the 1970s and the 1980s one of the best albums of all time was released: double album London Calling by (former?) punk band The Clash. A caleidoscopic album that still bubbles with vitality, ingenuity and pure joy. The story of a true classic.
The Clash story starts in June 1976 when John Graham Mellor (alias Joe Strummer) is asked to audition for Mick Jones’s new band. Jones had witnessed The Sex Pistols in February and realized that the future had changed. Accompanied by manager Bernard Rhodes, Jones had founded a band with bass player Paul Simonon and two others. The band went in search for a singer. Manager Rhodes recommended Joe Strummer.
The audition went along fine and Strummer joined the band within a day. Terry Chimes was enlisted as the band’s drummer. Simonon suggested the band name, after encountering the word ‘clash’ an awful lot in newspaper articles.
Within a few weeks the band debuted as the support act to The Sex Pistols, followed by both bands going over to the Dingwalls club to see a show by American punk band The Ramones.
Strongly advised by manager Rhodes, the band started to rehearse in earnest. Strummer: “We were almost Stalinist in the way that you had to shed all your friends, or everything that you’d known, or every way that you’d played before”. It was quickly discovered that Strummer and Jones got along great when writing songs. The band performed shows with bands like The Sex Pistols, The Buzzcocks, Siouxsie and the Banshees and Subway Sect. In December 1976 The Clash was the regular support act during The Sex Pistols’ Anarchy Tour.
By the beginning of 1977 punk had struck a major chord, particularly in England. On January 25th, 1977, The Clash signed a £ 100.000 deal. Almost immediately the band was publicly defamed by the punk movement: sell-outs they were called, “Punk died the day the Clash signed to CBS” and the eternal hate of bands like Crass. The band reacted defensively:
Signing that contract did bother me a lot. I’ve been turning it over in my mind, but now I’ve come to terms with it. I’ve realised that all it boils down to is perhaps two-year’s security … Before, all I could think about was my stomach … Now I feel free to think-and free to write down what I’m thinking about … And look-I’ve been fucked about for so long I’m not going to suddenly turn into Rod Stewart just because I get £25.00 a week. I’m much too far gone for that, I tell you.
Joe Strummer, March 1977
The deal wasn’t all it was cracked up to be and would turn out to be a curse in the years to come. The band was expected to pay for their own tours, recordings, (re)mixes, cover(designs) and other expenses, in short all expenses had to be paid by the band themselves.
In March 1977 the single White Riot was released. In April debut album The Clash was released. The album cover contains a photo of just three people, because drummer Chimes had left the band after recordings for the album had finished. Following over 200 (!) auditions in search of a new drummer, Topper Headon was found, a crucial addition to the band. Headon brought along a jazz-feel, enriching the band’s sound, which would prove to be essential for albums London Calling and Sandinista!.
In May the band went on tour. CBS released the single Remote Control, against the band’s wishes. The fruits of the first recordings with their new drummer, single Complete Control, addressed the band’s vision on the way CBS worked, and was co-produced by reggae legend Lee “Scratch” Perry. In January 1978 the band released the single Clash City Rockers, followed by the single (White Man) In Hammersmith Palais in June 1978, the first song with a reggae rhythm and arrangement.
At special request by CBS , the sound of their subsequent album was altered in order to get a more accessible sound aimed at the US market (the band’s debut wasn’t released in the US). Even though the band wasn’t happy about the recording sessions and the sound, the album was well received by the press upon its release in November 1978. But, to be fair, after Give ‘Em Enough Rope the band was questioned. The fearless debut wasn’t equaled, not by a long shot. Tommy Gun was released as a single, their greatest hit in England, up till then. At the end of 1978 the band parted ways with manager Rhodes and went on tour again, and they went to the US as well, where the band toured rather successfully in February 1979.
On May 11th, 1979, the band released the EP The Cost Of Living, which contained 4 songs, a cover and other old songs. Both Strummer and Jones hadn’t written a new song in almost a year and all signs pointed towards a serious writer’s block. A problem, as recordings for a new album were planned.
In February 1979 the band found a rehearsal space in the London suburb Pimlico, called Vanilla Studios, a former rubber plant currently in use as a garage. During the months of May and June 1979 the band entered the room and started playing covers. They played long hours, in the afternoon and early evening interspersed by playing football (soccer) nearby. Slowly inspiration kicked in and the ideas were coming again. That’s putting it mildly, they didn’t stop. Lots of material was tried out and recorded. Using a simple Teac 4-track machine daily recordings were made, that showed a band having audible fun with the organic way in which they played and incorporated all kinds of musical influences outside of punk: funk, reggae, rockabilly. Read the story on The Vanilla Tapes below in the paragraph with the same name.
On December 14th, 1979, London Calling, a double album, was released by CBS. On January 10th, 1980, it was released in the US, by Epic Records. It stands as the last masterpiece of the 1970s in Europe and as the first in the 1980s in the US.
The album was recorded at the Wessex Sound Studios in London from August to November 1979, interrupted by a number of concerts (also in the US). The band wanted to enlist Guy Stevens as producer, in spite of (or maybe because of?) his alcohol and drugs problems and his rather remarkable production techniques, which didn’t just limit to the technical side alone. In his efforts to create a ‘rock & roll’ atmosphere he swung ladders and chairs between the playing band members to keep them on edge. The 25th Anniversary Edition of London Calling, released in 2004, is accompanied by a documentary entitled The Last Testament: The Making of London Calling, which contains images of the recording process for the album. The band seems to get along just fine with Stevens, yet seems somewhat anxious as well.
Anyway, the band recorded the songs in 5 to 6 weeks during 18 hour recording sessions. Many songs were recorded once or twice, followed by the next song. To get into the mood of recording, the band started with Brand New Cadillac, a highly energetic rockabilly song, with the band excelling in tempo, tightness and joy.
Song by song
The album opens with the title song, which was released as a single one week prior to the album’s release. It’s a fantastic rock song that demands the listener’s attention immediately: “Phoney Beatlemania has bitten the dust!”.
Brand New Cadillac is the first of three covers, a revamped version of the Vince Taylor song that stems from 1959. During one of run-throughs the band had so much fun with the song that its speed kept going up and up. Producer Stevens thought it was perfect for the album and insisted that that version end up on the album. His wish was granted.
Upon hearing the first notes of Jimmy Jazz it was undeniable, this was going to be an entirely different Clash album. The tempo was slowed down, horns, flutes and a jazzy, reggae bass. A beautiful song dat announced the album’s versatility for the first time.
The tempo is fastened with Hateful, the life of a junkie: “Oh, anything I want he gives it to me / Anything I want he gives it, but not for free / It’s hateful / And it’s paid for and I’m so grateful to be nowhere”. A charge against addiction and its devastating consequences: “This year I’ve lost some friends / Some friends? What friends? / I dunno, I ain’t even noticed”.
Soul, reggae, ska: Rudie Can’t Fail. The 2-Tone fever had recently reared its head and the band seemed to play into it. Perhaps they had been inspired when The Specials opened for them as their support act in May 1979. Rudie Can’t Fail swings irresistibly.
According to many Spanish Bombs is the album’s highlight, but it doesn’t really do it or me personally. The subject, the Spanish Civil War, is touching and lyrically it’s a highlight: “My senorita’s rose was nipped in the bud”, but I never got accustomed to the Spanish “Yo te querda, mi corazón”.
Hollywood fascination. The story on actor Montgomery Clift, who was involved in a grave car accident in 1956: “Monty’s face is broken on a wheel / Is he alive? Can he still feel?”. Great jazzy song.
The Right Profile is the umpteenth highlight on this album. At this time, we’re still on album number 1 (of 2).
Lost In The Supermarket addresses the all present commercialism (it did exist at that time as well): “I’m all lost in the supermarket. I can no longer shop happily. I came in here for that special offer. A guaranteed personality”. Yet another top song.
Time for another rocker: Clampdown, the twin brother to successor Lost In The Supermarket, but this time at a higher level: “We will teach our twisted speech / To the young believers / We will train our blue-eyed men / To be young believers”.
The last song of album 1 is the phenomenal The Guns Of Brixton. Written and sung by bass player Simonon, a song about life in a police state: When they kick at your front door / How you gonna come? / With your hands on your head / Or on the trigger of your gun” and its refrain “You can crush us / You can bruise us / But you’ll have to answer to / Oh, the guns of Brixton”. A reggae like song that stands as a highlight in the band’s career. The bass line would be sampled in lot of future (hip-hop) songs.
Album 2 opens with Wrong ‘Em Boyo, a cover of Lloyd Price’s song Stagger Lee, a song about the American folklore surrounding Stagger Lee, which is also the subject of Nick Cave’s Stagger Lee. This song tells the tale of the (gun)fight between Lee and Billy Lyons: “Billy Boy has been shot / And Stagger Lee’s come out on top / Don’t you know it is wrong / To cheat the trying man / To cheat Stagger man”.
Death Or Glory indirectly addresses the criticism The Clash endured. The band didn’t want to succumb to predictability or meet the ‘demands’ made by the punk movement, which had become reactionary: “‘n Every gimmick hungry yob digging gold from rock ‘n roll / Grabs the mike to tell us he’ll die before he’s sold / But I believe in this and it’s been tested by research / He, who fucks nuns, will later join the church”.
The shortest and fastest song Koka Kola, about advertising and the way products are praised (cq forced): “In the gleaming corridors of the 51st floor / The money can be made if you really want some more / Executive decision-a clinical precision / Jumping from the windows-filled with indecision”.
The bombastic, grand The Card Cheat with its wall of sound production is about a lonesome gambler whose luck runs out: “To the opium den and the barroom gin / In the Belmont chair playing violins / The gambler’s face cracks into a grin / As he lays down the king of spades // But the dealer just stares / There’s something wrong here, he thinks / The gambler is seized and forced to his knees / And shot dead”.
Lover’s Rock. Is it a song about the responsibility men must take when they are out and about? “You Western man, you’re free with your seed / When you make lovers rock / But woops! there goes the strength that you need / To make real cool lovers rock”. Or is it about the responsibility of women and the pill? “But nobody knows the poor babie’s name / When she forgot that thing that she had to swallow”. It is assumed (by fans) that Strummer’s sense of humor influenced the lyrics.
Four Horsemen: The Clash as a myth? “Four horsemen and it’s gonna be us”.
I’m Not Down. Optimism as message when encountering adversary: “I’ve been beat up, I’ve been thrown / Out but I’m not down, I’m not down / I’ve been shown up, but I’ve grown up / And I’m not down, I’m not down”.
Revolution Rock is the third cover on the album. In this case, the revolution isn’t political, but personal. Dance and let go of your inhibitions: “Everybody smash up your seats / And rock to this brand new beat / This here music mash up the nation / This here music cause a sensation / Tell your ma, tell your pa / Everything’s gonna be all right / Can’t you feel it? / Don’t ignore it / Gonna be alright”.
The last song is Train In Vain, which was added to the album at the very last minute. Because all album covers had already been printed, it isn’t part of the tracklist on the original pressings. It does get mentioned in the run-out groove of side 4 of the vinyl album. A fantastic song, that adds funk to the already eclectic album. A love song by Jones who is left alone by his wife/girlfriend: “All the times / When we were close / I’ll remember these things the most / I see all my dreams come tumbling down / I won’t be happy without you around // So all alone I keep the wolves at bay / There is only one thing that I can say // Did you stand by me / No, not at all // You must explain why this must be / Did you lie when you spoke to me”. Some interpret the lyrics as a reference to drugs.
London Calling was a double album, but was sold for the price of a single album. Record company CBS opposed the idea of a double album, but permitted the band to enclose a free 12-ich single, that could be played at 33 RPM. The band filled the 12-inch with 9 more songs.
London Calling reached the top 10 in England and reached platinum status in the US. Worldwide sales are around the 5 Million mark, but its status supersedes those numbers. Generally heralded as a masterpiece, the album is placed in the highest parts of several best of all time lists all around the world.
It was branded a masterpiece upon release, with many instantly recognizing its eternal value. Of course The Clash was doomed by many in the punk movement, because the band had dared to evolve. The review in the American Rolling Stone magazine, at the time still a leading music magazine, stated: “Merry and tough, passionate and large-spirited, London Calling celebrates the romance of rock & roll rebellion in grand, epic terms. … It’s so rich and far-reaching that it leaves you not just exhilarated but exalted and triumphantly alive”.
By TOM CARSON
By now, our expectations of the Clash might seem to have become inflated beyond any possibility of fulfillment. It’s not simply that they’re the greatest rock & roll band in the world – indeed, after years of watching too many superstars compromise, blow chances and sell out, being the greatest is just about synonymous with being the music’s last hope. While the group itself resists such labels, they do tell you exactly how high the stakes are, and how urgent the need. The Clash got their start on the crest of what looked like a revolution, only to see the punk movement either smash up on its own violent momentum or be absorbed into the same corporate-rock machinery it had meant to destroy. Now, almost against their will, they’re the only ones left.
Give ‘Em Enough Rope, the band’s last recording, railed against the notion that being rock & roll heroes meant martyrdom. Yet the album also presented itself so flamboyantly as a last stand that it created a near-insoluble problem: after you’ve already brought the apocalypse crashing down on your head, how can you possibly go on? On the Clash’s new LP, London Calling, there’s a composition called “Death or Glory” that seems to disavow the struggle completely. Over a harsh and stormy guitar riff, lead singer Joe Strummer offers a grim litany of failure. Then his cohort, Mick Jones, steps forward to drive what appears to be the final nail into the coffin. “Death or glory,” he bitterly announces, “become just another story.”
But “Death or Glory” – in many ways, the pivotal song on London Calling – reverses itself midway. After Jones’ last, anguished cry drops off into silence, the music seems to scatter from the echo of his words. Strummer reenters, quiet and undramatic, talking almost to himself at first and not much caring if anyone else is listening. “We’re gonna march a long way,” he whispers. “Gonna fight – a long time.” The guitars, distant as bugles on some faraway plain, begin to rally. The drums collect into a beat, and Strummer slowly picks up strength and authority as he sings:
We’ve gotta travel – over mountains
We’ve gotta travel – over seas
We’re gonna fight – you, brother
We’re gonna fight – till you lose
We’re gonna raise – TROUBLE!
The band races back to the firing line, and when the singers go surging into the final chorus of “Death or glory…just another story,” you know what they’re really saying: like hell it is!
Merry and tough, passionate and large-spirited, London Calling celebrates the romance of rock & roll rebellion in grand, epic terms. It doesn’t merely reaffirm the Clash’s own commitment to rock-as-revolution. Instead, the record ranges across the whole of rock & roll’s past for its sound, and digs deeply into rock legend, history, politics and myth for its images and themes. Everything has been brought together into a single, vast, stirring story – one that, as the Clash tell it, seems not only theirs but ours. For all its first-take scrappiness and guerrilla production, this two-LP set – which, at the group’s insistence, sells for not much more than the price of one – is music that means to endure. It’s so rich and far-reaching that it leaves you not just exhilarated but exalted and triumphantly alive.
From the start, however, you know how tough a fight it’s going to be. “London Calling” opens the album on an ominous note. When Strummer comes in on the downbeat, he sounds weary, used up, desperate: “The Ice Age is coming/The sun is zooming in/Meltdown expected/The wheat is growing thin.’
The rest of the record never turns its back on that vision of dread. Rather, it pulls you through the horror and out the other side. The Clash’s brand of heroism may be supremely romantic, even naive, but their utter refusal to sentimentalize their own myth – and their determination to live up to an actual code of honor in the real world, without ever minimizing the odds – makes such romanticism seem not only brave but absolutely necessary. London Calling sounds like a series of insistent messages sent to the scattered armies of the night, proffering warnings and comfort, good cheer and exhortations to keep moving. If we begin amid the desolation of the title track, we end, four sides later, with Mick Jones spitting out heroic defiance in “I’m Not Down” and finding a majestic metaphor at the pit of his depression that lifts him – and us – right off the ground. “Like skyscrapers rising up,” Jones screams. “Floor by floor – I’m not giving up.” Then Joe Strummer invites the audience, with a wink and a grin, to “smash up your seats and rock to this brand new beat” in the merry-go-round invocation of “Revolution Rock.”
Against all the brutality, injustice and large and small betrayals delineated in song after song here – the assembly-line Fascists in “Clampdown,” the advertising executives of “Koka Kola,” the drug dealer who turns out to be the singer’s one friend in the jittery, hypnotic “Hateful” – the Clash can only offer their sense of historic purpose and the faith, innocence, humor and camaraderie embodied in the band itself. This shines through everywhere, balancing out the terrors that the LP faces again and again. It can take forms as simple as letting bassist Paul Simonon sing his own “The Guns of Brixton,” or as relatively subtle as the way Strummer modestly moves in to support Jones’ fragile lead vocal on the forlorn “Lost in the Supermarket.” It can be as intimate and hilarious as the moment when Joe Strummer deflates any hint of portentousness in the sexual-equality polemics of “Lover’s Rock” by squawking “I’m so nervous!” to close the tune. In “Four Horsemen,” which sounds like the movie soundtrack to a rock & roll version of The Seven Samurai, the Clash’s martial pride turns openly exultant. The guitars and drums start at a thundering gallop, and when Strummer sings, “Four horsemen …,” the other members of the group charge into line to shout joyously: “…and it’s gonna be us!”
London Calling is spacious and extravagant. It’s as packed with characters and incidents as a great novel, and the band’s new stylistic expansions – brass, organ, occasional piano, blues grind, pop airiness and the reggae-dub influence that percolates subversively through nearly every number – add density and richness to the sound. The riotous rockabilly-meets-the-Ventures quality of “Brand New Cadillac” (“Jesus Christ!” Strummer yells to his ex-girlfriend, having so much fun he almost forgets to be angry, “Whereja get that Cadillac?”) slips without pause into the strung-out shuffle of “Jimmy Jazz,” a Nelson Algren-like street scene that limps along as slowly as its hero, just one step ahead of the cops. If “Rudie Can’t Fail” (the “She’s Leaving Home” of our generation) celebrates an initiation into bohemian lowlife with affection and panache, “The Card Cheat” picks up on what might be the same character twenty years later, shot down in a last grab for “more time away from the darkest door.” An awesome orchestral backing track gives this lower-depths anecdote a somber weight far beyond its scope. At the end of “The Card Cheat,” the song suddenly explodes into a magnificent panoramic overview – “from the Hundred Year War to the Crimea” – that turns ephemeral pathos into permanent tragedy.
Other tracks tackle history head-on, and claim it as the Clash’s own. “Wrong ‘Em Boyo” updates the story of Stagger Lee in bumptious reggae terms, forging links between rock & roll legend and the group’s own politicized roots-rock rebel. “The Right Profile,” which is about Montgomery Clift, accomplishes a different kind of transformation. Over braying and sarcastic horns, Joe Strummer gags, mugs, mocks and snickers his way through a comic-horrible account of the actor’s collapse on booze and pills, only to close with a grudging admiration that becomes unexpectedly and astonishingly moving. It’s as if the singer is saying, no matter how ugly and pathetic Clift’s life was, he was still – in spite of everything – one of us.
“Spanish Bombs” is probably London Calling‘s best and most ambitious song. A soaring, chiming intro pulls you in, and before you can get your bearings, Strummer’s already halfway into his tale. Lost and lonely in his “disco casino,” he’s unable to tell whether the gunfire he hears is out on the streets or inside his head. Bits of Spanish doggerel, fragments of combat scenes, jangling flamenco guitars and the lilting vocals of a children’s tune mesh in a swirling kaleidoscope of courage and disillusionment, old wars and new corruption. The evocation of the Spanish Civil War is sumptuously romantic: “With trenches full of poets, the ragged army, fixin’ bayonets to fight the other line.” Strummer sings, as Jones throws in some lovely, softly stinging notes behind him. Here as elsewhere, the heroic past isn’t simply resurrected for nostalgia’s sake. Instead, the Clash state that the lessons of the past must be earned before we can apply them to the present.
London Calling certainly lives up to that challenge. With its grainy cover photo, its immediate, on-the-run sound, and songs that bristle with names and phrases from today’s headlines, it’s as topical as a broadside. But the album also claims to be no more than the latest battlefield in a war of rock & roll, culture and politics that’ll undoubtedly go on forever. “Revolution Rock,” the LP’s formal coda, celebrates the joys of this struggle as an eternal carnival. A spiraling organ weaves circles around Joe Strummer’s voice, while the horn section totters, sways and recovers like a drunken mariachi band. “This must be the way out,” Strummer calls over his shoulder, so full of glee at his own good luck that he can hardly believe it.” El Clash Combo,” he drawls like a proud father, coasting now, sure he’s made it home. “Weddings, parties, anything… And bongo jazz a specialty.”
But it’s Mick Jones who has the last word. “Train in Vain” arrives like an orphan in the wake of “Revolution Rock.” It’s not even listed on the label, and it sounds faint, almost overheard. Longing, tenderness and regret mingle in Jones’ voice as he tries to get across to his girl that losing her meant losing everything, yet he’s going to manage somehow. Though his sorrow is complete, his pride is that he can sing about it. A wistful, simple number about love and loss and perseverance, “Train in Vain” seems like an odd ending to the anthemic tumult of London Calling. But it’s absolutely appropriate, because if this record has told us anything, it’s that a love affair and a revolution – small battles as well as large ones – are not that different. They’re all part of the same long, bloody march.
© 04/03/1980 Tom Carson, Rolling Stone magazine
1979 was a really great year in music, which saw the release of a large number of exceptional debut albums, and was ended with the release of London Calling, a highlight in the history of pop/rock music. It proved it was possible to link punk esthetics to social engagement, other styles of music and distill a believable musical document from that cocktail.
More than that, the musical palette was staggering: punk, reggae, rockabilly, ska, (New Orleans) R&B, pop, jazz and (hard) rock. Moreover, the lyrical themes were more varied and complex that could be expected from the average punk band, which oftentimes didn’t go beyond the archetypical fuck the system sentiment.
What makes the album all the more unbelievable is the fact it’s a double album. It doesn’t contain one bad song. All great plans, ambitions and risks make for a caleidoscopic album that still sounds as fresh and exciting today as it did at the time it was released.
The iconic London Calling cover is a stroke of luck. Photographer Pennie Smith shot the photo during a concert at The Palladium in New York City on September 20th, 1979. Bass player Simonon smashed his bass out of frustration: the band played at a venue where the audience was sitting down and didn’t stand up, due to the ‘policy’ of the venue’s bouncers.
When cover designer Ray Lowry saw the photo he thought it would make for a nice cover. He based his design on the debut album by Elvis Presley (entitled Elvis Presley), using the same kind of green and pink lettering.
Some little facts:
- Photographer Smith wasn’t very enthusiastic about the choice of the photo as she thought it was too blurry. She did try to make the band pick another photo.
- On the back cover it states that the front cover photo was shot on September 21st, 1979, when in fact it was September 20th, 1979.
- Apparently Smith owns the watch, worn by Simonon at the night he smashed his bass. The watch stopped at 9:50 PM. So, with that in mind, one of music history’s defining moments can be exactly deduced. Simonon smashed his bass on September 20th, 1979 at 9:50 PM, local time.
- As if the inspiration alone wasn’t enough, Elvis Presley was used in the advertising campaign for the album.
- The cover was used as a stamp by the British Royal Mail.
- The album cover was released as a gatefold in Japan only.
- In 2016 the book Double Take: The World’s Most Iconic Photographs Meticulously Re-created In Miniature was published. The book was the end result of a four year process where 40 iconic photographs were re-created in 3D as miniature scenes. One of those 40 photographs was the cover of London Calling
The inner sleeves of the albums contained the (hand written) lyrics to the songs. The back cover contained the tracklist and a photo of Mick Jones and a photo of Joe Strummer and Topper Headon.
Four singles were culled off the London Calling album:
- London Calling
(released on December 7th, 1979)
(released on December 14th, 1979 in Australia)
- Train in Vain
(released on February 12th, 1980)
- Rudie Can’t Fail
(released in 1980 in The Netherlands; exact date unknown)
All songs written by Joe Strummer and Mick Jones, unless stated otherwise.
|A||London Calling||Joe Strummer|
|Brand New Cadillac (*)||Joe Strummer|
|Jimmy Jazz||Joe Strummer|
|Rudie Can’t Fail||Joe Strummer/Mick Jones|
|B||Spanish Bombs||Joe Strummer/Mick Jones|
|The Right Profile||Joe Strummer|
|Lost In The Supermarket||Mick Jones|
|Clampdown||Joe Strummer/Mick Jones|
|The Guns Of Brixton (#)||Paul Simonon|
|C||Wrong ‘Em Boyo ($)||Joe Strummer|
|Death Or Glory||Joe Strummer|
|Koka Kola||Joe Strummer|
|The Card Cheat (~)||Mick Jones|
|D||Lover’s Rock||Joe Strummer|
|Four Horsemen||Joe Strummer|
|I’m Not Down||Mick Jones|
|Revolution Rock (^)||Joe Strummer|
|Train In Vain||Mick Jones|
|~||Joe Strummer, Mick Jones, Paul Simonon, Topper Headon|
|^||Jackie Edwards, Danny Ray|
- Joe Strummer – vocals, guitar, piano
- Mick Jones – guitar, piano, harmonica, vocals
- Paul Simonon – bass, background vocals, vocals on The Guns Of Brixton
- Topper Headon – drums, percussion
- Mickey Gallagher – organ
- The Irish Horns – horns
- Norman Watt-Roy – bass
The Vanilla Tapes
When the band ceased their relationship with manager Rhodes at the end of 1978, the band lost their rehearsal space as well. Like stated above, the band found a space at the Vanilla Studios. The advantage was that he band was far removed from the punk movement centered in the heart of London. Without interference the band was able to focus on their music.
Using the Teac 4-track machine recordings of the rehearsal sessions were put unto cassette tapes for the band members to use and listen to.
Unfortunately those recordings have vanished. Well, that was the general idea. When Mick Jones was moving house in 2004, he stumbled upon a box containing The Vanilla Tapes. In 2004 the 25th anniversary of London Calling was commemorated and Columbia released The Vanilla Tapes as a bonus disc.
So, what can be heard? The Clash having a great time and are musically free. Away with the limitations of punk, away with the limitations of rock. The recordings contain songs that are ready and essentially sound like the ones that were put on the album. Others are still embryonic and some of them didn’t make the album.
Paul’s Tune is an early version of The Guns Of Brixton. Koka Kola, Advertising & Cocaine is a precursor to Koka Kola, of which the lyrics aren’t completed yet. The Police Walked In 4 Jazz is an instrumental version of what would turn into Jimmy Jazz, just as Up-Toon is an instrumental version of The Right Profile. Working And Waiting is the first attempt at Clampdown.
The Vanilla Tapes are an essential link in the route to London Calling and is mandatory for anyone that holds the band close to their heart.
Songs The Vanilla Tapes
All songs written by Joe Strummer and Mick Jones, unless stated otherwise.
- Rudie Can’t Fail
- Paul’s Tune (*)
- I’m Not Down
- 4 Horsemen
- Koka Kola, Advertising & Cocaine
- Death Or Glory
- Lover’s Rock
- Lonesome Me (#)
- The Police Walked In 4 Jazz
- Lost In The Supermarket
- Up-Toon (instrumental)
- Walking The Slidewalk (#)
- Where You Gonna Go (Soweto) ($)
- The Man In Me (~)
- Remote Control
- Working And Waiting
- Heart & Mind (#)
- Brand New Cadillac (^)
- London Calling
- Revolution Rock (&)
|#||Joe Strummer, Mick Jones, Paul Simonon, Topper Headon|
|&||Jackie Edwards, Danny Ray|
After London Calling
Soon after London Calling‘s release the movie Rude Boy was released. The movie tells the tale of a Clash fan, who becomes a roadie for the band. The movie contains live recordings as well as studio recordings around the time of recording the Give ‘Em Enough Rope album. The band was so unhappy with the movie that they had buttons made with the text “I don’t want RUDE BOY Clash Film”.
Of course the band went on the road with the very successful London Calling tour, which lasted until June 1980.
In August 1980 the band released the single Bankrobber, followed by masterpiece Sandinista! (number 11 in my album top 50) in December 1980, a triple album (!), consisting of 36 (!) songs. Even more diverse and varied than London Calling, Sandinista! is my favorite The Clash album.
The article on Sandinista! is currently planned for publication at the end of 2020. In that article the album will be described and rated, followed by the rest of the band’s career.
What’s your take onLondon Calling? Let me know!
This story contains an accompanying video. Click on the following link to see it: Video: The Clash and London Calling, the story of a triumph. The A Pop Life playlist on Spotify has been updated as well.
The Clash – 1979 image: creativereview.co.uk
Support act to The Sex Pistols, The Clash – 1977-1978 releases, The Clash – 1978-1979 releases, The Clash – London Calling – Singles, The Clash – London Calling – Press photo & The Clash – Bankrobber images: theclash.com
The Clash – Football during a break image: theclash.org.uk
The Clash – London Calling image: oor.nl
The Clash – London Calling – Inner sleeve A, B, C & D images: discogs.com
The Clash – London Calling – Run-out groove image: feelnumb.com
The Clash – London Calling – Back cover image: genius.com
Rolling Stone Magazine Logo image: srds.com
The Clash – London Calling – The smashed bass image: rpmonline.co.uk
The Clash – London Calling – Miniature image: atlasobscura.com
The Clash – London Calling – Ad image: picclick.co.uk
The Clash – London Calling – Mick Jones – Hand written sequence image: twitter.com
The Clash – The Vanilla Tapes image: last.fm
The Clash – Rude Boy – Button image: pinstand.com