Yo Ho! Nightrider here!
On 14 December 1979, The Clash released their third album, London Calling. After their second album from 1978, Give ‘Em Enough Rope, The Clash began to progress away from the punk rock genre. Since then, London Calling is considered to be one of the greatest albums of all time.
During their tour in the US in 1979, The Clash decided to use supported acts like Sam & Dave, Bo Diddley, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, neotraditional country performer Joe Ely and the punk rockabilly band The Cramps. These acts, along with The Clash’s interest in the history of rock and roll, lead The Clash to pursue their way into what has eventually become London Calling.
Released as a double album, The Clash never deviated from their political messages or writings about life in general. Their songs use punk, reggae, ska, rockabilly, pop, lounge jazz, and hard rock just to name a few styles. This path put The Clash in controversial waters as pure punk fans cry foul about the band’s abandonment of punk; this issue remains relevant to this day unresolved.
If you are a vinyl collector, then you would know that the original release of London Calling did not have the track “Train in Vain” listed on the back of the cover and on Side Four. The reason is that the record label CBS didn’t want the album to be a double but rather a single album. To justify this, CBS responded by giving The Clash permission to release a free 12-inch single EP that played at 33⅓ rpm; this turned into Sides Three and Four of the double album. As for “Train in Vain,” it was supposed to be part of a promotion with NME to be given away. However, the deal fell through and “Train in Vain” was added to London Calling at the last minute. Afterward, future reissues and releases include “Train in Vain” on the back cover.
The cover art of London Calling is as iconic as the album itself. The photograph was taken by Pennie Smith. Bassist Paul Simonon was smashing his bass guitar at the Palladium in New York on 20 September 1979 because the bouncers prohibited the audience to stand up out of their seats. The cover artwork was designed by graphic designer Ray Lowry in homage to the cover art of Elvis Presley’s debut album Elvis Presley.
London Calling is considered to be The Clash’s best album. Many of their most recognizable hits are here such as “London Calling,” “Clampdown,” “Death or Glory,” “Rudie Can’t Fail,” and “The Guns of Brixton.” This album must be heard from beginning to end and no songs from this album is dull; they’re fresh today as they were 40 years ago.