London Calling is the third studio album by The Clash, released in late 1979. It is arguably their most popular and most critically acclaimed album, and it established the band as one of the most diverse and talented Post-Punk artists in the world. The songs drew from styles as diverse as Jazz, Ska, and Rockabilly, the latter of which led to the font of the album cover to be similar to Elvis Presley's debut. Critics agree that the band grew the beard around this time and presented their music with insight and maturity, without alienating much of their young fanbase.
The band began to take the recording sessions pretty seriously, and would spend long hours in the studio working on each track. Motivated to remain true to a Punk Rock aesthetic while branching out toward newer styles, Joe Strummer and Mick Jones drew from more personal accounts and dynamic musicality rather than the signature protest songs with which they had been associated. While maintaining solid political stances in songs such as "London Calling" and "Spanish Bombs", the band spoke out against consumerism and homogeneity in songs such as "Death or Glory" and "Clampdown". London Calling both codified the trajectory of The '70s Punk movement and also displayed the genre's mainstream accessibility.
The result effectively demonstrated The Clash's ability to evolve rapidly and successfully. London Calling is the subject of the book ''Route 19 Revisited: The Clash and the Making of'' London Calling by Marcus Gray, who exhaustively compiled interviews and information about the record in order to provide a new appreciation for The Clash and its work. Time Magazine included the album in their 2006 list of 100 timeless and essential albums, and it is listed at #8 in Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums Of All Time, #39 on NME's list of the same name, and is currently the 6th-most-acclaimed album of all time according to Acclaimed Music's compilation of various critics' lists.
LP OneSide One
- "London Calling" (3:19)
- "Brand New Cadillac" (2:09)
- "Jimmy Jazz" (3:52)
- "Hateful" (2:45)
- "Rudie Can't Fail" (3:26)
- "Spanish Bombs" (3:19)
- "The Right Profile" (3:56)
- "Lost In The Supermarket" (3:47)
- "Clampdown" (3:49)
- "The Guns Of Brixton" (3:07)
LP TwoSide Three
- "Wrong 'Em Boyo" (3:10)
- "Death Or Glory" (3:55)
- "Koka Kola" (1:46)
- "The Card Cheat" (3:51)
- "Lover's Rock" (4:01)
- "Four Horsemen" (2:56)
- "I'm Not Down" (3:00)
- "Revolution Rock" (5:37)
- "Train In Vain" (3:09)
Note: CD releases are on a single disc.
- "Rudie Can't Fail"
- "Paul's Tune"
- "I'm Not Down"
- "Four Horsemen"
- "Koka Kola, Advertising And Cocaine"
- "Death Or Glory"
- "Lover's Rock"
- "Lonesome Me"
- "The Police Walked In 4 Jazz"
- "Lost In The Supermarket"
- "Walking The Slidewalk"
- "Where You Gonna Go (Soweto)"
- "The Man In Me"
- "Remote Control"
- "Working And Waiting"
- "Heart And Mind"
- "Brand New Cadillac"
- "London Calling"
- "Revolution Rock"
- Topper Headon - drums, percussion
- Mick Jones - guitar, lead vocals, piano, harmonica
- Paul Simonon - bass, backing and lead vocals
- Joe Strummer - lead vocals, guitar, piano
- Guy Stevens - Record Producer
London is troping and I, I live by the river!:
- Advert-Overloaded Future: Consumerism is criticized in numerous tracks on this album, especially in "Lost in the Supermarket", which criticizes the proliferation of products into daily life.
- Alliterative Title: "Jimmy Jazz", "Koka Kola".
- Anti-Love Song: "Train in Vain".Did you stand by me?
No, not at all
Did you stand by me?
- Anti-Police Song: "Guns Of Brixton".When the law breaks in
How you gonna go?
Shot down on the pavement
Or waiting on death row?
- Apocalypse How: London floods in "London Calling" as a result of a nuclear error.
- As the Good Book Says...: "Four Horsemen" is about the Apocalypse, as referred to in The Bible.
- Became Their Own Antithesis/Growing Up Sucks: Young people abandon their old passion and "Death Or Glory" becomes just another story - a rebel who sleeps with nuns eventually joining the church or a pacifist growing up to become a child abuser. Coming from a Punk Rock band branching into several styles at once, it could be read as a pre-emptive defence against accusations of selling out.
- Big Brother Is Employing You: Or as the Clash put it, "you're working for the clampdown!"
- Britain is Only London: Subverted, since the album does make reference to the simple Oop North folk and the lower-class, as well as consumerism.
- Cover Version: "Brand New Cadillac", by '50s rockers Vince Taylor and His Playboys, "Wrong 'Em Boyo" by The Rulers, "Revolution Rock" by Danny Ray and the Revolutionaries. "Wrong 'Em Boyo" also opens with a couple of verses of the traditional "Stagger Lee".
- Do Not Go Gentle: "The Guns Of Brixton"When they kick down your front door, how you gonna come
With your hands on your head or on the trigger of your gun?
- Drunk with Power: Mentioned in "Four Horsemen":Well they gave us everything for bending the mind
And we cleaned out their pockets and we drank 'em blind
It's a long way to the finish so don't get left behind by those horsemen
- Easter Egg:
- An accidental one. "Train in Vain" was meant to be released as a promo for NME magazine. When that fell through, they quickly added it to London Calling after the packaging had already been printed. As a result, "Train in Vain" wasn't listed on the album cover. This didn't stop it from becoming one of the band's best-known songs.
- A more deliberate version from the same album: Alongside the usual matrix number, the double LP had a message etched into the run-out grooves one word at a time: "TEAR... DOWN... THE... WALLS!"
- Genre-Busting: Whether or not London Calling should be considered a Punk Rock record remains up for debate given the heavy jazz and reggae elements. Some would argue that Post-Punk is a more accurate description of the album.
- Gratuitous Panning: The horns on "Revolution Rock" start jumping stereo channels toward the end of the song.
- Gratuitous Spanish: "Yo te quiera infinito, yo te quiera, oh mi corazón", from "Spanish Bombs".
- The Great Flood: London is flooding in "London Calling".
- Hair of the Dog: In "Rudie Can't Fail", the titular character has been "drinking brew for breakfast."
- Heavy Meta: "Four Horsemen" could be a reference to how the band is portrayed in the media as being prophetic about certain issues such as race, status, etc. In reality, the band is really taking all these people's money and laughing their way to the bank, though it's Played for Laughs.
- Horrible Hollywood: "The Right Profile" is about actor Montgomery Clift, who spiraled into addiction and alcoholism after being disfigured in a car crash.
- Immediate Self-Contradiction: The odd line in "London Calling":A nuclear error, but I have no fear
Cause London is drowning and I, I live by the river!
- Could be interpreted as the narrator not being concerned with a faraway concern (the Three Mile Island disaster), and more concerned with what's closer by (London is drowning).
- Isn't It Ironic?: The apocalyptic anthem "London Calling" by The Clash being used to hawk Jaguars.
- Location Song: "London Calling", where the band imagines London flooding. "The Guns Of Brixton" takes place in Brixton, an outskirt of London, where the band imagines a revolution taking place.
- Longest Song Goes Last: "Revolution Rock" was intended to be this. Subverted, however, because of the inclusion of "Train in Vain."
- Lyrical Dissonance: The album has several examples.
- "Death Or Glory" is an upbeat little number about, uh, how even the toughest rebels eventually sell out.
- Is there a jollier-sounding song about hardcore drug addiction than "Hateful"?
- "Lost in the Supermarket" stands out in particular - a very poppy and catchy disco melody that goes with arguably the most introspective and depressingly direct lyrics within the band's catalogue.
- Almost any time "London Calling" is used on tv - especially in advertising - it's likely to be this.
- Manchild: The titular character in "Rudie Can't Fail" is chided for his immature behavior by his neighbors.
- Miniscule Rocking: "Koka Kola" is under two minutes.
- Morality Ballad: "The Card Cheat" and "Wrong 'Em Boyo" returns to the oft-mentioned idea of cheating for no point.(Don't you know it is wrong?)
To cheat the trying man
(Don't you know it is wrong?)
To cheat the trying man
So you better stop
It is the wrong 'em boyo
- Music Is Politics: The band pokes fun at this concept in tracks such as "Revolution Rock" and "Spanish Bombs"; both songs draw attention to the respective issues while deconstructing the band's actual role in the politics of the time.
- Neoclassical Punk Zydeco Rockabilly: The album might be the most literal example, with all kinds of stylistic variations. The Neoclassical influences could be in "Lost in the Supermarket", the Zydeco (African) styles in "Revolution Rock" (which even features Strummer saying at the end, "Bongo jams are our speciality!"), the band is obviously Punk, and the Rockabilly styles from "Brand New Cadillac" (as well as the aforementioned Shout-Out to Elvis Presley on the cover).
- A Nuclear Error: The Trope Namer, due to its occurrence in "London Calling".
- One-Word Title: "Hateful".
- Pep-Talk Song: "I'm Not Down":Well, I've been beat up
I've been thrown out
But I'm not down, no, I'm not down
- Precision F-Strike: In the second verse of "Death or Glory".
- Pretty Fly for a White Guy: The band's embrace of reggae on this album can come across this way.
- Product Placement: "Brand New Cadillac" and "Koka Kola", both of which were meant to be ironic, even though Cadillac didn't feel that way and even used the song in a commercial later.
- Rated G for Gangsta: "Death or Glory" says that "He who fucks nuns will later join the church."
- Refrain from Assuming: The "Stand by me" chorus of "Train in Vain" confused listeners so much that in the States the single was released as "Train in Vain (Stand by Me)." The song itself is a last-minute addition and was not featured at the track listing, which makes things worse.
- Rockers Smash Guitars: Paul Simonon smashes his bass on the album cover. He revealed in 2011 that he had done so after bouncers refused to let audience members out of their seats at a concert.
You see, he feels like Ivan
- The typographic design on the album cover is a shout-out to the debut album Elvis Presley (1956) by Elvis Presley.
- "The Fear" by Skindred is based around samples from the song "London Calling".
- Punk cover band Me First and The Gimme Gimmes borrows the "London Calling" riff for their cover of The Turtles' "Elenore".
- "The Right Profile" is about the life of actor Montgomery Clift.
- "Train In Vain" shouts out Robert Johnson in the title and Ben E. King in the chorus.
- "The Guns of Brixton" makes reference to The Harder They Come which stars reggae singer and Clash influence Jimmy Cliff. Cliff later did a Cover Version.
Born under the Brixton sun
His game is called survivin'
At the end of "The Harder They Come"
- Spanish Civil War: The song "Spanish Bombs" was dedicated to the Republican side of the conflict.
- Stepford Consumer: "Lost in the Supermarket", where the consumer feels depressed about buying items which don't reflect his personality:The kids in halls and the pipes in the walls
Making noises for company
Long distance callers make long distance calls
And the silence makes me lonely
- A Storm Is Coming: "London Calling".London calling to the faraway towns
Now war is declared, and battle come down
London calling to the underworld
Come out of the cupboard, you boys and girls
- Take That!: "London Calling" has the line "Phony Beatlemania has bitten the dust", which has been taken as referring to either a Broadway musical called Beatlemania whose run ended around the same time the album was recorded, or to Wings, implying that it was Paul McCartney's failed attempt to remain as popular as he was with The Beatles. However, this later led to some Unfortunate Implications after John Lennon was shot and killed the following year.
- Tyop on the Cover:
- The original CD issue of London Calling credited "The Guns of Brixton" to Paul Simon instead of Paul Simonon, as well as listing the title track as being five minutes long instead of three.
- "Train In Vain" was technically a secret track on the original London Calling LP, but wasn't intended to be; the band decided to include the track after the artwork was completed. The original CDs have it listed as the final track, while the 1999 and 2004 reissues use the original artwork and therefore make no mention of it.