Its wonderful that The Clashs London Calling CD has become an essential
purchase for so many rock fans. And deservedly so. While leafing through
Amazons feature customers who bought this item also bought..., I saw its
on the same must-have checklist as Abbey Road, Ziggy Stardust, and
Dark Side Of The Moon. Pretty heady company, and not exactly a
foregone conclusion when originally released.
By the time London Calling came out, the Clash had outgrown their punk
origins. They sounded more like a mainstream rock band, albeit one with
extraordinary power, passion, conviction and purpose. What also
separated them from the mainstream (and punk) scene of the day was
their willingness to experiment with worldbeats and music as varied as ska,
reggae and dub. This aspect would reach full flower on Sandinista! the
Id summarize their career like this: the debut album The Clash (1977) is a
punk classic; Give Em Enough Rope and the EP Black Market Clash are
relatively strong with many fine moments; London Calling is a flat-out
masterpiece; Sandinista! is a massive, sprawling undertaking with hits and
misses; Combat Rock is great; Cut The Crap is dismal.
London Calling benefitted greatly from the oversight of producer Guy
Stevens (Mott the Hoople, Free) - a legendary British D.J., consultant to
the stars (Rolling Stones, Who), and record company executive (most
notably with Island). Its fair to say he was instrumental in both turning them
loose, and reigning them in. Without his involvement on the follow-up, the
band gave in to excess. Presumably the Clash invited him on board
because Mick Jones was a charter member of the Mott fan club as a
young man, and wanted his stamp put on it. Smart move.
The result is the perfect balance between their early punk and their later
experimentalism. Nineteen splendid tracks. When issued on vinyl, this was
a 2-record set - and Id say the best 2-record set of all time. Many people
would point to double discs by the Beatles, Elton John, Prince, etc. - and
they could make a persuasive case - but I think they all have their weak
spots. London Calling, on the other hand, is flawless - and stands alone at
the head of the pack.
P.S. - Two final notes: this was released in England in December 1979,
and issued stateside January 1980. It was therefore the last great classic
of the 70s. When numerous rock mags overlooked this and named London
Calling the best album of the 80s - they wrongly cheated Prince out of the
top slot for Purple Rain. And lastly: God bless Joe Strummer, wherever
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