Thirty years ago this month The Clash released their third album, ‘London Calling’. In its scope, ambition and accomplishments it rescued the band from the punk cul de sac and put them on a par with The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. From the moment of release it was an instant classic. Not only that, but it changed the way that people perceived rock forever.
1. Cover art that embodies the spirit of rock
2. Decent use of rock samples in music
‘The Guns Of Brixton”s lolloping bass line was sampled by Norman Cook (later Fatboy Slim) and (along with Ennio Morricone’s Man With A Harmonica) turned into the first innovative and visionary use of a rock sample: Beats International’s fried anthem ‘Dub Be Good To Me’.
This led eventually to one of the greatest songs built on a sample of the last few years: MIA’s ‘Paper Planes’, which is built on a sample of The Clash’s ‘Straight To Hell’ (admittedly not actually a track on London Calling).
3. A number one hit single about the Spanish Civil War
Manic Street Preachers – who were inspired by The Clash in general to a monumental degree – were directly influenced by ‘Spanish Bombs’ when they wrote their own hymn to the Spanish Civil War. ‘If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next’. To be fair, though, the Manics took their single to Number One.
4 The Greatest Rock ‘N’ Roll Moment this millennium
The greatest rock ‘n’ roll moment this millennium occurred in Whitechapel , east London in 2003 – The Libertines played a tiny show in their house that was open to anyone who’d seen the post on libertines.org. Inevitably the police battered down the door to put an end to it. With the coppers’ size nines on their stairs Pete and Carl glanced at each other and spontaneously started singing a duet of ‘The Guns Of Brixton’.
“When they kick out your front door
How you gonna come?
With your hands on your head
Or on the trigger of your gun
When the law break in
How you gonna go?
Shot down on the pavement
Or waiting in death row”
5. Cover artwork parody/homage that doesn’t make you want to kill for its inane dumbness
It’s been done before but The Clash’s affectionate nod to the past (in this case Elvis Presley) has never been equalled.
6. The greatest anthem of the ’90s
Pulp’s ‘Common People’ is a dead ringer for ‘Lost In The Supermarket’
Lost In The Supermarket:
7. Genuinely frightening prophecies of impending ecological doom
Twenty years before Muse came along the title track nailed this one.
8 An amazing cover of a brit rockabilly tune
Their cover of Vince Taylor‘s ‘Brand New Cadillac’ rescued brit rockabilly from the end-of-the-pier gyrations of Shakin’ Stevens. They reminded the world that British rockers could be every bit as potent as their American cousins even if, as in Vince Taylor‘s case, they were bigger in France than Britain.
9. A post Jerry Lee Lewis piano riff that actually rocks
The piano was roundly emasculated by Elton John in the 1970s. It has never recovered apart from the truly rock and roll riff of ‘The Card Cheat’.
10. A great lost NME covermount
The final track on the album, ‘Train In Vain’, was, at first, going to be given away as a free flexi-disc with the NME. It wasn’t added to the album until the idea fell through – as a result the track isn’t listed on original pressings of the album.