#238: 1979, The Clash, London Calling

by Jackie_South on July 25, 2011

A big song today, one that may well have George and Ray gnashing their teeth in not getting to post it first.  But it has been far too long since we last featured The Clash, and I felt I had an excuse.

The occasion that justifies this was Saturday night’s gig at The Garage by Chuck Prophet And The Spanish Bombs, who covered the entire album London Calling end to end, with Bank Robber as the encore.  It was an astounding gig, with the added bonus that for once George and I were a lot younger than a significant proportion of the audience.  The band did an amazing job, Chuck himself in particular, even if he occasionally slipped into Nigel Tufnell-esque guitar god mode and fellow guitarist Chris Von Sneidern’s voice was a little weak to fully carry off the Mick Jones’ numbers.

Listening to the entire album live made me reappreciate how truly great it is, without doubt one of the top ten greatest albums ever.  It is so good that Rolling Stone declared it the greatest album of the eighties, despite its 1979 release (to be fair, it wasn’t released in the States until 1980). There isn’t any flab there despite it being a double album, unlike say the White Album.

Its pessimistic title track is to my mind its greatest, using the World War II radio intro to reel out a railing against the ills and fears of 1979: Three Mile Island, heroin addiction, police violence, fuel shortages, the risk of (pre-barrier) Thames floods. 

The intro is as good as anything we posted in intros week.  Indeed the  incessant pounding drums matched by the rhythm of the guitar, the pulsating bass-line, the passionate yet tightly restrained vocals make this a candidate for greatest song ever.

Great Don Letts video too,  filmed on the Thames, presumably in July…

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