#786: 1979, The Clash, Clampdown

by Charlie_East_West on October 28, 2013

So did you survive the super-storm? Bit of a damp squib wasn’t it? The crumbs on my toaster offer more collateral damage this morning. Anyway, here is a fantastic song to really blow the Monday morning cobwebs away.

George East recently opened up an All That’s Left survey to list our own 20 greatest albums of all time – as a sort of comeback to the NME top 500 albums list. Our winner was The Clash, London Calling. This album is a worthy recipient of the ATL award.

I have to protect myself from listening to London Calling on a regular basis. It is just too good to over indulge. But, I have been provoked by our top albums list. I played the album to my eight year old son in the car on Saturday morning. He loved it. It was a father & son rights of passage moment. I hope he cherishes this album as much as I have done throughout my life.

I was first introduced to London Calling by my older cousin Kenny (who is 12 years older than me). He was massively into Punk as an 18 year old in 1979, and a couple of years later, he played it to me when I was around my own son’s age. It blew my head off.

It is an album that does not date, and it is an album that I never tire of. It is greatest double album of all time. It is a tour de force album that is so overstuffed with inspiration and variety from beginning to end. From those iconic opening chords of London Calling right through to the final track – Train In Vain, there are absolutely no duff tracks.

Christ, this album is so good that on the original version of the album, Train in Vain was not even listed on the sleeve, or on the actual record itself, but instead, it came with a sticker indicating the track was affixed to the outer album wrapper. It was also only cut into album’s final run-off area on the fourth side of the record. Train in Vain was finally included in the track listings of future editions of the album.

London Calling is absolutely ram packed full of influences and sound – reggae, jazz, rock, new wave, pop, and rockabilly all combine to create something that is risky, insouciant, confident and downright dangerous. Putting all of this together should have led to a sonic disaster, but instead it leaves the listener having to pick their jaw up off the floor. It is one of those albums that if anyone said to me that they hated it, I would seriously ask them to have a quiet word with themselves. In fact, I would feel sorry for them, because they would be missing out on something so completely life affirming.

So, as a quick Monday morning sharpener, I have chosen what I consider to be the greatest song on London Calling. I have chosen Clampdown. I love this song. It is dark and menacing, the arrangements are magnificent – and even today, when listening to this magnificent bastard of a song – I still get goosebumps.

The lyrics give a call to action towards fighting up against the status quo. Joe Strummer’s lyrics still resonate today. It rips into the failures of capitalist society and how eventually, many people are sucked into the vortex of a trapped working life.

The men in the factory are old and cunning
You don’t owe nothing, so boy get running
It’s the best years of your life they want to steal
You grow up and you calm down and you’re working for the clampdown.
You start wearing the blue and brown and you’re working for the clampdown.
So you got someone to boss around. It makes you feel big now…

Here are my current top 5 songs from London Calling.

1. Clampdown
2. The Card Cheat
3. I’m Not Down
4. The Right Profile
5. Lover’s Rock

This is the hardest top 5 album song list of all time. This album is so good, I can justify omitting the likes of Death or Glory, London Calling, Train in Vain and Lost in the Supermarket from the top five songs. But, this is my order of merit for today. My preferences may change in the next day or so. Tomorrow never knows…

So, what are your top 5 songs from London Calling?

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

George_East October 28, 2013 at 11:08 am

Clampdown is an extraordinary track – and so relevant now, given what this bastard government is doing.
‘They put up posters saying we earn more than you’

My top five from London Calling:

1. London Calling
2. Spanish Bombs
3. Clampdown
4. Guns of Brixton
5. Brand New Cadillac

As you say for today – tomorrow it might change. 19 cracking tracks to choose from. A band at the very pinnacle of their powers.


Charlie_East_West October 28, 2013 at 11:13 am

Interesting ranking, George.

It is like choosing who is the greatest footballer between Messi, Maradona, Ronaldo and Pele – almost impossible.


Ray_North October 28, 2013 at 1:18 pm

For me, this is the greatest twentieth century British album – listening to it now, you realise that contained in those 19 songs is the history of Britain from 1945 to 1979. It’s brilliant.
My top five tracks, hmmm, I’ll go:
1. London Calling.
2. The Card Cheat
3. Lost in a Supermarket
4. Guns of Brixton
5. Spanish Bombs/Brand New Cadillac

I can’t ignore Brand New Cadillac.


George_East October 28, 2013 at 1:36 pm

That is true but also the sound of that historical consensus breaking down.


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