Friday, December 14, 1979

The Clash released London Calling

London Calling

The Clash

Released: December 14, 1979

Peak: 27 US, 9 UK, 12 CN, 17 AU

Sales (in millions): 2.0 US, 0.46 UK, 2.77 world (includes US and UK)

Genre: punk rock


Song Title (Writers) [time] (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to charts.

  1. London Calling [3:20] (12/7/79, 1 CL, 1 CO, 11 UK, 28 AU, 4 DF)
  2. Brand New Cadillac (Taylor) [2:08]
  3. Jimmy Jazz [3:54] (17 CL, 36 CO)
  4. Hateful [2:44] (30 DF)
  5. Rudie Can’t Fail [3:29] (19 CL, 8 CO, 27 DF)
  6. Spanish Bombs [3:18] (32 DF)
  7. The Right Profile [3:54]
  8. Lost in the Supermarket [3:47] (20 CL, 5 CO, 18 DF)
  9. Clampdown [3:49] (11 CL, 5 CO, 27 DF)
  10. The Guns of Brixton (Simonon) [3:09] (16 CL, 9 CO)
  11. Wrong ‘Em Boyo [3:10] (23 CL, 36 CO)
  12. Death or Glory [3:55] (19 CL, 9 CO, 39 DF)
  13. Koka Kola [1:47]
  14. The Card Cheat (The Clash) [3:49]
  15. Lover’s Rock [4:03] (35 DF)
  16. Four Horsemen [2:55]
  17. I’m Not Down [3:06] (35 DF)
  18. Revolution Rock [5:33]
  19. Train in Vain [3:09] (2/12/80, 23 US, 24 CB, 23 HR, 20 RR, 3 CL, 1 CO, 5 DF)

All songs written by Jones/ Strummer unless noted otherwise.

Total Running Time: 65:07

The Players:

  • Joe Strummer (vocals, rhythm guitar, piano)
  • Mick Jones (guitar, piano, harmonica, backing vocals)
  • Paul Simonon (bass, backing vocals, lead on “The Guns of Brixton”)
  • Topper Headon (drums, percussion)


4.620 out of 5.00 (average of 30 ratings)


“The greatest punk album of all time.” –


(Click on award to learn more).

About the Clash

The Clash “played as if they had their backs to the walls but were nonetheless intent on shooting out the lights.” CM The Rolling Stones were once proclaimed “The Greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll Band in the World.” Fans called the Clash “‘The Only Band That Matters.” RV

They were a “thinking man’s Sex Pistols,” VH1 “the most musically adventurous of the first wave of British punk bands.” TB The Sex Pistols “were one of London’s first punk bands and the most infamous, serving both as an inspiration to other acts and as a voice for the frustrated, disenfranchised youth from working-class familes.” CS The Clash, however, “proved that a band could be anti-establishment and pro-melody.” TL They “expanded punk’s role both musically…and socially.” CS The songs they created “made the nihilism of their fellow punks sound silly.” JG “The Clash’s anger had an end beyond its means” JG that “made the Sex Pistols sound gutless in comparison.” JG

About the Album

They served up “a real revolution – musical and political – with the eternally urgent, genre-defying” EW’12 London Calling, the first punk album to crack the top 40 in America. CS The album offered “a staggering new vision of rock & roll in the autumn of punk.” CM The Clash’s third album featured “songs that were pent-up but still unabashedly melodic.” EW’93 It is “invigorating, rocking harder and with more purpose than most albums, let alone double albums.” AM “Joe Strummer’s signature rasp is complemented by Mick Jones’ melodic delivery as they trade vocals throughout the album, with Paul Simonon and Topper Headon providing the steady backbone to the collection’s 19 diverse songs.” CQ

It “is a stunning statement of purpose” AM and what has been called “the most unfailingly exciting hour of music ever committed to record” PK and “the very best flat-out kick-out-the-jams rock and roll album ever.” PK called London Calling “the greatest punk album of all time.” CQ

The Political Climate of 1979

1979 marked “the dawn of an uncertain decade” RS in London, which was “wrenched by surging unemployment and drug addiction.” RS Out of that setting came London Calling in which The Clash embodied punk rock’s “thrilling fury and blind devotion to rock ‘n’ roll’s revolutionary powers” UT and “honed a response to the angst of the time.” VH1

“While the record isn’t tied together by a specific theme, its eclecticism and anthemic punk function as a rallying call.” AM Joe Strummer, Mick Jones, and Paul Simonon “kept their collective pen focused on the issues of contemporary England” TL by exploring “familiar themes of working-class rebellion and antiestablishment rants.” TL

The Writing

In May and June of 1979, the band worked nearly every day together on songs. While most of the ideas came from Strummer and Jones, Simonon also made some contributions. He said, “It was the first time we played together in terms of creating songs. There was a lot of experimentation.” CM

They went into the studio in August with “legendary Sixties studio madman Guy Stevens.” RS The “eccentric, quite possibly deranged, producer fit right in.” CM He “valued the emotional integrity of a take over the technical qualities.” CM He was “a voluable, enthusiastic catalyst, as likely to stalk the studio floor exhorting the musicians during a take as he was to throw a chair or wrestle with the recording engineer.” CM

Smorgasbord of Musical Styles

Still, no one was quite prepared “for the dizzying array of styles on London Calling.” AM “Leaving the jingoistic simplicity of punk behind, London Calling is a smorgasbord” PK “of popular-music styles of the previous 25 years” TB incorporating calypso, hard rock, lounge jazz, new wave, pop, punk, R&B, reggae, rockabilly, and ska “into a perfect musical concoction.” CQ “By acknowledging no boundaries the music itself is political and revolutionary.” AM

Jones said, “There was a point when punk was getting narrower and narrower in terms of what it could achieve and where it would go. They were painting themselves into a corner. We thought that you could do any kind of music.” CM

Lyrical Breadth

The album was astonishing in its lyrical breadth as well. “Many of the songs…are explicitly political.” AM It “seeks to explain Spanish imperialists in Central America, the death of Montgomery Clift, American everymalls, nineteenth-century poker games, and the mean streets of Brixton.” JG This is “a sprawling and expansive collection of songs exploring disillusion, social unrest, consumerism and the use of power.” PM “The band takes on everything from drugs (Hateful), corporate greed (Koka Kola), and even washed-up film stars (The Right Profile).” PK There’s also a “rebel-without-a-cause” vibe to songs like Revolution Rock and Rudie Can’t Fail. VH1

The Cover

The album’s spirit is captured in its cover, which “features the most famous photo in rock,” TL capturing Paul Simonon “in a Who-like act of guitar destruction” TB “bracketed by the same font and colors used on Elvis Presley’s debut.” TL “It was a bold move, claiming for themselves some of rock’s most potent myths, but it was easily matched by the quality of the music.” TB

The Songs

Here are thoughts on the individual songs from the album.

“London Calling”
With its “staccato guitar riffs” CQ the “bleak punk” RS of the title cut finds Strummer “declaring, ‘phony Beatlemania has bitten the dust’ and thereby signaling the end of an era of Beatles imitators.” RV “The end of the world may loom…but the Clash were going to throw one hell of a going away party.” CM

“Brand New Cadillac”
Here the Clash offer “vintage, prowling rockabilly.” CM

“Jimmy Jazz”
“Jimmy Jive” is a “sax-driven jive.” CM

“Hateful” shows the band’s appreciation for Bo Diddley, with whom they’d recently toured. CM

“Rudie Can’t Fail”
“Rudie Can’t Fail” is marked with “reggae-like infectiousness.” CQ

“Spanish Bombs”
This “could be the Clash’s most ambitious effort. Strummer paints a bleak portrait of the Spanish Civil War while flamenco guitars, gun shots and children’s voices swirl around him. His lyrics are as much romantic heroism (‘With trenches full of poets, the ragged army, fixin’ bayonets to fight the other line’) as a condemnation of mistakes repeated (‘The Irish tomb was drenched in blood’).” RV

“The Right Profile”
This is “a soulful rave-up about the 1950s Hollwyood actor Montgomery Clift.” CM

“Lost in the Supermarket”
In “the post-punk vibe” CQ of the “brisk, reflective” CM “Lost in the Supermarket” “Strummer wrote an autobiographical lyric for Jones, who then sang its descriptions of growing up and the subsequent encroachment” CM of “damning American consumerism.” JG

In Clampdown, Strummer rallies “blue collared workers to rebel against a government that allows such poor conditions.” RV

“The Guns of Brixton”
“Simonon was the band’s reggae obsessive, and it flowed through to ‘The Guns of Brixton,’ a track he wrote and sang sneering lead on that also demonstrated the versatility of drummer Topper Headon.” CM

“Wrong ‘Em Boyo”
“The old R&B legend of Stagger Lee, based on a murder that informed an early folk standard, is updated for a Jamaican age” CM with a “rampaging ska” RS cover of the Rulers’ ‘Wrong ‘Em Boyo.’”

“Death or Glory” and “Four Horsement”
This is a “delightful little rant against the inevitable selling-out of punk.” PK This song and “Four Horsemen” “are most explicitly about the band” JG and are “muscular and trustworthy enough to justify the bravado of the lyrics.” JG

“Koka Kola”
The Clash tackle “corporate greed” PK on “Koka Kola.”

“The Card Cheat”
“The band’s ideas and Stevens’ production even stretched to a take on Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound with ‘The Card Cheat,’ where another of the album’s anti-hero charactes is backed up by a layered sound that was achieved by recording the song twice and combining the takes.” CM

“Lover’s Rock”
The Clash find “a middle ground between satire and declamation in ‘Lover’s Rock.’” JG

“I’m Not Down”
The “defiant ‘I’m Not Down’…sketches a maturity borne of going against the odds.” CM

“Revolution Rock”
The Clash offer “themselves as house band anywhere in the hilarious ‘Revolution Rock.’” JG

“Train in Vain”
The Clash, however, “also had enough maturity to realize that, while politics was inseparable from life, it was not life’s entirety.” TL They “also cranked up the hope.” RS The album wraps up with the “sonic whiplash” EW’93 of Train in Vain, “a rousing song of fidelity (originally unlisted on the back cover)” RS that is “one of the finest pure pop songs ever.” PK


A 2004 reissue added a second disc of demos and a DVD with videos and footage of the band working in the studio.

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First posted 2/27/2008; last updated 7/15/2024.

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