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London Calling is the third album by English punk rock band The Clash, released 14 December 1979, on CBS Records in the UK and in January 1980 on Epic Records in the United States. The album represented a change in The Clash's musical style, and featured elements of ska, pop, soul, rockabilly and reggae more prominently than in their previously released music. The album's subject matter included unemployment, racial conflict, drug use, and the responsibilities of adulthood.

The album received unanimously positive reviews and was ranked at number eight on Rolling Stone' list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time in 2003. London Calling was a top ten album in the UK, and its lead single "London Calling" was a top 20 single. It has sold over two million copies worldwide, and was certified platinum in the United States.

Recording and production

After recording their 1978 album Give 'Em Enough Rope in the United States, the band separated from their manager Bernard Rhodes. This separation meant that the band had to leave their rehearsal studio in Camden Townmarker and find another location to compose their music. Drawing inspiration from rockabilly, ska, reggae and jazz, the band began work on the album during the summer of 1979. Tour manager Johnny Green had found the band a new place to rehearse called Vanilla Studios in Pimlicomarker, which was located in the back of a garage. The band quickly wrote and recorded demo, with Jones composing and arranging much of the music and Strummer supplying the lyrics.

In August 1979, the band entered Wessex Studios to begin recording London Calling. The Clash asked Guy Stevens to produce the album, much to the dismay of CBS Records. Stevens had alcohol and drug problems and his production methods were unconventional. While recording he would often swing ladders and throw chairs around the band to create an emotional atmosphere. The entire album was recorded within a matter of weeks, with many songs recorded in one or two takes.


The album's cover features a photograph of Simonon smashing his Fender Precision Bass (on display at the Cleveland Rock and Roll Hall of Famemarker as of May 2009) against the stage at The Palladium in New York Citymarker on 21 September 1979 during the "Clash Take the Fifth" US tour. Pennie Smith, who photographed the band for the album, originally did not want the photograph to be used. She thought that it was too out of focus, but Strummer and graphic designer Ray Lowry thought it would make a good album cover. In 2002, Smith's photograph was named the best rock and roll photograph of all time by Q magazine, commenting that "it captures the ultimate rock'n'roll moment - total loss of control".

The cover artwork was designed by Lowry and was a homage to the design of Elvis Presley's debut album. The cover was named the ninth best album cover of all time by Q magazine in 2001.


Though London Calling was released as a double album it was only sold for about the price of a single album. The Clash's record label, CBS, at first denied the band's request for the album to be released as a double. In return CBS gave permission for the band to include a free 12-inch single that played at 33⅓ rpm. Ultimately, the planned 12-inch record became a second nine-track LP.

London Calling sold approximately two million copies. The album peaked at number nine in the United Kingdom and was certified gold in December 1979. The album performed strongly outside the United Kingdom. It reached number two in Swedenmarker and number four in Norwaymarker. In the United States, London Calling peaked at number 27 on the Billboard Pop Albums chart and was certified platinum in February 1996.

In 2000, along with the rest of the band's catalogue, London Calling was remastered and reissued in compact disc format in the United States by Epic Records. Four years later the album was released as a Legacy Edition, which had a bonus CD and DVD. The bonus CD features the The Vanilla Tapes, missing recordings made by the band in mid-1979. The DVD includes The Last Testament - The Making of London Calling, a film by Don Letts, as well as previously unseen video footage and music videos.

London Calling produced two of the band's most successful singles. "London Calling" preceded the album with a 7 December 1979 release. It reached number 11 on the UK Singles Chart. The song's music video, directed by Letts, featured the band performing the song on a boat in the pouring rain with the River Thames behind them. In the U.S., "Train in Vain" backed with "London Calling" was released as a single in February 1980. It reached number 23 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart and "London Calling"/"Train in Vain" reached number 30 on the Billboard Disco Top 100 chart.


"London Calling", the album's opening track, was partially influenced by the March 1979 accident at a nuclear reactor at Three Mile Islandmarker in Pennsylvaniamarker. Strummer's lyrics also discuss the problems of rising unemployment, racial conflict and drug use in Britainmarker. The second track, "Brand New Cadillac", was originally recorded by Vince Taylor and was the first track recorded for London Calling. The band cite the song as "one of the first British rock'n'roll records"and had initially used it as a warm up song before recording. "Rudie Can't Fail", the album's fifth song, features a horn section and mixes elements of pop, soul, ska and reggae music together. Its lyrics chronicle the life of a fun-loving young man who is criticised for his inability to act like a responsible adult.

"Spanish Bombs" is a song that tells the story of the Spanish Civil War. It received positive reviews from critics, with one reviewer stating that its "combination of thoughtful lyrics and an energetic performance" made it a "highlight of London Calling". The album's eighth track, "Lost in the Supermarket", was written by Strummer who imagined Jones' childhood growing up in a basement with his mother and grandmother. "Clampdown" began as a instrumental track called "Working and Waiting". Its lyrics comment on people who forsake the idealism of youth and urge young people to fight the status quo. The tenth track, "The Guns of Brixton", was the first song recorded by the band to be composed by Simonon and to feature him as lead vocalist. He was originally doubtful about the song's lyrics, which discuss an individual's paranoid outlook on life, but was encouraged to continue working on it by Strummer.

The album's twelfth track, "Death or Glory", features Strummer looking back at his life, acknowledging the complications and responsibilities of adulthood. While working on "The Card Cheat", the band recorded everything twice to create a "sound as big as possible". "Revolution Rock", a reggae song, received mixed reviews from critics, and Strummer and Jones were criticized by NME for their inability to compose credible love songs. The final track, "Train in Vain", was originally not included in the track list printed on the album's back cover. The song was initially going to be given away for free through a promotion with NME, but when the deal fell through it was added to the album at the last minute.

Reception, influence and accolades

The album received positive reviews from critics, and has since become widely accepted as one of the greatest rock albums of all time. In 1987, London Calling was ranked number 14 on Rolling Stone magazine's "100 Best Albums of the Last Twenty Years". Rolling Stone also ranked London Calling at number one on its 1989 list of the 100 Best Albums of the Eighties despite its 1979 release. In 1993, NME ranked the album at number six on its list of The Greatest Albums of the '70s. Vibe magazine included the double album on its list of the 100 Essential Albums of the 20th Century. Q magazine ranked London Calling at number four on its 1999 list of the 100 Greatest British Albums, and, in 2002, included the album in its list of the 100 Best Punk Albums.

Robert Christgau described London Calling as "warm, angry, and thoughtful, confident, melodic, and hard-rocking" and called it "the best double-LP since Exile on Main Street". Stephen Erlewine of Allmusic wrote that London Calling was "invigorating, rocking harder and with more purpose than most albums, let alone double albums" and called it "one of the greatest rock & roll albums ever recorded".

Alternative Press included London Calling on its 2001 list of the 10 Essential '80s Albums. Tom Carson of Rolling Stone said it "celebrates the romance of rock & roll rebellion in grand, epic terms" and ranked London Calling number eight on its 2003 list of the 500 greatest albums of all time. In the same year, Mojo magazine ranked the album at number twenty-two on its Top 50 Punk Albums. London Calling was named album of the year by Stereo Review for 1980.

In 2004, Pitchfork Media reviewer Amanda Petrusich named "London Calling" the album's best song and wrote that "The Clash do not let go; each track builds on the last, pummeling and laughing and slapping us into dumb submission". The website ranked the album at number two on its list of the Top 100 Albums of the 70s, Sal Ciolfi of PopMatters called the album a "big, loud, beautiful collection of hurt, anger, restless thought, and above all hope" and wrote that "if released tomorrow would still seem relevant and vibrant", and the College Music Journal ranked it at number three on its Top 20 Most-Played Albums of 1980.

In 2007, London Calling was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, a collection of recordings of lasting qualitative or historical significance.

Track listing

All songs written and composed by Joe Strummer and Mick Jones, except where noted.

Side one

  1. "London Calling" – 3:19
  2. "Brand New Cadillac" (Vince Taylor) – 2:09
  3. "Jimmy Jazz" – 3:51
  4. "Hateful" – 3:22
  5. "Rudie Can't Fail" – 3:26

Side two

  1. "Spanish Bombs" – 3:18
  2. "The Right Profile" – 4:00
  3. "Lost in the Supermarket" – 3:47
  4. "Clampdown" – 3:50
  5. "The Guns of Brixton" (Paul Simonon) – 3:07

Side three

  1. "Wrong 'Em Boyo" (Clive Alphonso) – 3:10
  2. "Death or Glory" – 3:55
  3. "Koka Kola" – 1:45
  4. "The Card Cheat" (Jones, Strummer, Simonon, Topper Headon) – 3:51

Side four

  1. "Lover's Rock" – 4:01
  2. "Four Horsemen" – 3:00
  3. "I'm Not Down" – 3:00
  4. "Revolution Rock" (Jackie Edwards, Danny Ray) – 5:37
  5. "Train in Vain" – 3:11
On the original record, "Train in Vain" was not listed on the sleeve nor the label on the record.

25th Anniversary Legacy Edition

The 25th Anniversary Edition of the album was released in 2004 and contains The Vanilla Tapes (an early version of the album based on a lost master tape, and previously only available as a bootleg) as a bonus disc, and a DVD featuring the making of the album, the music videos and video footage of The Clash recording in Wessex Studios.

Bonus disc track listing
  1. "Hateful" – 3:23
  2. "Rudie Can't Fail" – 3:08
  3. "Paul's Tune" (Paul Simonon) – 2:32
  4. "I'm Not Down" – 3:24
  5. "4 Horsemen" – 2:45
  6. "Koka Kola, Advertising & Cocaine" – 1:57
  7. "Death or Glory" – 3:47
  8. "Lover's Rock" – 3:45
  9. "Lonesome Me" (The Clash) – 2:09
  10. "The Police Walked in 4 Jazz" – 2:19
  11. "Lost in the Supermarket" – 3:52
  12. "Up-Toon" (Instrumental) – 1:57
  13. "Walking the Slidewalk" (The Clash) – 2:34
  14. "Where You Gonna Go (Soweto)" (The Clash) – 4:05
  15. "The Man in Me" (Bob Dylan) – 3:57
  16. "Remote Control" – 2:39
  17. "Working and Waiting" – 4:11
  18. "Heart & Mind" (The Clash) – 4:27
  19. "Brand New Cadillac" (Vince Taylor) – 2:08
  20. "London Calling" – 4:26
  21. "Revolution Rock" (J. Edwards, D. Ray) – 3:51

DVD track listing
  1. The Last Testament - The Making of London Calling
  2. "London Calling" music video
  3. "Train in Vain" music video
  4. "Clampdown" music video
  5. Home video footage of The Clash recording in Wessex Studios



Chart (1979) Peak

Swedish Albums Chart 2
UK Albums Chart 9
Chart (1980) Peak

Austrian Albums Chart 17
Norwegian Albums Chart 4
U.S. Billboard Pop Albums 27
Chart (2004) Peak

Norwegian Albums Chart 17
Swedish Albums Chart 45
Swiss Albums Chart 72
UK Albums Chart 26



Further reading

External links

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