This year marks the 40th anniversary since The Clash released their seminal third album, London Calling. Regarded by many as the first post-punk double album, the band veered away from some of the style that got them such a cult following up until this point and began experimenting with reggae, rockabilly and other much more Rock and Roll based techniques that they had become hugely influenced by whilst touring in North America. Support acts for the tours included, Bo Diddley, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins and The Cramps, further suggesting that they were wanting to merge the Punk/Rock we had to come know with more Rhythm and Blues styes for this next record.
The album was written mainly in Vanilla Studios, which was located in the back of a garage in Pimlico. The writing sessions started off slow as Mick and Joe hadn’t written any new material for over year previous to starting work on this record, which meant they needed to get back into the swing of disciplined writing sessions. Supposedly, the sessions ended up consisting daily of afternoon writing, a post writing kick about with the rest of the studio, post match pint and then back in the studio for further writing and recording in the evening. I don’t know about you but to me that sounds like a routine i could easily slip into! When most of the demo’s for the album tracks were ready, the band headed off to record the album at Wessex Studios, 18 hour days spanning 5 to 6 weeks. Some of the tracks were actually recorded in only one or two takes, which allows them to capture a lot of the live rawness they had become widely known for.
The iconic cover for the album features a seemingly somewhat peeved Paul Simonon, smashing his Fender bass guitar onto the stage floor at the Palladium in New York City. The image was captured by Pennie Smith who originally didnt want the photo to be used as she deemed it too out of focus. However Joe Strummer thought it would make a great album cover and in 2002 it was awarded the most rock and roll photograph of all time by Q Magazine – adding that “it captures the ultimate rock’n’roll moment – total loss of control”. Simonon has since come forward to confirm that the frustration in smashing the guitar was built out of the security not allowing the audience members to stand up from their seats – Certainly not because of the quality of the bass guitar itself…although i’m sure it hasn’t done Fender any problems, having one of its instruments feature prominently on the cover of an album which featured in many a ‘Greatest Album’ lists over the years. The artwork also shares more than a slight resemblence to Elvis Presley’s self-titled debut album, as a homage to the king of rock and roll!
With the title track still filling dance floors of indie clubs today, here’s to another 40 years!