London Calling: A New Museum Exhibition Celebrates The Clash’s Iconic Album

In 1983, Rolling Stone pro­claimed it the year of the “sec­ond British Inva­sion,” a “gold­en age” of music from the likes of Duran Duran, Span­dau Bal­let, Cul­ture Club, the Human League, Depeche Mode, and oth­er radio-friend­ly synth pop hit­mak­ers. The label stuck. Thir­ty years lat­er, CBS News com­mem­o­rat­ed the year “a slew of [New Wave] acts came over to the states with their synthesizer-driven/R&B‑inspired music.”

Amidst this fren­zy of praise, no one men­tions the Clash, who played their final show in 1983. The year pre­vi­ous they hit num­ber 8 on the Bill­board Hot 100 with “Rock the Cas­bah.” Com­bat Rock arguably proved that punk was still rel­e­vant in the ear­ly 1980s, though a punk trans­fig­ured into dance­floor-friend­ly funk, dub, and spo­ken word exper­i­men­ta­tion. Just as arguably, the Clash should be prop­er­ly seen as lead­ers of the true sec­ond British Invasion—an inva­sion of British punk and post-punk bands in the late 70s.

Four charm­ing lads who’d grown up play­ing in the clubs, they spoke a work­ing-class idiom, wrote in a num­ber of dif­fer­ent voic­es, took a con­sis­tent­ly anti-war stance, and took punk where it had not gone before with stu­dio and world music exper­i­ments. One needn’t com­pare their 1979 dou­ble album Lon­don Call­ing to Sgt. Pepper’s—though it does top sev­er­al crit­ics best-of-all-time lists—to see its sim­i­lar influ­ence on con­tem­po­rary music.

Its title track even hit num­ber 30 on the Bill­board Dis­co Top 100 chart in 1980, a move that helped open the door for sev­er­al dozen punk-inspired British New Wave bands to come. Lon­don Call­ing wasn’t uni­ver­sal­ly beloved. The com­mer­cial aims and more pol­ished deliv­ery divid­ed punk fans, and some crit­ics panned the album. None of that has mat­tered at all to the mil­lions of devot­ed fans world­wide. Its icon­ic cov­er has become just as rec­og­niz­able as the orig­i­nal that inspired it.

Now, and until April 2020, tru­ly devot­ed fans can expe­ri­ence that album as no one has before by see­ing in per­son, the actu­al Fend­er Pre­ci­sion bass that Paul Simenon smashed in the cov­er photo—only one of the many his­toric arti­facts on dis­play at the Muse­um of Lon­don in a free exhi­bi­tion cel­e­brat­ing the album’s 40th anniver­sary. Vis­i­tors can also see “Mick Jones’s 1950s Gib­son ES-295,” writes Ellen Goto­skey at Men­tal Floss, “Joe Strummer’s white 1950s Fend­er Esquire,” and a pair of Top­per Head­on’s drum­sticks.

Also on dis­play are “sketch­es from artist Ray Lowry that depict scenes from the Lon­don Call­ing tour,” as well as an ear­ly sketch by Lowry of the album cov­er, and “pho­tos tak­en by Pen­nie Smith (who snapped the Lon­don Call­ing cov­er image).” View­ers can see Strummer’s type­writer, his note­book from the rehearsal and record­ing of the record, and Simenon’s weath­ered late-70s leather jack­et.

The exhi­bi­tion may be free, but tick­ets to Lon­don are pricey. Still, fans can play along at home with the Lon­don Call­ing Scrap­book, a 120-page hard­back book full of archival mate­r­i­al and includ­ed in Sony’s anniver­sary re-release of the album. But no lover of the Clash is with­out their own copy of Lon­don Call­ing. Put it on in cel­e­bra­tion and judge whether, as the Muse­um of Lon­don writes, its “music and lyrics remain as rel­e­vant today as they were on release.”

via Men­tal Floss

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Hear The Clash’s Vanil­la Tapes, Demos of Near­ly Every Song From Lon­don Call­ing

“Stay Free: The Sto­ry of the Clash” Nar­rat­ed by Pub­lic Enemy’s Chuck D: A New 8‑Episode Pod­cast

The Clash Play Their Final Show (San Bernardi­no, 1983)

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

by | Permalink | Comments (0) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.