Watch the Hot Guitar Solos of Sister Rosetta Tharpe, “America’s First Gospel Rock Star”

Many of us first encounter Sister Rosetta Tharpe—now deservedly known as the “Godmother of Rock and Roll”—in footage from her 1964 appearance on a Manchester railway platform. She arrives by carriage, struts out before a dilapidated train station, plugs in her custom Gibson SG, and belts out in her powerful soprano, “Didn’t it rain, children!” for an audience of spellbound Brits. The televised performance, part of The American Folk Blues Festival that toured the country between 1963 and 1966, made a significant impression on blues and rock guitarists of the Invasion generation.

Yet Tharpe’s influence extends a generation further back, to rock and roll’s acknowledged forefathers. She was 49 when Keith Richards and Eric Clapton had the chance to see her on TV, and had been touring Europe since 1957, reviving a career she launched in 1938 when she released her first single, “Rock Me,” and took the stage as a regular performer at the Cotton Club.

Born Rosetta Nubin in Arkansas in 1915, she started performing in churches and revivals at 6, and scandalized many of her gospel fans by singing secular music. But her forceful, soaring voice and innovative guitar playing mostly drew them back again, along with thousands of secular admirers.

She was a rock and roll pioneer in every respect: a gospel singer who crossed over onto the popular charts, a black queer woman playing the fierce lead for mixed audiences during segregation, fronting touring bands that included the all-white Jordanaires, best known for later backing Elvis. She was “America’s first gospel rock star,” notes the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame introduction above, before there were such things as rock stars. Her 1945 single “Strange Things Happening Every Day,” with its “hot guitar solo,” Will Hermes writes at Rolling Stone, “was the first gospel single to cross over on the Billboard race charts” and is sometimes cited as the first rock and roll song.

The following year, she met singer and piano player Marie Knight. The two became lovers, recorded “Up Above My Head,” and toured together in the late 40s as a team before Tharpe married her third husband at Washington, D.C.’s Griffith Stadium in front of 25,000 fans. At the height of her fame, “she influenced innumerable… people who we recognize as foundational figures in rock and roll,” says biographer Gayle Wald. Johnny Cash named her as his favorite singer. “Everyone from Jerry Lee Lewis to Aretha Franklin” to Little Richard “credit her musicianship as an important influence on them,” writes Erin White at Afropunk.

But it was her guitar skills that most awed musicians like Chuck Berry and Elvis. Presley “loved Sister Rosetta,” the Jordanaires’ Gordon Stoker remembers, especially her playing. “That’s what really attracted Elvis: her pickin’.” Tharpe’s style contains within it a treasury of the early 20th-century American popular music that would transmute into R&B, rockabilly, and rock and roll—from western swing to country to gospel to jazz to the blues. At the top of the post, see a compilation of solos from her televised appearances, including some serious shredding in later concerts in the late sixties, broadcast in color.

Tharpe continued to tour the continent until 1970, when she played her last concert in Copenhagen. She died three years later, nearly obscure in her home country, her legacy overshadowed by male artists. But we should hear her in Chuck Berry’s first records, and “when you see Elvis Presley singing early in his career,” says Wald, “imagine he is channeling Sister Rosetta Tharpe.” Thanks to revived interest in Tharpe herself—from Wald’s 2008 biography to her 2018 induction in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame—the “Godmother of Rock and Roll” continues inspiring new players to pick up the guitar, especially those who aren’t used to seeing guitarists who look like them in guitar hero history.

Related Content:

Watch Rock Pioneer Sister Rosetta Tharpe Wow Audiences With Her Gospel Guitar

Revisit The Life & Music of Sister Rosetta Tharpe: ‘The Godmother of Rock and Roll’

New Web Project Immortalizes the Overlooked Women Who Helped Create Rock and Roll in the 1950s

Muddy Waters and Friends on the Blues and Gospel Train, 1964

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

Watch Life-Affirming Performances from David Byrne’s New Broadway Musical American Utopia

It’s time, writes Kim Stanley Robinson in his essay “Dystopia Now,” to put aside the dystopias. We know the future (and the present) can look bleak. “It’s old news now,” and “perhaps it’s self-indulgence to stay stuck in that place any more.” Of course, David Byrne has never been a dystopian artist. Even his catchy deconstructions of the banality of modern life, in “This Must Be the Place,” for example—or Love Lies Here, his disco musical about Imelda Marcos—are filled with empathetic poignancy and an earnest desire to rehumanize contemporary culture.

Still his oblique take on things has always seemed too skewed to call utopian. Lately, however, Byrne has become unambiguously sunny in his outlook, and not in any kind of starry-eyed Pollyannish way. His web project Reasons to Be Cheerful backs up its optimistic title with incisive longform investigative journalism.

His latest stage project, the musical American Utopia, which he performs with a cast of dancers and musicians from around the world, announces its intentions on the sleeves of the matching monochromatic suits its cast wears.

Barefoot and holding their instruments, Byrne and his backup singers, musicians, and dancers march on the “Road to Nowhere” with smiles hinting it might actually lead to someplace good, They perform this song (see them on Jimmy Fallon at the top), and a couple dozen more from Talking Heads and Byrne solo albums, especially last year’s American Utopia. In the course of the show, Byrne “lets his moralist outrage explode” yet “balances it with levity,” writes Stacey Anderson at Pitchfork. “There is a political engine to this performance… with a clearly humming progressive core… but Byrne’s goal is to urge kinder consideration of how we process the stressors of modernity.”

The musical doesn’t simply urge, it enacts, and proclaims, in spoken interludes, the story of an individual who opens up to the wider world. “Here’s a guy who’s basically in his head at the beginning,” Byrne told Rolling Stone. “And then by the end of the show he’s a very different person in a very different place.” The road to utopia, Byrne suggests, takes us toward community and out of isolation. American Utopia’s minimalist production communicates this idea with plenty of polished musicianship—especially from its six drummers working as one—but also a rigorous lack of spectacle. “I think audiences appreciate when nobody’s trying to fool them,” says Byrne.

See several performances from American Utopia, the musical, above, from The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Late Night with Stephen Colbert, and the Hudson Theatre, where it’s currently running. The musical debuted in England last June, causing NME to exclaim it may “just be the best live show of all time.” Its Broadway run has received similar acclaim. Below, see a trailer for the show arriving just in time, The Fader announces in a blurb, to “fight your cynicism.”

Related Content:

David Byrne Creates a Playlist of Eclectic Music for the Holidays: Stream It Free Online

David Byrne Launches Reasons to Be Cheerful, an Online Magazine Featuring Articles by Byrne, Brian Eno & More

David Byrne Curates a Playlist of Great Protest Songs Written Over the Past 60 Years: Stream Them Online

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

The Cameraman’s Revenge (1912): The Truly Weird Origin of Modern Stop-Motion Animation

These days, ever more ambitions computer-animated spectacles seem to arrive in theaters every few weeks. But how many of them capture our imaginations as fully as works of the thoroughly analog art of stop-motion animation? The uncanny effect (and immediately visible labor-intensiveness) of real, physical puppets and objects made to move as if by themselves still captivates viewers young and old: just watch how the Wallace and Gromit series, Terry Gilliam’s Monty Python shorts, The Nightmare Before Christmas, and even the original King Kong as well as Ray Harryhausen’s monsters in Jason and the Argonauts and The 7th Voyage of Sinbad have held up over the decades.

The filmmakers who best understand the magic of cinema still use stop-motion today, as Wes Anderson has in The Fantastic Mr. Fox and Isle of Dogs. They all owe something to a Polish-Russian animator of the early-to-mid-20th century by the name of Ladislas Starevich. Longtime Open Culture readers may remember the works of Starevich previously featured here, including the Goethe adaptation The Tale of the Fox and the much earlier The Cameraman’s Revenge, a tale of infidelity and its consequences told entirely with dead bugs for actors. Starevich, then the Director of the Museum of Natural History in Kaunas, Lithuania, pulled off this cinematic feat “by installing wheels and strings in each insect, and occasionally replacing their legs with plastic or metal ones,” says Phil Edwards in the Vox Almanac video above.

“How Stop Motion Animation Began” comes as a chapter of a miniseries called Almanac Hollywouldn’t, which tells the stories of “big changes to movies that came from outside Hollywood.” It would be hard indeed to find anything less Hollywood than a man installing wheels and strings into insect corpses at a Lithuanian museum in 1912, but in time The Cameraman’s Revenge proved as deeply influential as it remains deeply weird. Starevich kept on making films, and singlehandedly furthering the art of stop-motion animation, until his death in France (where he’d relocated after the Russian Revolution) in 1965.

And though Starevich may not be a household name today, Edwards reveals while tracing the subsequent history of stop-motion animation that cinema hasn’t entirely failed to pay him tribute: Anderson’s The Fantastic Mr. Fox is in a sense a direct homage to The Tale of the Fox, and Gilliam has called Starevich’s work “absolutely breathtaking, surreal, inventive and extraordinary, encompassing everything that Jan Svankmajer, Walerian Borowczyk and the Quay Brothers would do subsequently.” He suggests that, before we enter the “mind-bending worlds” of more recent animators, we “remember that it was all done years ago, by someone most of us have forgotten about now” — and with little more than a few dead bugs at that.

Related Content:

Watch The Amazing 1912 Animation of Stop-Motion Pioneer Ladislas Starevich, Starring Dead Bugs

The Tale of the Fox: Watch Ladislas Starevich’s Animation of Goethe’s Great German Folktale (1937)

The Mascot, a Pioneering Stop Animation Film by Wladyslaw Starewicz

The History of Stop-Motion Films: 39 Films, Spanning 116 Years, Revisited in a 3-Minute Video

Ray Harryhausen’s Creepy War of the Worlds Sketches and Stop-Motion Test Footage

Spike Jonze’s Stop Motion Film Hauntingly Animates Paris’ Famed Shakespeare and Company Bookstore

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Hannah Arendt Explains Why Democracies Need to Safeguard the Free Press & Truth … to Defend Themselves Against Dictators and Their Lies

Image by Bernd Schwabe, via Wikimedia Commons

Two of the most trenchant and enduring critics of authoritarianism, Hannah Arendt and Theodor Adorno, were also both German Jews who emigrated to the U.S. to escape the Nazis. The Marxist Adorno saw fascist tendencies everywhere in his new country. Decades before Noam Chomsky coined the concept, he argued that all mass media under advanced capitalism served one particular purpose: manufacturing consent.

Arendt landed on a different part of the political spectrum, drawing her philosophy from Aristotle and St. Augustine. Classical democratic ideals and an ethics of moral responsibility informed her belief in the central importance of shared reality in a functioning civil society—of a press that is free not only to publish what it wishes, but to take responsibility for telling the truth, without which democracy becomes impossible.

A press that disseminates half-truths and propaganda, Arendt argued, is not a feature of liberalism but a sign of authoritarian rule. “Totalitarian rulers organize… mass sentiment,” she told French writer Roger Errera in 1974, “and by organizing it articulate it, and by articulating it make the people somehow love it. They were told before, thou should not kill; and they didn’t kill. Now they are told, thou shalt kill; and although they think it’s very difficult to kill, they do it because it’s now part of the code of behavior.”

This breakdown of moral norms, Arendt argued, can occur “the moment we no longer have a free press.” The problem, however, is more complicated than mass media that spreads lies. Echoing ideas developed in her 1951 study The Origins of Totalitarianism, Arendt explained that “lies, by their very nature, have to be changed, and a lying government has constantly to rewrite its own history. On the receiving end you get not only one lie—a lie which you could go on for the rest of your days—but you get a great number of lies, depending on how the political wind blows.”

Bombarded with contradictory and often incredible claims, people become cynical and give up trying to understand anything. “And a people that no longer can believe anything cannot make up its mind. It is deprived not only of its capacity to act but also of its capacity to think and to judge. And with such a people you can then do what you please.” The statement was anything but theoretical. It’s an empirical observation from much recent 20th century history.

Arendt’s thought developed in relation to totalitarian regimes that actively censored, controlled, and micromanaged the press to achieve specific ends. She does not address the current situation in which we find ourselves—though Adorno certainly did: a press controlled not directly by the government but by an increasingly few, and increasingly monolithic and powerful, number of corporations, all with vested interests in policy direction that preserves and expands their influence.

The examples of undue influence multiply. One might consider the recently approved Gannett-Gatehouse merger, which brought together two of the biggest news publishers in the country and may “speed the demise of local news,” as Michael Posner writes at Forbes, thereby further opening the doors for rumor, speculation, and targeted disinformation. But in such a condition, we are not powerless as individuals, Arendt argued, even if the preconditions for a democratic society are undermined.

Though the facts may be confused or obscured, we retain the capacity for moral judgment, for assessing deeper truths about the character of those in power. “In acting and speaking,” she wrote in 1975’s The Human Condition, “men show who they are, reveal actively their unique personal identities…. This disclosure of ‘who’ in contradistinction to ‘what’ somebody is—his qualities, gifts, talents, and shortcomings, which he may display or hide—is implicit in everything somebody says and does.”

Even if democratic institutions let the free press fail, Arendt argued, we each bear a personal responsibility under authoritarian rule to judge and to act—or to refuse—in an ethics predicated on what she called, after Socrates, the “silent dialogue between me and myself.”

Read Arendt’s full passage on the free press and truth below:

The moment we no longer have a free press, anything can happen. What makes it possible for a totalitarian or any other dictatorship to rule is that people are not informed; how can you have an opinion if you are not informed? If everybody always lies to you, the consequence is not that you believe the lies, but rather that nobody believes anything any longer. This is because lies, by their very nature, have to be changed, and a lying government has constantly to rewrite its own history. On the receiving end you get not only one lie—a lie which you could go on for the rest of your days—but you get a great number of lies, depending on how the political wind blows. And a people that no longer can believe anything cannot make up its mind. It is deprived not only of its capacity to act but also of its capacity to think and to judge. And with such a people you can then do what you please.

via Michio Kakutani

Related Content:

Hannah Arendt on “Personal Responsibility Under Dictatorship:” Better to Suffer Than Collaborate

Hannah Arendt Explains How Propaganda Uses Lies to Erode All Truth & Morality: Insights from The Origins of Totalitarianism

Enter the Hannah Arendt Archives & Discover Rare Audio Lectures, Manuscripts, Marginalia, Letters, Postcards & More

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

Prisons Around the U.S. Are Banning and Restricting Access to Books

“We live,” wrote philosopher Alain Badiou, “in a contradiction.” Dehumanization must be normalized in order to keep the economy going. “A brutal state of affairs… where all existence is evaluated in terms of money alone—is presented to us as ideal.” Yet the market that promises freedom just as often strips it away, in public-private partnerships that bring censorship and rent-seeking into happy symbiosis.

In recent years, free market opportunism has taken hold in the most unfree places in the U.S., the country’s prisons, which hold more people proportionally than in any other nation in the world: a huge, previously untapped market for sales of hygiene products and visits with family. “Like the military,” writes Adam Bluestein at Inc.,, “the corrections system is a big, well-capitalized customer.”

One recent commercial encroachment on prisoners’ freedoms arrived this year when the West Virginia Division of Corrections issued inmates tablets, under a contract with a company called Global Tel Link, who charge them by the minute to read books online. One might make the argument that forcing inmates to pay for basic needs satisfies some ideal of punishment. But to restrict access to books seems to dispense with the pretense that prison might also be a place of rehabilitation.

“Any inmates looking to read Moby Dick,” reports Reason, “may find that it will cost them far more than it would have if they’d simply gotten a mass market paperback.” Katy Ryan of the Appalachian Prison Book Project, which donates free books and materials to prisons, points out how limiting the scheme is: “If you pause to think or reflect, that will cost you. If you want to reread a book, you will pay the entire cost again.”

West Virginia is not banning print books, purchased or donated. It is, however, charging inmates for already free material. The books they pay per minute to read online are all on Project Gutenberg, the open platform for thousands of free eBooks. That the program amounts to a kind of economic-based censorship may hardly be coincidence. Other states around the country have begun limiting, or outright banning, books in prisons.

The Washington State Department of Corrections has prohibited all books donated by nonprofits, presumably because they might be used to smuggle contraband. Prison officials at the Danville Correctional Center in Illinois made clear what they considered contraband—books about black history, 200 of which were removed from the prison library—including W.E.B. Du Bois The Souls of Black Folk and Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin—after they were deemed “too racial.”

These are only a few examples of a widespread phenomenon PEN America details in a new report, “Literature Locked Up: How Prison Book Restriction Policies Constitute the Nation’s Largest Book Ban.” Paradoxically, some restrictions can seem at odds with market demands—such as limits on inmates’ ability to order books from online retailers. But like many contradictions in the system, perhaps these also serve a larger goal—preventing prisoners from educating themselves may ensure a steady stream of repeat customers in the hugely profitable carceral industry.

Related Content:  

Inmates in New York Prison Defeat Harvard’s Debate Team: A Look Inside the Bard Prison Initiative

On the Power of Teaching Philosophy in Prisons

Artist is Creating a Parthenon Made of 100,000 Banned Books: A Monument to Democracy & Intellectual Freedom

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

Doris Kearns Goodwin Teaches U.S. Presidential History & Leadership

FYI: Presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin–author of Leadership: In Turbulent Times, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, and No Ordinary Time: Franklin & Eleanor Roosevelthas just released a new online course on MasterClass. Here’s the ground that the course covers:

Altogether, she’s spent more than 50 years studying great American presidents and leaders of the past, writing several award-winning, bestselling biographies, including No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II, which won the Pulitzer Prize for History. Now she’s sharing her knowledge and teaching you to lead like a president.

In Doris’s MasterClass, you can learn to develop the characteristics and human skills of exceptional American leadership, from Lincoln to Obama. Doris brings to life the stories and experiences of four presidents she knows by heart—Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, and LBJ—and shares a template of human skills that make great leaders: humility, empathy, resilience, self-awareness, self-reflection, the ability to create a team and communicate through stories, and sharing your ambition for the greater good. She also uses examples from other historical figures, including Eleanor Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Martin Luther King Jr., to teach effective leadership qualities and practical wisdom for every day. Learn how to make better decisions, manage a crisis, and get a message across, whether you’re interacting with the media, communicating to a team at work, or delivering a speech meant to inspire and empower thousands of people.

In this class, you’ll learn about:
• Developing emotional intelligence
• Experiences and stories of U.S. presidents
• Building resilience
• Building and leading a team
• Making better decisions, big or small
• Navigating a crisis
• Delivering a message and considering an audience
• The power of speeches
• Replenishing your energy
• Civic engagement

You can sign up for Kearns Goodwin’s course here.

As a free unrelated bonus, you can stream Kearns Goodwin’s long interview with Tim Ferris. There, she takes an engaging look at the leadership skills of four American presidents–Lincoln, FDR, Teddy Roosevelt and LBJ. It’s well worth a listen…

FYI: If you sign up for a MasterClass course by clicking on the affiliate links in this post, Open Culture will receive a small fee that helps support our operation.

Related Content:

Free Online History Courses

How to Take Every MasterClass Course For Less Than a Cup of Good Coffee

The 2,000+ Films Watched by Presidents Nixon, Carter & Reagan in the White House


Watch 21 Animated Ideas from Big Thinkers: Steven Pinker, Carol Dweck, Philip Zimbardo, David Harvey & More

The Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, better known as the Royal Society for the Arts, and best known simply as the RSA, was founded in 1754. At the time, nobody could have imagined a world in which the people of every land, no matter how far-flung, could hear the same talks by well-known scholars and speakers, let alone see them animated as if on a conference-room whiteboard. Yet even back then, in an era before the invention of animation and whiteboards, let alone computers and the internet, people had an appetite for strong, often counterintuitive or even contrarian ideas to diagnose and potentially even solve social problems — an appetite for which the RSA Animate series of videos was made.

We can’t understand what goes right and what goes wrong in our societies without understanding how we think. To that end the RSA has commissioned animated videos based on talks by psychiatrist Iain McGilchrist on our “divided brain,” former political strategist (and current RSA Chief Executive) Matthew Taylor on how our left and right brains shape our politics, psychologist Steven Pinker on language as a window into human nature, philosopher-sociologist Renata Salecl on the paradoxical downside of choice, psychologist Philip Zimbardo on our perception of time, “social and ethical prophet” Jeremy Rifkin on empathy, philosopher Roman Krznaric on “outrospection,” journalist Barbara Ehrenreich on “the darker side of positive thinking,” and behavioral-economics researcher Dan Ariely on drive and dishonesty.

Economics is another field that has provided the RSA with a surfeit of animatable material — even of the kind “economists don’t want you to see,” as the RSA promotes economist Ha-joon Chang’s talk on “why every single person can and SHOULD get their head around basic economics” and “how easily economic myths and assumptions become gospel.”

Freakonomics co-authors Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner make an appearance to break down altruism, and “economic geographer” David Harvey attempts to envision a system beyond capitalism. And on the parts of the intellectual map where economics overlaps politics, the RSA brings us figures like Slavoj Žižek, who “investigates the surprising ethical implications of charitable giving.”

As, in essence, an educational enterprise, RSA Animate videos also look into new ways to think about education itself. Educationalist Carol Dweck examines the issues of “why kids say they’re bored at school, or why they stop trying when the work gets harder” by looking at what kind of praise helps young students, and what kind harms them.

Education and creativity expert Sir Ken Robinson explains the need to change our very paradigms of education. And according to the RSA’s speakers, those aren’t the only paradigms we should change: Microsoft Chief Envisioning Officer Dave Coplin argues that we should re-imagine work, and technology critic Evgeny Morozov argues that we should rethink the “cyber-utopianism” that has exposed harmful side-effects of our digital world.


But it is in this world that the RSA promotes “21st-century enlightenment,” a concept further explored in another talk by Matthew Taylor — and one of which you can get a few doses, ten minutes at a time, on the full RSA Animate Youtube playlist. Watch the complete playlist of 21 videos, from start to finish, below.

Related Content:

The Decline of Civilization’s Right Brain: Animated

Dan Ariely’s Animated Talk Reveals How and Why We’re All Dishonest

The Power of “Outrospection” — A Way of Life, A Force for Social Change — Explained with Animation

The History of Music Told in Seven Rapidly Illustrated Minutes

48 Animated Videos Explain the History of Ideas: From Aristotle to Sartre

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

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

« Go BackMore in this category... »
Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.