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Featured Album: "London Calling" by The Clash

Updated: Aug 27, 2021

“London Calling” is the third studio album from English punk band The Clash released on December 14, 1979. After departing from a traditional U.K. punk sound pioneered by bands like The Sex Pistols, Talking Heads, and The Ramones on their sophomore record "Give 'Em Enough Rope," The Clash returned from a U.S. tour supporting R&B and neotraditional country acts such as Sam & Dave and Bo Diddley stricken by the songwriting dynamics and lyrical depth of groups that had managed to seemingly merge pertinent social commentary into an established genre-specific sound. After the nuclear catastrophe at Three Mile Island, the band recorded the album’s title track “London Calling” and began incorporating modern narratives into the raw, unpolished, and confrontational stylings of what had come to be dubbed as “punk rock.” Punk had emerged just ten years prior as a reactionary disavowal against the formulaic and vapid culture of mainstream rock music, even though most of the lyrical content of early punk rock acts centered mainly around generic teenage angst and blind rebellion against the status quo. Through the nineteen songs spanning The Clash’s ambitious double release, “London Calling” followed the estranged youth of the lost generation into the mounting anxieties of early adulthood, with tracks exploring themes of drug addiction, unemployment, depression, and identity crisis. Fictional characters like underworld criminal Jimmy Jazz and gun-slinging anarchist Jimmy Cliff faced the very real existential complexities of growing up, heard in “Rudie Can’t Fail,” “The Clampdown,” and “Death or Glory,” which discuss feeling like inadequate adults, struggling to cope with responsibility, and losing their youthful sense of optimism for the future. “London Calling” expanded the punk sound with notable inspirations from rockabilly, jazz, and New Orleans R&B. The album is credited for rejuvenating the genre and solidifying punk’s reputation for not just being loud and angry, but doing so with a socioeconomic and political purpose. The album has since been certified platinum in the U.S., inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, and is the sixth most consistently ranked amongst critics’ lists of the all-time greatest albums. Hear the influential tracks that started a revolution including “Spanish Bombs,” “Lost in the Supermarket,” and “Revolution Rock” by streaming the remastered edition now on Spotify!

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