London Calling

The Clash

Song Review by Donald A. Guarisco

After suffering a bit of a sophomore slump with 1978's Give 'Em Enough Rope, the Clash returned with a vengeance on the classic London Calling. This exuberant and complex double album found the group delivering ambitious music with total energy and conviction, a mandate that is firmly laid down with the album-opening title track. The lyrics read like a call to order for all post-punk generation rockers, complete with couplets like "London calling to the imitation zone/Forget it, brother, you can go it alone." They also use imagery like "The ice age is coming/The sun's zooming in" to create an apocalyptic feel. However, the songwriters were clever enough to keep things from getting too overwrought by working in occasional witty moments like "London calling to the zombies of death/Quit holding out and draw another breath." The music behind these sentiments has a hypnotic sense of drive, foregoing the usual verse-chorus structure in favor of a circular melody that allows the lyrics to take center stage and utilizes a mesmerizing descending-note motif to underline the oft-repeated title phrase. The Clash's recording of "London Calling" cleverly crossbreeds anthemic hard rock with reggae by juxtaposing slashing, staccato guitar riffs with an undulating rhythm section beat as Strummer lays down a snarling vocal that delivers the lyrics with a combination of passion and fervor. All these elements made "London Calling" a witty but powerful manifesto for post-punk rock & roll and its thorough excellence makes it easy to wonder why critics and fans alike consider London Calling to be both the Clash's finest hour and one of the greatest rock albums of the 1980s.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
London Calling 1979 Legacy / Epic 3:19
Story of the Clash, Vol. 1 1988 Epic / Legacy 3:20
Clash on Broadway 1991 Epic / Legacy 3:20
The Singles 1991 Legacy / Epic 3:21
Classic Rock Box: WNEW-FM 25th Anniversary Box 1992
Various Artists
PolyGram 3:20
Going Underground [Castle] 1994
Various Artists
Castle Music Ltd. 3:20
Rock: Train Kept a Rollin' 1999
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution 3:20
Sony Music 100 Years: Soundtrack for a Century 1999
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution 3:20
The Clash/London Calling/Combat Rock [2000] 2000 Epic / Sony Music Distribution 3:20
Billy Elliot 2000
Original Soundtrack
Interscope 3:20
Music of the Millennium, Vol. 2 [Universal] 2000
Various Artists
Universal International 3:20
Face 2000
Original Soundtrack
Polygram 3:20
Q Anthems 2002
Various Artists
EMI Music Distribution 3:21
The Essential Clash 2003 Legacy / Sony Music Distribution 3:20
Great British Albums 2012
Various Artists
Sony Music 3:19
Hits Back 2013 Sony Music 3:19
Sound System 2013 Sony Legacy / Sony Music 3:20