Monday, November 08, 2004

Nothing like a bit of revisionism to keep the wheels spinning, so on that note, I’m well pleased to see Sony have done a glorious 25th (fuck me…25 years since I pinched the sample from CBS!) anniversary reissue of The Clash’s legendary 1979 album “London Calling”. And what a package it is- a remastered album, a CD of recently found demos and a lovely DVD, which I’m watching as I type, including some quite astounding footage of the band at work with legendary production nutter, Guy Stevens. Rolling Stone named the album as the greatest album of the eighties, despite its UK release in ’79 and it was the album that took them towards the mainstream…toward, but not into it. I remember trying to sell it to mainstream punters with no success…it could never compete with Dire Straits or Misex who were both sadly perceived as “new wave”.

And what a wonderful bloody record it was / is. It still sounds as fresh as it did in 1979, some songs more than others……but, and here comes the revisionism….but, the Clash may be the greatest rock’n’roll band ever, post Beatles (they are…full stop…if you disagree, you’re wrong, sorry) however “London Calling”, as much as it stands head and shoulders above virtually every rawk record released since then, comes nowhere close to being the greatest Clash album. That distinction belongs overwhelmingly to their first album, and thence to the mighty “Sandinista”. I’m not belittling this iconic release, I mean it contains the title track (it took my first trip to London in 83 before I really understood what it meant to “live by the river”), Guns of Bloody Brixton, and a whole swag of the like.

But the Rolling Stone award really sums up the problem…its just too Rolling Stone, too Rawk and, at the time of its release there was a noticeable air of disappointment with it. I remember we played the b side of the “London Calling” single, “Armagideon Time” far more than the a. And as I said above, it still sounds fresh today, but in contrast “The Clash” still sounds revolutionary, and “Sandinista” revels in it’s glorious anarchy which was at the heart of the Clash. The singles that followed “London Calling”….”Bankrobber”, “The Call Up”, “The Magnificent Seven / Magnificent Dance”, and “Radio Clash” dwarf 90% of “London Calling”. It was “Bankrobber” and “Complete Control” I reached for on the news of Joe’s death.

I think the Clash consciously made two American records, “London Calling”, which largely worked, and “Combat Rock” which largely didn’t. But The Clash were the great British punk band, with all that implies including a disaffection for the American rock mainstream, and that’s how I’ll always remember them.


Peter said...

Combat Rock didn't work? Say what? Top 5 in the US, playing at Shea stadium, is that an unsuccessful record, Simon? Anyways, I watched Westway to the World (Clash doco) at the weekend, its bloody fantastic. Have you seen it?

Simon said...

talking about it as a Clash record, not a commercial record. Combat Rock had it's moments but it stands as the weakest Clash album (probably why the US loved it)apart from Cut The Crap