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Wednesday, 9 December 2015

45RPM: #71 London Calling 12" - The Clash (1979)

Probaly should have posted this a couple of days ago on the anniversary of it's release but.... 

In the 8th December 1979 issue of Melody Maker Ian Birch reviewed the tenth single on CBS by The Clash, London Calling:

"The Clash have not been in an enviable position of late. From being political mouthpieces during those heady days of '76/77, they've had to come to terms - like everyone else in the movement - with all the classic problems thrown up by success, the business, musical maturity and so on.
 The first album detailed their concerns (repression, class war, boredom etc) while the second showed up the dilemmas of their position rather than actually going some way to resolving them. And now comes the third - which, if the single is an accurate taster should reveal a more settled (which is not to say less committed) and more comprehensive grasp of the craziness around them (and us all). Musically, the single shows a marked advance: an irresistibly rolling gait, finely underplayed performances and sweet harmonies on the title words which effectively work as a chorus line. The lyrics are still apocalyptic clarion calls, but now Joe sings them with a natural assurance and clarity that make them more forceful.
 B-side 'Armagideon Time', an old reggae song, continues the general theme and feel - A lot of people won't get no supper tonight/A lot of people won't get no justice tonight, it begins. What's really impressive, however, is the way The Clash have finally come to grips with the roots/rock/reggae traditions and properly incorporated them into their own approach. The (albeit well-intentioned) apeing days are over.
 Can't wait to hear the album..."

The album was a week away from release (14th December 1979) and it would indeed show a very different and far more musically focused and intelligent band hard at work under the watchful of Guy Stevens, who managed to make The Clash actually sound a whole lot better than they had ever done (even at the hands of Sandy Pearlman!). Indeed, this is exactly the point that Charles Shaar Murray would raise a week later in his review of the album for NME: "Clashrock as of now has a freshness, variety, vitality and range that they've never shown before. 'London Calling' is also - no small point, this - the first Clash record (with the possible exception 'Cost of Living') that actually sounds right. Guy Stevens has produced The Clash the way they should have been produced right from the start: the tinny wall-of-sound of the first album now sounds quaint and one-dimensional by comparison and the AOR, easy listening HM sound imposed on 'Give 'Em Enough Rope' by the appalling Sandy Pearlman is now exposed as an even more gargantuan error of taste and judgement than it seemed at the time."

Whilst I'm a big fan of London Calling for me Armagideon Time is the real standout here. The original by Willie Williams was first issued in 1977 by Studio 1 and was produced by Coxsone Dodd (so in reference to Ian Birch of the Melody Maker above, it was really not that old at all!).

In 2012 for Record Store Day a New Mix of London Calling was released as a 7" Single. Mick Jones and Bill Price had created this new mix, and on the B-Side their was an Instrumental Mix of the song.

London Calling /Armagideon Time 12"
 The Clash 
CBS 
Produced by Guy Stevens 
Released 7th December 1979 
UK Chart #11 

A-Side
1. London Calling
Personnel
"London Calling"
    Joe Strummer - lead vocals, rhythm guitar
    Mick Jones - backing vocals, lead guitars
    Paul Simonon - backing vocals, bass guitar
    Topper Headon - drums
2. Armagideon Time
Personnel 
Armageddeon Time
    Joe Strummer - lead vocals, piano
    Mick Jones - guitars, harmonica, sound effects
    Paul Simonon - bass guitar
    Topper Headon - drums
    Mickey Gallagher - organ
B-Side
Armagideon Time (Version)
1. Justice Tonight (Version)
2. Kick It Over (Version)

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