It was 1979, and the punk bubble was fast becoming old news. The genre had, in fact, developed a fairly uniform sound. As it were, every new punk band seemed to adopt it. In many ways, punk was on the verge of boring.
Then, like a bolt of lightning, the Clash released London Calling. The band’s third album, without doubt, changed everything.
The double album, recorded with producer Guy Stevens, was originally meant to be a single album. The Clash was angry that CBS (the label) had priced the band’s previous EP, The Cost of Living, at the high cost of £1.49. For the fans, the band insisted that London Calling be a double LP. However CBS refused, and so, the band tried a different tactic: how about a free single on a one-disc LP? CBS agreed, but in an oversight, didn’t notice that this free single disc would play at 33rpm and contain eight songs— therefore making it a double album! It then became nine extra songs when “Train in Vain” was tacked on to the end of the album after a NME single release fell through. “Train” arrived so late in the printing process that it didn’t even make the track listing on the album sleeve. The only evidence of its existence is a stamp on the run-out groove and its presence on the end of side four. In the end, London Calling was a 19-song double-LP retailing for the price of a single! Genius.
Rolling Stone voted it as best album of the 1980s. London Calling showed the Clash’s rapidly evolving sound, reflecting the band’s love of reggae, soul, rockabilly, funk, rhythm & blues.
All in all, the Clash and London Calling proved that punk wasn’t just about variations of a three chord progression. By utilizing various musical genres, the band created an almost flawless album.
Check out the video for the single “London Calling” below.