London Calling

Album: London Calling (1979)
Charted: 11
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  • The photo on the cover of the London Calling album was not staged - that's Paul Simonon smashing his bass during a show at The Palladium Theater in New York City on September 20, 1979. Simonon was miffed because the audience was seated, either because they weren't feeling it or were forbidden to stand by security.

    Pennie Smith, who took the photo, didn't think it was worthy as a cover shot because it's out of focus, but it captured the unbridled intensity of the band perfectly and became one of the most enduring images in rock. That bass died for a good cause, but Simonon regretted the outburst, since he had to use his backup bass, which didn't sound as good, on the rest of the tour. He learned to work on his anger management.

Comments: 56

  • Aden Monk from AustraliaDoes anyone know what they are referring to when they say "I was there, too
    And you know what they said? Well, some of it was true!" I remember my grandpa telling me it had something to do with some band's first performance, maybe The Who, but I can't remember.
  • Paul Aitch from Leeds, England I’ve always thought the lyric should be “a nuclear error” rather than “…era”. 1. Because that’s what it sounds like Strummer is saying. 2. In England we pronounce “era” as ee-ra. 3. It makes more sense that a nuclear “error” would cause the meltdown that’s coming.
  • Pedro from PortugalHumm, that line is not against the Beatles. Its against the "mania". Like saying "hey, there are more bands, more music you know"
    Nothing special, not an attack against the Beatles. Only about the "mania"
    Probably inspired by that show.
    Good line, and I have Beatles CDs
  • Jim from NyNo, no, no. The "Phone Beatlemania" line is not about the band the Beatles. Joe and Mick had said it's about a show called "Beatlemania" that played in the West End and on Broadway where 4 actors played the Beatles. It was phony. It ran from 1977 to 1979 for a total of 1,006 performances. The Clash released this album in very late 1979. Thirteen years before 1979, girls screamed and mobbed the Beatles when they still played live. That was 13 to 16 years earlier. The phony "Beatlemania" was the show that had just closed the year London Calling was released. By the way, the show was successfully sued by Apple Corps.
  • Dave from Santa Fe, NmThe last line in the song "I never felt so much a' like a'like a'like" is a reference to a song written in 1956 called "Singing the Blues" by Melvin Endsley probably best known (by me anyway) as sung by Marty Robbins. It fits the rest of the song's dire allusions.
  • Haley from Berry College "London Calling" has been featured in several tourism and airline commercials promoting the city of London, as well as a Jaguar commercial. It was also featured in the October 13, 2013 Funny Or Die episode where a costumed Fred Armisen interviewed the real Mick Jones and Paul Simonon. This song has also been covered by Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan.
  • Karen from Mountain City, TnThe voices in my head are signing this today: "London, London...meeting in London to fight for the sar. Freedom can't be for free...There's still HOPE for me."
  • Deethewriter from Saint Petersburg, Russia FederationAnother Double Tribite to The Clash - by ANAL c--t--"Rancid Sucks (and The Clash Sucked Too)": Of course, it's not quite as good as the same band's "Eazy E got AIDS from F Mercury": "Ska is gay, Reggae is gay / You're f--king gay and you're not punk / You say you hate corporations, but you were on NBC / London's Calling and they're calling you gay…"
  • Deethewriter from Saint Petersburg, Russia FederationAs Tribute, listen MIA's "Paper Planes" with its "Straight To Hell" sample for further Clash referencing: "London Calling / Speak the slang now / Boys say wha' / Come on girls say what, say wha'…" - DeeTheWriter - Saint Petersburg, Russian Federation
  • Marcus from Fresno, Camusically wise, punk is a rip off. its only repeating 3 chords over and over really fast with no direction and no solos. but punk lyrics are bad ass thoughj so it all evens out.
  • Ross from Leicester, United KingdomJoe himself once explained that the song was about the fact that (as he saw it) punk had died and he wanted to see something new happening - "the faraway towns" is most likely just the rest of the UK outside London.
    As for "phoney Beatlemania" the line before is "don't look to us" so I would say it is saying don't put the Clash on a pedestal in the way that the Beatles had been(the Clash were obviously not as big as the Beatles but were being treated as some kind of "spokesmen for a generation").
    The chorus lists a series of disasters being warned of in the media - and Joe pointing out that the risk of Thames flooding was a bit more immediate for him(again this was his own explanation in a 1983 rado interview.
    As with many Clash songs a lot of different ideas have been thrown together in one song which was typical of Joe's lyrical style.
  • Rahul from Chennai, Indiabrilliant song..........absolutely genius....n the lyrics are breathtaking....the perfect punk rock song....
  • Brad from Long Island, NyHelp me out gogo from NY, what the heck r u saying? If your point is that there is no apocolypse coming, I think you have stumbled upon Strummer's intent. He was satirizing the constant bombardment of negative images in the news, if anything, he was agreeing with you in a lot of ways. By the way, while Strummer and the band were obviously anti govt and establishment and all that, Joe often said that he never claimed he had all the answers to the problems of the day
  • Mairi from Cantsay, CanadaWhen they said "phony Beatlemania has bitten the dust", they may have been talking about the broadway show "Beatlemania" which ran for a time in the seventies.
  • Noah from Madison, WiThis song is an awesome song, with VERY easy chords on guitar.
  • Gogo from New Yrk, NyHey people..... The clash is by the way the most ambitious band along w/the sex pistol. They pretend not to like the beatles and make a fool out of it to attract critics and listeners. A typical style of a new comer to have a vast audience. They make a fool to a popular band to show what are their style. but hey wheres the punk right now? London calling is a mass hypocrite lyrics theres no apocalyptic on it its just a copy cut of what they call unti-government movement. Theres no magic on it.
  • Allie from Clarkston, MiI love the simple guitar riffs, the backup singing sounds a little haunting
  • Vicky from Larissa, GreeceI love this song... CLASH is one of my favorite bands! I love listening to em..
  • Andrew from London, EnglandI was on holiday in Russia in January 1978 (then the Soviet Union) and there was this punk rocker with his girl friend in our party. I saw him a couple of weeks later on TV: it was Paul Simonon from the Clash. My mates at work were lived that I never got his autograph
  • Matthew from Milford, MaHeh, 28 Days Later... that took place in England, didn't it?
  • Mike from Hillsboro, NjWhenever I watch "28 Days Later" it reminds me of the "zombies of death" line. I guess it's cuz it's about the end of the world and zombies and London.
  • Pat from Reading, MaPascal
    Joe Strummer died
    can't long live a dead guy
  • Johnny from Los Angeles, CaMy two cents on the "Phony Beatlemania" line: I believe that the Clash were too hardcore not for the Beatles, who were rebelling in their own right, but the earlier Beatles whom they believed sold out to the Government and General Institutions ("Beatlemania was prior to the "Hippie Beatles"). Strummer is saying "That's over. As punk rockers, we hate the government. Screw you guys"
  • Theresa from Pittsburgh, PaThough it was listed at #7 on Rolling Stones list of best rock albums of all time, this album is #1 to me. From the first guitar licks of London Calling to the last drumbeat of Train In Vain, you will not find a better album.
  • Dee from Northfield, IlWhat Joe Strummer meant by the line "London is drowing and I live by the River", is that if the Thames river, which flows through London rose, the whole city of London would be underwater. However, Strummer would survive since he lived in a high rise apartment near the river.
  • Stefanie from Rock Hill, ScIm love the line "London is drowning, but I live by the river." My cousin Nd I were listening to her I-pod, and when she heard that line, she asked me what it meant. I wasn't sure how to explain it. It's definitely a metaphor though.
  • Joshua from Twin Cities, MnThis song appears in the 2002 James Bond movie Die Another Day during a montage of Bond on his return flight from Havana to London, while his flamboyant nemesis Gustav Graves also lands in the city on a parachute.
  • Deep Thinka from Aberden, WaDanny, New City, NY: what the clash means (or better yet, what Joe Strummer means) by "phony beatlemania has bitten the dust" means that the clash as we all known was a punk band, along with the sex pistols and the ramones, they were REAL punk rock, they were rebellious and tough, most of the memebers from the clash came from london but one of them came from Turkey. basicaly yes, they were not exactly fans of peace and love and all aspects having to do with the beatles, they were trying to start a revolution hence, "revolution rock", 'it is a brand new rock' (one of their songs on london calling.) They didnt like mainstream rock like The Beatles, they wanted "new rock," Jonny Rotten (from the Sex Pistols) also was nopt exactly a big fan of The Beatles, there is a picture of him sticking gum on Ringo's face with his middle finger on a poster of the Beatles. The Ramones then came along a little later and as Joey Ramone once said, "we were anti-glam." Which, in my opinon is an awesome, I also think that punk rock is dead, along with grunge, none of the bands today have not exactly quite grasped the meaning of "punk rock," and sadly i do not think they ever will, :(
  • Ralph from Newton, MaI agree with Nick-Greatest Album Ever!!! Let me add-Greatest Band Ever. And I agree with Nathan-It's not even close to the best song on the album. Maybe it's just cuz I've heard it too many times but I'd say it's among my 2 or 3 least favorite on the album.

    Having Springsteen sing this as a tribute is the ultimate insult to punk rock. I even read some typical nitwit in Rolling Stone who wrote that Springsteen showed what punk was all about!!!!! WTF!!!!

    As I heard Pete Hamill say once, the people who write there think Springsteen goes to the factory every morning and puts in a full day then does his music at night.
  • Micah from Mansfield, IlIn his 2005 tour, Bob Dylan suprised his audience, randomly singing the first first verse and chorus of this song at his London shows.
  • Danny from New City, NyWhat do they mean by Phony Beatlemania has bitten the dust. I guess they weren't fans of the peace/love thing because it was too unrealistic. I'm just guessing so if that's it, I didn't know for sure.
  • Don from Newmarket, CanadaThe video for this song is great. It really captures the mood.
  • Ace from Kingston , CanadaI think what you have all said is right and Im sure that the song has the meaning of these things. However, I think alot of you have overlooked the fact that this song describes the battle of britain fought in WW2 against Nazi Germany. When it says "London Calling to the far away towns" it is talkin about how Germany constantly bombed London and since Germany occupied most of Europe, Britain had to call on "far away towns" for help. When the song says "Now war is declared, and battle come down" This is refering to how Germany constantly bombed Britain (London) at night the battle was coming down on them. Also it says "London Calling to the underworld come out of the cupboard u boys and girls" this is talking about the citizins of London would hide undergroud in the subway to get away from the bombings in London and often people would put their little "boys and girls" in the subway. When the songs says "Now dont look to us" this is reference to how most of the world at this point looked to Britain to be the muscle in a war and win it for the allies, many European countries (including France the 2nd powerhouse) had fallen to Nazi Germany and Britain had constant bombing and was trappped on the island so the world coulnt look to them to save them. I am not saying the whole song is about this but thats what the start of it is .. If u read this thanks
  • Nathan from Defiance, OhGod they are a great band, but this has got to be the most overrated songs ever.
  • Zachary from Charlotte, NcI liked the Clash while they lasted, they were great for those 6 or so years they were around with songs that could make you dance, and think all at once. To bad they didn't last.
  • Pascale from Perth, AustraliaJoe probably wrote these lyrics so we would have this exact dicussion about its implications Such a clever man he was. Long Live Joe strummer
  • Eiger from Washington Dc, MdWell as far as what LONDO CALLING really means you're all wrong.:)

    "London Calling" alludes to the BBC World Service's station identification: "This is London calling...", that was used during World War II, often in broadcasts to occupied countries.

  • Ross from Independence, MoThis is #15 in Rolling Stone's list of 500 greatest songs.
  • Sarah from London, EnglandJumping on the tube today, after the London Bombing, this came on random on my walkman. Great taunting anti-terrorist statement in the first verse!

    "London calling to the faraway towns
    Now war is declared, and battle come down
    London calling to the underworld
    Come out of the cupboard, you boys and girls"
  • Chicken from Lala Land, Cait sounds like they're talking about The War of the Worlds, by H.G. Wells, if you want to know about it i suggest reading a summary about it, the actual book is horrid boring but i had to read it for school, and everything but the nuclear error makes sense.:)
  • Andy from Glasgow, ScotlandThis song is just one of the many by The Clash that was so in touch with what was happening in the world, during there illustrious career.Clampdown & Radio Clash to name just two others.Not to mention Rock The Casbah,which in hindsight would have been an appropriate song.Only this song came out roughly 10 years before the first Gulf War.The Clash were absolutely essential to the world of music!!Nuf said.
  • Stephen from Calgary, CanadaI see a lot of cynical references to sensationalism in television news in the lyrics. The lines "London Calling, at the top of the dial, and after all this, won't you give me a smile?" means to me that doomsday is all over the news, that you can't escape it, and Strummer seems to be ironically asking people to keep smiling after the apocalypse. As stated above, he seems to be calling people to the battle "come out of the cupboard, you boys and girls," but the entire thing smacks of irony, possibly from the fact that he makes references to London's "swing" as the "ring of the truncheon thing." A truncheon is an old-fashioned term for a billy club, a weapon carried by police officers in London. The song can be interpreted on several levels, as being against authority, or possibly just mocking the fact that the world's end is constantly hypothesized in the news. Interesting social commentary for a song which is followed up by a man's lament to his woman's Brand New Cadillac.
  • Nessie from Sapporo, Japan"This is such a great song. But does anyone now what the lyric london calling actually means?" (Jason Lee)

    London is calling for help from the rest of the world, because of aforesaid apocalypse.
  • Rose Marie from Valencia, SpainThis song appears in Billy Elliot, only it's butchered in it, the lyrics are all cut and jumbled up.
  • Mudassir from Bolton, EnglandJoe once did a radio documentary on the BBC where he explained what this song was about. At the time, there were many 'doom prophecies' being put forward by the intellectuals and scientists, many of them contradictory (eg the sun is zooming in, yet the ice age is coming?!). Joe was making fun of these people, while also urging the punks to drop the cliches and expand their horizons a bit. At the time he was living at his gfs flat in a tower block on the worlds end estate, which is right by the thames river, and they had just built the thames flood barrier so he was theoretically safe, hence "london is drowning but i live by the river".
  • Shana from Pembroke, CanadaThe Clash is awesome, and this song is just wicked
  • Kai from Pleasent View, Utwhen paul simmon smashed his bass at the concert a chunk of the bass flew almost and about hit one of the roadies johnny green

    the clash rock
  • Jackie from Fairfield, CtTony Kanal was the one playing bass at the Grammy tribute, but he was standing in the back and he was not acknowledged in some of the promotional clips the tv network aired when they talked about "an all star tribute to the clash". This is a bit of a shame considering Tony Kanal is abviously a big fan of the clash (he wore a clash t shirt in the no doubt video for "running", and the entire song is based on one of the most iconic bass lines of all time!!
  • Brian from Toronto, CanadaUnfortunately >_<
  • Nick from San Francisco, Cawhat better song to start off the greatest album ever recorded. You heard me.
  • Vanessa from Barstow, CaWasn't Tony Kanal from No Doubt one of the guys in the 2003 tribute @ the Grammys for The Clash?
  • Andy from Halifax, EnglandThe cover of this album is an iconic picture of bass player Paul Simonon smashing his bass live on stage.

    The photographer said on live TV in england, when asked about the photo, " I went over to that side of the stage because Paul was lookin bit P*ssed off"
  • Andy from Halifax, EnglandBrilliant.

    I always thought it was a call to arms.

    (im quoting this from memory)

    London calling, now battle comes down, get out of the cupboard you girls and boys. not sure though
  • Jason Lee from New York, NyThis is such a great song. But does anyone now what the lyric london calling actually means?
  • Dave from Edmonton, CanadaAn awesome cover of this song was recorded by Canadian group Captain Tractor; it appears on their 1995 album "East of Edson"
  • Melissa from Lansing, MiGotta love The Clash
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