Why ‘London Calling’ Is The Clash’s Greatest Album of All Time

In defense of fans who love The Clash’s other works, they didn’t release an enormous number of records while they were together. All six of the band’s albums were great for what they were… but nothing compares to the disruptive 1979 release London Calling.

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There are so many reasons why this album is the punk rock band’s best, and also why it’s one of the best albums of its era, period. And it all starts with the state of London in the late 1970s.

The Origins of ‘London Calling’ by The Clash

London was not an easy place to be in 1979. Unemployment was at an all-time high, drug abuse had become an epidemic, and young Londoners were at odds with the government. To put it simply, the city was in disarray, and few had hope for a bright future. The Clash was the natural product of that discontentment and disarray. 

Before London Calling was released, The Clash was struggling to stay together. After releasing their second album, the band ended their relationship with their management and found themselves struggling with major writer’s block. It happens to the best of us. But what came from that period was one of the greatest punk albums of all time.

The members of The Clash decided to explore other genres that weren’t totally mutually exclusive from punk, including ska, reggae, jazz, and rockabilly. They finally found a new studio and rehearsed to hell and back, and came out with London Calling. Mick Jones, Joe Strummer, Topper Headon, and Paul Simonon all contributed to the writing in one way or another.

What Makes This Iconic Album So Good?

London Calling isn’t an easy album to define. It’s undisputably punk, but also post-punk in ways. And the influences of other genres the band explored are evident.

The diverse influences within the album are certainly a winning factor. But what really made London Calling so good was the fearlessness with which its lyrics challenged the British government and culture in general. It’s an undeniably English response to a very rough era in English culture. The Clash wasn’t afraid to confront issues of drug abuse, racism, classism, and all the other fun things that made London such a difficult place to exist within.

Today, London Calling still inspires new generations of musicians. Garbage sampled them for the 1995 song “Stupid Girl”. Members of The Specials, Social Distortion, Green Day, Rancid, and Anti-Flag have all cited The Clash as inspirations. And London Calling is still relevant in the 2020s; if not more than it was when it was released.

Photo by Keith Bernstein

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