Our free London Calling display celebrates 40 years of The Clash. See Paul Simonon’s broken Fender, Joe Strummer’s notebook & more at the Museum of London from 15 November.
To honour this truly London anniversary, the Museum of London will showcase personal objects, images, music and memories from the band’s history – some never seen before – in a free display.
London Calling was and is a hugely compelling melting pot of musical styles, driven by a passion for action and a fierce desire for social justice. The album’s music and lyrics remain as relevant today as they were on release.
As well as showcasing the influences and context to the writing and recording of the seminal double album, this new exclusive display at the Museum of London examines how the capital influenced The Clash as they became the most popular British band of the 20th century.
To reflect the band’s diverse range of political, emotional and musical interests, a broad range of items from their personal archive can be seen in the display, including:
Paul Simonon’s broken Fender Precision Bass, smashed on stage at The Palladium in New York City on 21st September 1979
Mick Jones’ handwritten album sequencing note
Joe Strummer’s notebook from the period when the album ‘London Calling’ was rehearsed and recorded
Joe Strummer’s typewriter used to document ideas, lyrics and other writings
To coincide with the opening of the display Sony Music have released the London Calling Scrapbook – a 120-page hardback companion which comes with the album and contains hand-written lyrics, notes, photos and previously unseen material from the period when the record was made.
She photographed the biggest stars. But it was the Clash she clicked with. Pennie Smith relives their first explosive US tour – and reveals how she took ‘rock’s greatest photo’
Pennie Smith was standing less than six feet away when Paul Simonon, bass-player with the Clash, smashed his guitar to pieces on stage at the Palladium in New York. She’d been on the road with the band for two weeks, photographing their first US tour, but she’d always stayed on the other side of the stage, next to lead guitarist Mick Jones.
That night, to mix it up, she switched sides and remembers Simonon suddenly spinning toward her. “He was in a really bad mood,” she says, “and that wasn’t like him.” She took a step back to get a better focus with her 35mm Pentax – and then all hell broke loose. Simonon, seething, raised his Fender Precision like an axe, turned his back to singer Joe Strummer, and brought it crashing down. “It wasn’t a choice to take the shot,” Smith says. “My finger just went off.”
The photograph immortalised Simonon’s rage in grainy black and white. It was an emotional response, he later said, to a stiff New York audience that sat all night in their seats and didn’t move. “You can’t really tell it’s Paul,” says Smith. “But I guess that’s the point.”
On the tour bus the next day, Strummer chose the image for the cover of London Calling, the 1979 album that was to prove the Clash’s masterpiece – an exuberant outcry that is still regarded as one of the greatest, most influential albums of all time. Its slick mix of punk, reggae, blues and rockabilly – with lyrics Strummer rarely bettered – has been cited by everyone from U2 to Springsteen, Nirvana to the Beastie Boys, as a seminal moment. “They’re the band that changed everything,” Chuck D recently said, revealing that Public Enemy set out to be a rap equivalent of the Clash.
His work inspired devotion around the world – prompting more than one fan to tell him he had changed their lives – but for a long time after his untimely death Lucinda Tait could not bear to hear her husband’s Joe Strummer’s voice. Her grief was simply too raw and his singing only served as a cruel reminder of what she had lost.
“When Joe died I was so immersed in grief and trying to find a way to move on that I couldn’t listen to his voice. It was just too much to hear him”
So it was only in recent years that Tait could bring herself to listen to the previously unreleased recordings by the former lead singer of The Clash which she had discovered in their Somerset barn, shortly after he died of an undiagnosed heart defect in December 2002, at the age of 50,Now 32 songs from that stash of long lost Strummer tapes have been released as part of a new collection of work by a man who inspired [ . . . ]
Joe Strummer will always be known first as the fire-breathing frontman of the British punk quartet The Clash, but he also led a richly productive creative life apart from that great band. Collecting nearly three dozen tracks from before and mostly after the group, “Joe Strummer 001” offers highlights of his solo efforts, including film and TV work (such as “South Park”), collaborations (with Johnny Cash and Jimmy Cliff), and a generous helping of obscurities and previously unreleased recordings. The range is dazzling, from foot-stomping rock and roll to Latin-shaded dance grooves to reggae (a Clash staple) to folksy acoustic ballads—and much more. For all the stylistic variety, his familiar sandpaper voice, capable of gruff urgency and tender reflection in the same breath, is consistently electrifying. Joe Strummer died in 2002, but his mighty legacy remains. [ . . . ]