Released in 1979, the Clash’s third album changed everything—punk rock, the band that made it, and the fans who worshiped it. Decades later, its rich, eclectic, propulsive sound hasn’t aged a minute, and its messages are as urgent as ever.
By Elizabeth Nelson
“Every Cheap Hood / Strikes a Bargain With the World”
Guy Stevens, the Clash’s hand-picked producer for their pivotal third LP, a double album titled London Calling, was not happy with how the band was performing. So he applied the Guy Stevens method: He charged out of the control room and began a violent assault on the space where the group was attempting to get through the song—thrashing his limbs, dancing wildly, and screaming in their faces. They reacted with a combination of rage and horror and disbelief: Imagine trying to cut a track while some fully hysterical nutter is 5 inches in front of you, all brandy breath, spit, and bile. After all this was done, Stevens announced: “It’s a take!”
The Clash’s first two LPs, 1977’s self-titled debut and 1978’s Give ’Em Enough Rope, thrilled critics and galvanized a large and loyal following. Now it was up to them to consecrate their standing as the biggest band in the world, or at least “The Only Band That Matters,” a nickname they had self-applied. Brimming with talent, energy, and esprit de corps, the Clash sensed they were close to something monumental—a commercial breakthrough and a masterpiece. They had material to spare and an unbreakable date with destiny. They just needed someone to bring it all together, to bring it out of them. They sorted through their options. And then they hired Guy Stevens.
“I’m So Grateful / To Be Nowhere”
It starts in Camden, by the Thames, waters rising, alarms at full blaze. It starts at the end. An apocalyptic event, another kind of destiny. World War II and the bombing of Britain and the economic shudder of the empire through its shaky postwar years and the rise of the right and the shadow of the Cold War and the memory of the Aberfan disaster. Everything, it seems, is in those two chords. London is drowning and the Clash are … ambivalent? Stalwart? Maybe the word is prepared. Prepared for death or the feral future of life in the aftermath of utter catastrophe.
The group Hinds cover of “Spanish Bombs” was THE HOBBLEDEHOY’s favorite moment of the Song For Joe tribute. As one viewer remarked during the show, “Hinds are the Spanish bombs!”
The Clash song “Spanish Bombs” recalls the civil war that raged in Spain from 1936 to 1939.
The Hinds said in a statement: “We’ve always loved doing covers. Maybe because that’s how we started, or maybe because there are already so many great songs in the world that we wish we had written ” .
“The Clash have always been my mother’s favorite band… so it’s always nice to connect the generations through music. As Spaniards, we are not used to being ‘yelled at’ in songs, like in New York or London. The Clash wrote a song about our own civil war while honoring us. We recorded this cover on our last day in the studio, practically live. “
Gates of the West & Dark Horse Records present ‘A Song For Joe: Celebrating the Birthday of Joe Strummer’ on Friday, August 21 at 8pm BST / 3pm EDT / 12pm PDT.
Taking place on Joe’s birthday, the event will honor Joe’s legacy and feature performances and testimonials by many of the former Clash front man’s friends and notable names in the music & arts community, as well as never-before-seen Joe Strummer live footage.
“To see so many musicians and artists come forward to honor Joe is really touching,” says Joe’s wife Lucinda Tait. “Community was always important to him. Whether it was playing music with friends, organizing all night campfires, or hijacking festivals, Joe was always focused on bringing people together. Even though we can’t all be in the same room together, I cannot think of a better way for us all to feel united. Joe would have loved this.”
The A Song for Joe: Celebrating the Life of Joe Strummer livestream also features Bob Weir, Hinds, Steve Buscemi, and never-before-seen Strummer footage
Bruce Springsteen, Lucinda Williams, Queens of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme, former Texas Representative Beto O’Rourke, Bob Weir, Steve Buscemi, Hinds, and others are participating in a livestream tribute to the late Clash frontman Joe Strummer. The two-hour event—called A Song for Joe: Celebrating the Life of Joe Strummer—takes place on Strummer’s birthday (August 21) at 3 p.m. Eastern. Along with the special appearances, the livestream will feature never-before-seen live footage of Joe Strummer.
Jesse Malin (who co-produced the event with Jeff Raspe and Joe Strummer estate manager David Zonshine) will host A Song for Joe. “This tribute to Joe is not only a great way to honor him, but to also remind people how important his message is right now,” Malin said in a press release.