Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Revolution Rock...The Story of The Clash Part Two..Show # 152

In 1979, The Clash would begin rehearsing for the songs that would end up on the album, London Calling. The band would rent out a place and play, would then set out to find a producer for the album. Guy Stevens was chosen as producer, but he wanted to hear some of the material that The Clash was working on. They would make what would be known as The Vanilla Tapes. The Tapes were finally released in 2004 on the Legacy remastered edition of London Calling. The album would be yet another step in a new direction from the band, drawing on more diverse influences than their two previous efforts. "London Calling" the song was written about a variety of subjects, the threat of nuclear war, the flooding of the Thames River in London, and the punk scene in general that came out the UK. The actual title of the track came from a line that was used by the BBC during World War II "This is London Calling...". The song itself is a mix the bands influences. That actual guitar work of the song is eerily similar of a song done by The Kinks, and the bassline is reggae influenced.

The album also addressed a variety of subjects such as addiction to drugs with "Hateful" and "Rudie Can't Fail" a reggae stabbing tune with a horn section. It was originally written for a movie made about the band titled Rude Boy (Rude Boy was released in 1980 and featured The Clash on their Sort It Out tour and the recording of Give'em Enough Rope, amongst a plot featuring a character known as Ray Gange). "Clampdown" was a rocking track in the vein of punk that concerns issues relating to factory life. Other tracks include "The Right Profile" a song about the actor Montgomery Clift, "Lost in the Supermarket" a slow and somewhat autobiographical track written by Joe Strummer, but sung by Mick Jones, "The Guns of Brixton" a reggae track written and sung by bassist Paul Simonon and "Koka Kola", a fast rock song about corporations and advertising. At the end of the recording sessions for the album, which were done at Wessex Studios, Mick Jones had one more song to record. Train In Vain (Stand By Me)" was a pop song Clash-style (influenced by Blues and R&B music) that was originally intended to be given away with NME Magazine. The deal would fall through and the band would instead add it to the end of London Calling after the song "Revolution Rock" (a cover song), but it would not be listed on the album's artwork. Part of the reason for this is because the artwork was already done for the album, so many people referred to "Train in Vain" as a hidden track, but that was not the original intention.

Elvis Presley vs. London Calling

The album's now famous cover features bassist Paul Simonon about to smash his bass to pieces while at a Clash gig (on September 21st, 1979 in New York). The picture taken by Pennie Smith is out of focus and was not originally intended to be used as the cover shot for the album. The cover itself is similar to an Elvis Presley album (it has the same type and colours), instead of a guitar being raised as it is on the Presley album, it is being brought down and smashed (technically it's a bass guitar). The album itself did the band good. Released in the later part of 1979 in December in the UK and in early January in the USA, the album went to # 27 on the US charts and # 9 on the UK charts. The album itself which found the band drawing in a variety of styles and influences (ska, Reggae, Jazz, R&B, rockabilly) would be later voted to be one of the best rock and roll albums of all time.

After touring behind London Calling, the band would enter the studio again in 1980 (in New York) to work on songs for the album that would be known as Sandinista!. Before heading to New York the band would go to Kingston Jamaica and record the track "Junco Partner". Originally a blues song, the track would be redone it a reggae/dub style. When relocating to New York in Electric Ladyland studios, the band would once again expand on their sound. Being in New York the band would draw in influences from early New York hip hop, funk, and their traditional blend of reggae and rock. The album would be a triple album (by vinyl standards). While it contained 36 tracks, some of the songs would be dub remixes (done by Mikey Dread), adding a dub feel to the album. The album would have a few guests Norman-Watt Roy would play bass and help compose the funky, hip hop track "The Magnificent Seven" (the reason for Roy playing bass was that bassist Paul Simonon was busy with a movie role), Mikey Dread (reggae artist/producer), Ivan Julian (Richard Hell and the Voidoids), and Tymon Dogg Joe Strummers old friend from his 101'ers days.

The Clash experimented even more with this album. Some critics thought of it as too much from the band and too different. In fact, the album is just as good as it's predecessor, some people believe that if it had being released as a double or single album, it would have received greater acclaim. "Hitsville U.K." was influenced by Detroit Motown, and is sung by Mick Jones and his then girlfriend Ellen Foley. "Ivan Meets G.I. Joe" was a disco flavored track sung by drummer Topper Headon, Paul Simonon sang on the reggae song "The Crooked Beat", "Somebody Got Murder" was a strange, but excellently crafted pop song written for a movie that was never used, "The Leader" was a fast punk and surf rock influenced track that lyrically referenced a politician Joe read about in a newspaper. The album also had "Rebel Waltz" a combination old time waltz music and reggae, "Lightning Strikes (Not Once but Twice) a hip hop flavored song similar to "The Magnificent Seven", "Let's Go Crazy" a Caribbean-vibed song, "The Sound of the Sinners" a Gospel influenced track, and so much more. "The Call Up" a song about the draft, would be the bands first single. Other different tracks were "Broadway" a jazz song, "The Street Parade", "Kingston Advice", and "Version City".

In order to get the album released as a triple LP, the band forfeited a certain number of royalties to ensure its release. The album was quite ahead of its time and very different. The album received good reviews in the USA, but not so good ones in the UK. The Clash scheduled a series of shows at Bond's Casino in New York in 1981. The tickets to the shows got over sold and in turn, the fire Marshall's had to close down and cancel one of the bands scheduled shows. Since so many fans were denied to the show (and also since all the people that bought tickets weren't allowed into the show, due to over crowding), the band extended what intended to be a week long residency in New York to 17 concerts. This time in New York was chronicled by film maker and friend of the band Don Letts, but was rumored to have been lost. In 1999, 15 minutes of what supposed to be a much longer movie were added to the Clash documentary Westway to the World, which was also filmed by Letts. Recently there has been rumours of the complete film being found. The Clash would take week long residency's while on tour in other places such as France and London as well. After spending 1980 and 1981 touring, they then recorded their final album, Combat Rock in 1982. Since this post is so large I will continue my clash post next week, thus completing the bands history.

Here is the play list:

1. Public Image Limited – public image
2. Modern Lovers – roadrunner
3. Ultravox! – fear in the western world
4. 4/4 – systematic
5. 999 – my street stinks
6. The Visitors – sad tv
7. Modernettes – barbra
8. Smugglers – bad guys
9. The Odds – say you mean it
10. The Mark Inside – carousel
11. The Scabs – don’t just sit there
12. Red London – CND
13. Only Ones – my immortal story
14. Adverts – we who wait
15. Gang of Four – at home he’s a tourist (bbc)
16. Suburban Reptiles – Saturday night, stay at home
17. Hot Nasties – I am a confused teenager
18. The Demics – talk, talk
19. The Diodes – tired of waking up tired
20. XTC – statue of liberty
21. Buzzcocks – I don’t mind
22. The Clash – safe European home
23. The Clash – up in heaven (not only here)
24. The Specials – its up to you
25. Television – venus
26. Sonic Avenues - off the ground
27. The Saints - enough is never enough
28. Long Blondes - sparated by motorways

Video Clash:

Live on Fridays Part One (London Calling, Train in Vain)
Live on Fridays Part Two (Guns of Brixton, Clampdown)
Bankrobber music video
Spanish Bombs Live 1979
Magnificent Seven Live Tomorrow Show 1981
Radio Clash Live Tomorrow Show 1981
The Call Up music video

A series of two radio specials I did on The Clash can be found here:

The Clash (1976-1979)
The Clash (1980-1985)

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