Apple Music 100 Best Albums

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London Calling

The Clash


A boldly experimental double album that was bigger than punk.

As great as The Clash’s first two albums had been, they’d mostly worked off a blueprint of punk that by 1979 had started to look a little limited, even retrograde. Installed in a makeshift practice space adjoining an auto body shop, they started rehearsing covers in styles seemingly outside their comfort zone: reggae, soul, rockabilly, pub rock. London Calling not only replaced stylistic concision with experimentation but marked the moment when The Clash became bigger than punk.

What was—and is—remarkable about London Calling wasn’t just how much ground it covers, but how comfortably the band stakes their claim to it. They’re heavy (“Death or Glory,” “Hateful”), they’re light (“Revolution Rock,” “Lover’s Rock”), they sing about public struggles (“Clampdown”) and private relationships (Mick Jones’ “Train in Vain”) and advance the old chestnut that our inner lives are always products of our outer realities. What had once been framed as a local struggle—poor white English kids searching for a future in the face of diminishing prospects—became international, the plight of working-class people generally, the ballads of the common man.