Meaning of London Calling – The Clash & Song Story

Vocalist and guitarist of the British punk band The Clash, Joe Strummer, has always closely followed what is happening in the world. The news that the media carried in the 1970s was no happier than it is today. Some of them are associated with the story of the song London Calling (“London calls”), the title track of the eponymous album The Clash (1979).

Song history

It was written by Joe Strummer and Mick Jones. The title “London Calling” is clearly a reference to the phrase “This is London calling”, which began a BBC World Service broadcast during World War II.

The lyrics of the song, which in many reviews are called apocalyptic, are full of allusions to various resonant events of the late seventies and the most discussed issues. These are the accident at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant (“a nuclear error”), police brutality (“the ring of that truncheon thing”), flooding in London (“London is drowning”), world hunger (“the wheat is growing thin”) and so on.

There was, as usual in rock music, no mention of drugs (“we ain’t get no high”). Also in the song London Calling, the Beatles, who had already broken up by that time, and their crazy fans (“phoney Beatlemania has bitten the dust”) got it.

To get a better feel for the song and the situation in which it was created, you also need to consider that by that time the punk rock boom had passed, and The Clash was heavily in debt. Therefore, it can be argued that London Calling also reflects the far from festive mood of the band members. In an interview, Joe Strummer explained: “We felt like we were sliding down a slope and trying to hold on, clinging to our nails with all our might. And there was no one to help us.”

Release and achievements

If the situation in the world after the release of the double disc London Calling did not improve at all, then it clearly improved the group’s affairs. The single with London Calling and Armagideon Time climbed to number 11 on the UK Single Chart, and sales of the album soon made it gold (it was certified platinum in 1996).

Rolling Stone ranked London Calling one of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. It is also listed as one of the 500 Tracks That Shaped Rock and Roll and VH1’s 100 Greatest Songs of the 80s.

Next is the London Calling – The Clash music video.

Interesting Facts

  • Joe Strummer did live on the banks of the Thames, but he was unlikely to be in danger of flooding, because his apartment was on one of the upper floors.
  • During the recording of London Calling, members of The Clash frequently took breaks from work and played football to relieve tension.
  • Strummer was a DJ for the BBC World Service, where he hosted the Joe Strummer’s London Calling series.
  • In 2002, the band sold the rights to use the song in a Jaguar commercial, although they had previously denied it to many companies.
  • At the 2003 Grammy Awards, Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello and other musicians performed London Calling in memory of the deceased Joe Strummer.
  • Despite the song’s dark lyrics, it was used during the promotion and opening of the 2012 Olympic Games, which were held in London.
  • London Calling is played at Stamford Bridge before Chelsea football team’s home matches.

London Calling Lyrics

London calling to the far away towns
Now war is declared, and battle comes down
London calling to the underworld
Come out of the cupboard, you boys and girls
London calling, now don’t look to us
Phoney Beatlemania has bitten the dust
London calling, see we ain’t got no swing
‘Cept for the ring of that truncheon thing

The ice age is coming, the sun’s zooming in
Meltdown expected, the wheat is growing thin
Engines stop running, but I have no fear
‘Cause London is drowning, and I live by the river

London calling to the imitation zone
Forget it, brother, you can go it alone
London calling to the zombies of death
Quit holding out, and draw another breath
London calling, and I don’t wanna shout
But while we were talking, I saw you nodding out
London calling, see we ain’t got no high
Except for that one with the yellow eyes

The ice age is coming, the sun’s zooming in
Engines stop running, the wheat is growing thin
A nuclear error, but I have no fear
‘Cause London is drowning, and I live by the river

London calling, yes, I was there, too
An’ you know what they said? Well, some of it was true!
London calling at the top of the dial
And after all this, won’t you give me a smile?
London calling

I never felt so much like

London Calling Lyrics

London calls distant towns
Now war has been declared and the battle has begun
London calls the scum of society
Come out of the closet, you boys and girls
London calling, now don’t count on us
Fake Beatlemania Downed
London calling, see we got nothing
Except for blows with a police baton

The ice age is coming, the sun is coming,
Global warming is expected, wheat is growing poorly,
Engines break down but I’m not afraid
‘Cause London is sinking and I live by the river

London calling the fake zone
Forget it bro, you can handle it on your own
London calls dead zombies
Stop hiding, take another breath
London is calling and I don’t want to yell
But while we were chatting, I saw you pass out
London calls, you see, we are not crazy
In addition, with yellowish eyes

The ice age is coming, the sun is coming,
Engines break, wheat grows poorly,
Nuclear bug but I’m not afraid
‘Cause London is sinking and I live by the river

London calls, yes, I was there too
And you know what they said? Well, some of this is true!
London calling on the main wave
And after all this, won’t you smile at me?
London calling

I have never felt so similar

Song quote

… a witty yet compelling manifesto of post-punk rock ‘n’ roll.

Donald Guarisco, Allmusic

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