August 31, 2013
CONSIDER PUNK ROCK THIS WAY...:
The Sound of Going to Pieces : The Clash's surviving members recount the making of a punk anthem (MARC MYERS, 8/29/13, WSJ)
Mick Jones: The initial inspiration for the song "London Calling" wasn't British politics. It was our fear of drowning. In 1979 we saw a headline on the front of the London Evening Standard warning that the North Sea might rise and push up the Thames, flooding the city. We flipped. To us, the headline was just another example of how everything was coming undone.Paul Simonon: In the '70s, when we formed the band, there was a lot of tension in Britain, lots of strikes, and the country was an economic mess. There also was aggression toward anyone who looked different--especially the punks. So the name the Clash seemed appropriate for the band's name.Before "London Calling," we didn't really have a manager or rehearsal space, so we were drifting about. Our road crew found us space off Vauxhall Bridge Road in the Pimlico section along the Thames. It was a thin, drafty soundproof room upstairs in the back of a garage.Mr. Jones: We rehearsed hard each day--taking a break in the afternoons to cross the road to a fenced-in playground where we played football. It was like team-building thing. We had a strong sense of togetherness.[Lead singer] Joe Strummer was living in a building along the Thames and feared potential flooding. He did two or three drafts of lyrics that I then widened until the song became this warning about the doom of everyday life. We were a bit ahead of the global warming thing, weren't we?The line about phony Beatlemania biting the dust was aimed at all the touristy sound-alike rock bands in London in the late '70s. We were fans of the Beatles, the Who and the Kinks--but we wanted to remake all of that. We wanted "London Calling" to reclaim the raw, natural culture. We looked back to earlier rock music with great pleasure, but many of the issues people were facing were new and frightening. Our message was more urgent--that things were going to pieces.
...while the lyrics generally consist of dopey leftist tropes decrying a society they see disintegrating in the face of conservative onslaught, the reality is that the music came along just as the great conservative/reformist wave--Thatcher, Reagan, Kohl, Mulroney, Nakasone, (even Andropov)--was coming to power and reversing the tide.
On the other hand, the music is a rebellion against the corporatist, conservative, homogenous, bombastic, pretentious mush that the music industry had become and the punks routed that lot.
Of course, The Clash also produced the single greatest rock song of all time. Not bad for a day's work.
Posted by Orrin Judd at August 31, 2013 9:07 AM
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