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London Calling
Song

London Calling

The Clash
Album:
London Calling

Song Meaning and Background of London Calling by The Clash


"London Calling" is a song by the British punk band The Clash.


It was released as a single from the band's 1979 double album of the same name. An apocalyptic, politically charged rant displays the band's post-punk sound


In 1979, Britain was suffocating in crisis: soaring unemployment, racial conflict, widespread drug use. “We felt that we were struggling,” Joe Strummer said, “about to slip down a slope or something, grasping with our fingernails. And there was no one there to help us.”


Strummer and guitarist Mick Jones channeled that feeling into a song, produced with atmosphere by Guy Stevens, that sounded like the Clash marching into battle.


The song was written by Joe Strummer and Mick Jones. The title alludes to the BBC World Service's station identification: "This is London calling ...", which was used during World War II, often in broadcasts to occupied countries.


The lyrics reflect the concern felt by Strummer about world events with the reference to "a nuclear error" – the incident at Three Mile Island, which occurred earlier in 1979.


The line "London is drowning / And I live by the river" comes from concerns that if the River Thames flooded, most of central London would drown, something that led to the construction of the Thames Barrier.


Strummer's concern for police brutality is evident through the lines "We ain't got no swing / Except for the ring of that truncheon thing" as the Metropolitan Police at the time had a truncheon as standard issued equipment.


Social criticism also features through references to the effects of casual drug taking: "We ain't got no high / Except for that one with the yellowy eyes".


The lyrics also reflect desperation of the band's situation in 1979 struggling with high debt, without management and arguing with their record label over whether the London Calling album should be a single or double album.


The lines referring to "Now don't look to us / Phoney Beatlemania has bitten the dust" reflects the concerns of the band over its situation after the punk rock boom in England had ended in 1977.


The song fades out with a Morse code signal spelling S-O-S, reiterating the earlier urgent sense of emergency.


The reached a peak of number 11 in the UK in 1979.


Lyrics of London Calling by The Clash


London calling to the faraway towns

Now war is declared, and battle come 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

Except 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 yellowy 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

 

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

 

Now get this...

London calling, yes, I was there too

And 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 alike alike alike alike...

Release Date

1979

Songwriter/s

Joe Strummer, Mick Jones

Producer/s

Guy Stevens

Label/s

CBS

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