Exhibition, Museum of London, 15th November 2019 – 19th April 2020
The Clash: London Calling
Header photo – At the London Calling video shoot on the River Thames, 1979 © Pennie Smith
A band firmly born into the punk scene, over time The Clash introduced elements of reggae, dub, rockabilly, funk and ska into their music, bringing a whole new range of genres to a much wider audience. Their double LP London Calling was met with enthusiasm from music critics and fans alike and the album quickly cemented its place in rock history. In a review written shortly after its release, Rolling Stone’s Tom Carson wrote:
‘Merry and tough, passionate and large spirited, London Calling celebrates the romance of rock & roll rebellion in grand, epic terms. It doesn’t merely reaffirm The Clash’s own commitment to rock-as-revolution. Instead, the record ranges across the whole of rock & roll’s past for its sound, and digs deeply into rock legend, history, politics and myth for its images and themes… It’s so rich and far reaching that it leaves you not just exhilarated but exalted and triumphantly alive’.
Now 40 years since it hit the shelves, a new exhibition celebrating the album and the band has opened its doors, offering a glimpse behind the scenes and recalling some great memories along the way.
Photos: Left – Handwritten album sequence note by Mick Jones © The Clash
Top right – A preliminary sketch by Ray Lowry for the cover artwork of the 1979 album London Calling by The Clash circa September 1979 © Samuel Lowry
Bottom right – A lyric fragment in Joe Strummer’s handwriting for the song Lost in the Supermarket, the 4 lines in black ink on the reverse of an Ernie Ball custom gauge strings paper envelope, the lyrics representing the chorus of the song © Casbah Productions Ltd
Details from the press release:
‘The Museum of London is pleased to announce that the highly anticipated The Clash: London Calling, a free exhibit showcasing a collection of over 150 items from The Clash’s personal archive including notes, clothing, images and music, many previously unseen, is now open and free to view until 19th April 2020.
When The Clash’s third album London Calling was released in the winter of 1979, it was clear that the band had made an instant classic, an era defining masterpiece which still stands as one of rock’s all-time greatest albums.
London Calling was, and is, a hugely compelling melting pot of musical styles, driven by a passion for action and a fierce political anger, with music and lyrics which remain as relevant today as they were on release. As well as showcasing influences and context for the writing and recording of the seminal double album, this new exclusive exhibit at the Museum of London will also examine how the capital influenced The Clash as they became the most popular British band of the 20th century’.
Photos: Left – A 1950’s Gibson ES-295 with a white finish inside a hardshell contour case with orange plush lining; the guitar was used by Mick Jones during recording of the London Calling album and in the music video for the title track of the album, released as a single in December 1979 © The Clash
Top right – White shirt and leather jacket worn by The Clash © The Clash
Bottom right – Simonon’s Fender Precision bass was damaged on stage at The Palladium in New York City on 20th September 1979, as Simonon smashed it on the floor in an act of spontaneous and complete frustration © The Clash
The exhibition includes some instantly recognisable pieces alongside newly displayed items. Visitors will have the opportunity to view Paul Simonon’s smashed bass, the resulting photo of which appeared on the iconic album cover, a handwritten album sequence note by Mick Jones showing the final and correct order for all 4 sides of the album, one of Joe Strummer’s lyric notebooks and Topper Headon’s drum sticks, his only remaining items from this time. Additionally there will be previously unshown photos by legendary rock photographer Pennie Smith and original drafts from cartoonist and artist Ray Lowry’s sketchbooks, including the preliminary and final drafts for the album artwork.
Whether you’re a fan of the band, the era or just general music history, this exhibition will take you on a nostalgic journey while highlighting the differences between making music in the 70s and now. You can also become your own tour guide by downloading the free Smartify app to discover more detail about the artefacts on display as you look around.
If you’re in London in the next few months, take a trip down memory lane and check out the stories behind an album that has become, in its own right, a classic of our time.
Photo – The Clash on stage © Pennie Smith
The Clash: London Calling runs from 15th November 2019 – 19th April 2020
Museum of London, 150 London Wall, EC2Y 5HN
Opening times: Daily 10-6, galleries close at 5.40, closed 24th-26th December
Free entry – please check the website for further details of this and other exhibitions before visiting
All images and exhibition details are reproduced with permission from the Museum of London and are copyrighted as credited
Words excluding press release by Siobhan
6th December 2019