Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Clash - London Calling


When a band chooses to copy a classic album cover, it can be viewed in several ways: as a mockery, as a rip-off, as a tribute or as just plain arrogance. When the Clash chose to imitate Elvis Presley's first album for their make-or-break third release, I don't think they could be accused of mocking their predecessor and, considering the impact of London Calling, I don't think it can be viewed as a rip-off either. The Clash knew they had to do something special and instead of trying to play it safe, they went for broke with an ambitious double album that tore down the definitions of pop music just like Elvis had before them. Was it punk? Pop? Reggae? Rockabilly? Yes, it was all of those and more. This album shook the foundations of rock music. In that sense, the cover could certainly be seen as a tribute and an arrogant one at that. As amazing as their first two albums were, the Clash hadn't established themselves among the greats of rock n roll. By choosing to model their cover after Elvis', they were stating in plain view that they were making a truly great record, one of which the Elvis of 1956 could be proud.

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8 Comments:

Blogger Metal Mark said...

The picture is alright, but the pink and green album title might date it a little.

June 13, 2007 at 10:34 AM  
Blogger taotechuck said...

So if Elvis (or, more likely, Colonel Tom) changed pop music with the first design of this cover, and The Clash changed pop music with the second design of the cover, does that mean that Tony Hawk also revolutionized pop music?

June 13, 2007 at 11:13 AM  
Blogger bob_vinyl said...

Mark - Do you think it dates it to the 50s or the 70s? It is a copy of Elvis' album cover which has the same colors.

Chuck - I'm not suggesting that the cover changed anything. It made a claim about what the music would do. I do think the fact that Tony Hawk used it for his comp says a lot about how timeless it has become. That album was marketed to today's kids, not people who remember London Calling when it came out and yet it still has meaning to them.

June 13, 2007 at 11:25 AM  
Blogger Metal Mark said...

It looks really 70's.

June 13, 2007 at 11:28 AM  
Blogger bob_vinyl said...

Yet, it's copying the 50s. I thought it looked pretty 50s even before I knew it was a copy of the Elvis album.

June 13, 2007 at 11:31 AM  
Blogger Layla (aka Barbara) said...

Great post Bob - you inspired me to write something today.

I love it that the Clash had the (hmmm I was going to say balls but that does not sound very feminine of me) the GUTS to copy Elvis's album. I don't think it was a dis to Elvis at all. I like the colors and the whole look - it stuck out and said "we dare to be different" and they were!

June 13, 2007 at 5:36 PM  
Blogger bob_vinyl said...

Barbara - One thing that really made the Clash great is that they wrote great songs and they had guts. It's funny that an album like London Calling ushered in a decade whose social, political and even musical facade seldom had any guts at all.

June 14, 2007 at 5:22 AM  
Blogger Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

Plus the fact that the downward hammer swing of the guitar implies something groundbreaking was to behold underneath this cover. Definitely my favorite Clash album and a must-own for all rock fans, cover and guts in tandem.

June 14, 2007 at 10:22 PM  

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