Certified Platinum and third studio album by London’s prog rock adventurers, Yes, The Yes Album launched in February of 1971 to both commercial and critical success. See that word Platinum in the opening sentence? That’s a pretty good indication of this album’s popularity. The Yes Album would be the last for keyboardist Tony Kaye and guitarist Peter Banks, both founding members, and would be the first with the group for Steve Howe (later of Asia fame). Progressive rock isn’t necessarily my immediate number one go-to (it’s more 17 or 18 down the line), The Yes Album is a whimsical and spirited hike, deserving of a reverent stroll. Yes’ classic album cover art (those illustrated by Roger Dean) would begin later that year (November) with Fragile.
This perfect, mood setting ambience will choke out any foul stench you may find the need to cover up. Accidentally burn a fish fillet and now the first floor smells like pier 39? Pick up the phone… it’s London Calling. Sever your finger while cutting the Thanksgiving turkey and wake up sticking to a pool of your own blood surrounded by the painfully sharp aroma of iron? Answer the door… it’s London Calling.
Whatever your need for a more appealing odor may be, nothing beats the classic, lingering wafts of British thugs, The Clash, and their burning torch, London Calling.
We are all book judges, are we not? It’s in our instinctual nature to see something, say an album cover, and immediately send its contents through the legal systems of our minds and instantly give it a ruling, right? I mean, when I see an album cover of a cat sitting in a Christmas box (give the gift of cats, I always say) in front of a 1950s decorated Christmas tree, I’m not thinking smooth jazz, you see what I’m saying? (The aforementioned Christmas Cat album will unveil itself during the month of December, along with the rest of my “holiday groove music.” So I’ll see the lot of you in January!)
So much (and this is painfully obvious) time and consideration is put into any given album cover, but I wonder if the guy / gal / team designing any given cover (it’s like Any Given Sunday, but with records) considers the longevity of their work. For example, let’s take a look at Elvis Presley’s 1956 debut for RCA Victor Records appropriately titled, Elvis Presley. It’s about as iconic as apple pie (“Why, is that apple pie I smell?” – A little KITH humor… really, I’m just pleasing myself at this point) and for good reason. Had the King’s (“I didn’t know we had a king. I thought we were an autonomous collective.” – MP) groundbreaking album (to put it lightly) instead displayed the man say, in a Christmas box in front of a 1950s decorated Christmas tree, pop culture may have turned out a little different. Do you see what I’m saying? Or, typing, rather… man, I’m falling out of the tangent tree and hitting every branch today it seems.
Without Mr. Blue Suede Shoes’ album looking exactly the way it does (actually, Mr. Blue Suede Shoes should probably refer to Carl Perkins, so let’s call Elvis, Mr. Tutti Frutti instead, shall we? Well, wouldn’t Mr. Tutti Frutti be the moniker for Little Richard? Good point. Let’s just call Elvis, Elvis then. There is no fun in that, but fine… whatever.), the equally iconic face of The Clash’s London Calling may have looked like say, a photo of Paul Simonon sitting in a Christmas box in front of a 1950s decorated Christmas tree. Are you picking up what I’m throwing down here? Nobody knows (Spaceballs…) the impact of anything, or rather, nobody can predict what sticks to the wall, and what is used for kindling in the living room fireplace. Only time, oh, that sweet, lactating mother of all, will tell.
Also, there is a house music comp based on the cover of London Calling which was based on the cover of Elvis Presley, and my prediction is, it won’t stop there.
The sample of, “al-Gadaffi” from a proud-sounding public speaker starts off Funkahdafi, and continues to appear (mimicking the technique of a sample scratch from a DJ) throughout the funk-infused, foot-tapping, synth-happy, unforgettable example of ear-joy that mark Front 242 as the undisputed staple of EBM (Electric Body Music). It is my humble opinion that they have yet to, and never will, become eclipsed from atop their genre-defining throne.
I’ve been listening to a lot of Front 242 lately, if you haven’t noticed.
The highlight to this EP is an ambiguous remix to Commando, ambiguous because the sleeve doesn’t indicate who remixed it and is simply titled, Commando (Remix), or Kommando (Remix) on the back sleeve. This 9+ minute track rides a hard, minimalist groove under waves of distant, and distorted fits of vocal aggression: a perfect combination of belligerent solidarity.
Although 1985’s Politics of Pressure by Front 242 is only three tracks, it comes highly recommended, as does EVERYTHING from Belgium’s finest, the illustrious Front 242.
Five days after the conclusion of a decade filled with orange, brown, swagger and abundance (the 1970s), the United States saw a paramount release that that would transcend every other album released throughout the rest of the decade. On January 5th, 1980, Americans received a message from across the pond. It was a message of conflict, disdain and unforgettable beauty. This message… the uncompromising London Calling.
Five days into the 80s, and the decade saw its best work… crazy. Released a few weeks earlier in its native land (December 14, 1979 in the UK), London Calling became the owner of the #8 spot on Rolling Stone’s list of 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. #8… all time. 8… out of 500! This isn’t news to the majority of you as you probably already own this treasured album, and if you don’t, I’ll pretend not to know you in public next time I see you… seriously… GET this album!
Bridging the weathered gap between Hard Rock, Punk, Reggae, Lounge Jazz, Rockabilly and Ska (to name a few of the many genres defining this “epic” album… it was actually released on Epic Records in the states, so HA!), The Clash were able to showcase their angst towards authority, their cry for better paying jobs, their thoughts on civil war, love, and the church, and they were able to do it by staying within the confines of the social attention span. The Clash found that the message of insolence, distrust, hope and liberation could reach more ears if the music was more accessible to a broader audience.
Everyone who has ever learned to type has written about this album, so anything I say here won’t be groundbreaking. I will however express my personal affection towards this gem, and try to offer its beauty onto others. I’m a London Calling pusher, essentially… and I’ve got a quota to meet, so shoot up!
Really quickly, I’ll get into this then I’ll leave you the hell alone. It was July 1997 and I’d just turned 18. I was sharing a room with my best friend and we were both in our infant stage of record collecting. He with his Jimmy Durante, Glenn Miller and Dean Martin, and I with my Beastie Boys, NOFX and Doobie Brothers. There is a little store in Madison, Wisconsin called Half Price Books. If you’re from the Midwest you’ve undoubtedly been there. It was at the East Side location where I found my calling of the London variety. I’d already owned 1982’s Combat Rock, and was eager for more from the almighty Clash. Anyway, to make a long, drawn-out story short, the first side to the first record (London Calling is a double LP, btw) instantly became the soundtrack to our summer, with Rudie Can’t Fail becoming our favorite, miss-quotable song (substituting “chicken-boo for breakfast” instead of the proper “drinking brew…” something I still do to this day).
Maybe it was because that summer saw us living on our own for the first time, but for us, London Calling equaled liberation. Few albums attach themselves to such monumentally important moments in an individual’s life. The acute notice these moments, and they never forget them. London Calling, for all its global importance, still manages to satisfy my local, nostalgic needs.