1980: London Calling

London CoverFive 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!

Calling BackBridging 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!

Rudie LyricsReally 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.Offensive Boyo

1977: Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols

BollocksPunk freaks a lot of people out. It should. That’s its job. Well, not its job so much as its point.

When the physical force from the hand-shakers, the whistle-stoppers, the marketing executives and the self-proclaimed pretty faces (telling you what toothpaste “real” men prefer) strong-arms the poor, the isolated, the abhorred, the shunned and the ugly (a term invented by pushers of beauty products as a counter for what constitutes “beauty”), the thin line separating the “ordinary” from the “irregular” breaks. Wars are started over such actions. Lives are lost and serenity is disfigured.

“Anger can be power.” – Joe Strummer of The Clash

From the charred rubble of society rockets a familiar phrase longing to reach the ears of the desperate that question if such a powerful phrase could exist. A phrase silenced and eradicated by the powerful, yet so innate to our most basic of human instincts. The phrase: It doesn’t have to be this way. Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols gave a voice to that phrase; a voice that, because of legal battles with the Magistrates’ Court, record label arrests, and outcries from the feeble masses, almost wasn’t heard.

I’m a believer in giving credit where credit is due. The Ramones are often credited as the first “official” Punk band, so, yay Ramones, but they don’t come close to matching the social impact unleashed by the Sex Pistols… and the Sex Pistols only released one studio album! Surprisingly tame by today’s standards, the music on Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols is secondary to its message. The tracks are catchy, the lyrics are in-your-face and often intentionally hilarious. Well produced and professionally executed, this album isn’t near as abrasive as one would think given all the trouble surrounding its release.

Sub MissionPunk is present to force the masses to question their decisions. The hoi polloi hate Punk because it makes them look at themselves and recognize their abundant shortcomings and their sheepish declarations. They know they’re feeding a corrupt and biased system but they don’t want to be bothered to remember. I know. I’m one of them. But the idea behind Punk, albeit a nightmare for some, is the saving grace for those whose voices are subdued.

Greed is a learned trait. The desire for power and wealth by means of silencing those who oppose you is the backbone of a Capitalist society. The Sex Pistols recognized this. They stood atop a mountain of vehement listeners and shouted, “It doesn’t have to be this way!”

Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols is Shakespeare to authors, columnists and poets alike. It stands as one of the most monumental moments in music, and was a turning point in 20th Century history. It is, by all means, a necessity.