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Classic Album covers : London Calling - The Clash

London Calling is the third studio album by The Clash. It was released in the United Kingdom on 14 December 1979

When rock photographer Pennie Smith was hired to document the Clash on their 1979 Take The Fifth US tour, she was justifiably concerned - the anarchic British band had become famous for unleashing volleys of spit onto their frantically dancing audience. But the band was going through some transformations as the end of the 70s rolled around, incorporating elements of reggae and other styles into their trademark punk sound

However, this didn’t leaven their wild performances at all, as Smith found out when she captured the iconic shot of infuriated bassist Paul Simonon smashing his Fender Precision Bass (now on display at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland), on stage at the Palladium in New York on 21 September 1979. After the historic Palladium gig, Simonon said, “The show had gone quite well, but for me inside, it just wasn’t working well, so I suppose I took it out on the bass. If I was smart, I would have got the spare bass and used that one, because it wasn’t as good as the one I smashed up”

Smith originally didn’t want the photograph to be used as she thought that it was too out of focus, but Strummer and graphic designer Ray Lowry thought it would make a good album cover. In 2002, Smith’s photograph was named the best rock and roll photograph of all time by Q magazine, commenting that “it captures the ultimate rock’n'roll moment - total loss of control”

While Smith’s photograph recalls a young, angst-ridden Pete Townshend, Ray Lowry’s design pays homage to Elvis Presley’sfirst album. “When that Elvisrecord came out, rock & roll was pretty dangerous,” says Simonon. “And I suppose when we brought out our record, it was pretty dangerous stuff, too.”

Other than smashing his favorite bass, Simonon has another regret about the photograph: “When I look at it now,” he says, “I wish I’d lifted my face a bit more.”

The album cover for London Calling was among the ten chosen by the Royal Mail for a set of ‘Classic Album Cover postage stamps issued in January 2010

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January 27, 2012

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