London calling to the faraway towns
Now that war is declared-and battle come down
London calling to the underworld
Come out of the cupboard, all you boys and girls
London calling, now don't look at us
All that phoney Beatlemania has bitten the dust
London calling, see we ain't got no swing
'Cept for the ring of that truncheon thing
The ice age is coming, the sun is zooming in
Engines stop running and the wheat is growing thin
A nuclear error, but I have no fear
London is drowning-and I live by the river
London calling to the imitation zone
Forget it, brother, an' go it alone
London calling upon the zombies of death
Quit holding out-and draw another breath
London calling-and I don't wanna shout
But when we were talking-I saw you nodding out
London calling, see we ain't got no highs
Except for that one with the yellowy eyes
Now get this
London calling, yeah, I was there, too
An' you know what they said? Well, some of it was true!
London calling at the top of the dial
After all this, won't you give me a smile?
I never felt so much a' like
15. London Calling, The Clash
Written by: Mick Jones, Joe Strummer
Produced by: Guy Stevens
Released: Jan. '80 on Epic
Charts: Did not chart
Named after the call signal of the BBC's World Service broadcasts, the title alarm of the Clash's third album was an SOS from the heart of darkness. When they recorded the song, the Clash -- British punk's most political and uncompromising band -- were without management and sinking in debt. Around them, Britain was suffocating in crisis: soaring unemployment, racial conflict, epidemic drug use. "We felt that we were struggling," Joe Strummer said, "about to slip down a slope or something, grasping with our fingernails. And there was no one there to help us."
Strummer and guitarist Mick Jones channeled that trial and worry into a song, produced with hellbent atmosphere by Guy Stevens, that sounded like the Clash marching into battle: Strummer and Jones punching their guitars in metallic unison with Paul Simonon's thumping bass and Topper Headon's rifle-crack drumming. Over that urgency, Strummer howled through a catalog of disasters, real and imagined. The "nuclear error" referred to the March 1979 meltdown of a reactor at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania. The line "London is drowning/And I live by the river" -- Don Letts' video of the Clash shows them playing the song on a boat on the Thames in drenching rain -- was based on local folklore. "They say that if the Thames ever flooded, we'd all be underwater," Jones said -- except Strummer was living in a high-rise flat at the time, "so he wouldn't have drowned."